by Raphael Baladad*


Good afternoon friends, allies and comrades. Building and sustaining movements, creating social pressure, campaigning, mobilizing, engaging policy spaces, responding to threats and calls to action, and advancing the agendas and demands from the grassroots are most often than not, protracted uphill battles that involve unbelievable perseverance from all of us who struggle for reforms, for change, for our rights and dignities.

A new world is possible, but claiming this possibility is at times at the cost of freedoms, of lives.

Let us take a moment of silence to remember the names of our fallen colleagues, comrades, leaders…

But despite the odds, there are victories that we could all claim, not only to fortify our campaigns and elevate morale but also to solidify our commitment in the pursuit of rights.

First is the passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (and other People working in Rural Areas) at the international arena, as well as the efforts made to advocate for a mainstream into national policies. Here in Nepal, we saw the inclusion of key Food Sovereignty and Right to Food provisions in the National Constitution.

There’s also the impasse/deadlock in the Agreement on Agriculture within the World Trade Organization, due to the persistence of various international movements against free trade.

The triumph of social movements in El Salvador in defending water and environmental rights against large-scale mining operations resulted in the total ban on metal mining.

The intense farmer’s protests in India that have been effectively sustained by social movements,, in resistance to the three farm laws that would enable the persistence of contract farming, potentially worsening debt burdens faced by farmers.

In Thailand, the sustained land occupations done by Southern farmer’s/peasant’s movements to defend land and tillage rights, as well as the success of various social movements in pushing progressive agendas and overturning the national elections.

And in the Philippines, where various human rights movements have incessantly pushed for international investigations into the aftermath of the government’s bloody war on drugs.

It is important to stress that in these times of recurring and accelerating crises, and against the backdrop of state repression, attacks against activists and rights defenders, and growing fascism, the fact that movements can stay together as a movement is already a victory in itself.

The challenges we face, however, remain relentless as with the capital that fuels them. The growing power of the corporate influence in various levels and governance threatens to capture (and reverse) hard-won reforms in policies. Legislators, judicial officials and institutions are often swayed in to backing profit-driven agendas at the cost of lives, livelihoods and dignities of peasants, laborers, indigenous peoples and other marginalized sectors.

The threats of lawfare, Slappsuits and criminalization of rights defenders silence dissent and allows for societal injustices to persist. Moreover, the resurgence of right-wing narratives and the rise of populist authoritarian leaders in government has field more violent attacks against activists, increased militarization and terror-tagging, as well as fear and hate-mongering and political othering that have resulted in killings and genocides.

Internally, social movements face deep-seated challenges as well.

There is the issue of demobilization and paralysis from the impacts of the lockdowns and the pandemic as well as the difficulties in organizing. Also, the lack of financial resources to effectively respond to threats and calls of distress. And under these conditions, that we are simply too few and far in between to face these threats, social movements have also become increasingly fragmented, co-opted, and lured into multistakeholder (and CSR) spaces to advance the agendas of corporations.

We burn bridges with our comrades not because of irreconcilable or principled differences, but oftentimes, as a result of overcompetitiveness, pride, and ego. We fight amongst ourselves on who has the better agenda, on who are the better saviors of the people. 

There is also the issue of internal patriarchy, discrimination and bullying happening within our ranks, and some of us have become overtly sectarian in our ideologies/ideals that we disregard new ideas/energies, particularly from women and youth, that could potentially aid us in winning struggles.

Our strength lies in solidarity. And for us to resist and defeat the power of capital, of corporations, of the right wing, we must also look internally and examine our actions – especially the ways we relate to each other and the people around us.

It is only in this way we can convince more people to stand with us and support our causes; to finally make that new world possible. Solidarity in resistance, humility in defiance. Thank you so much and I hope this message resonates well with you. Good afternoon.

*Panel Discussion Organized by ActionAid, February 18th, 2024