In a rousing call to action, Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, told 1,800 participants at EI’s sixth World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, to challenge the threat to education services “peacefully, principally and courageously”.
Describing austerity measures being advocated by some governments as a “daily, silent tsunami” Naidoo’s keynote speech argued that such policies were a “perfect storm and turning point” for education trade unionists and social justice activists to renew and refocus shared strategies to overcome climate, financial, food, fuel and poverty crises that continue to devastate millions of people.
Naidoo pointed to the fact that for each Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which he described as ‘minimalist development goals’, that was not being met, 50,000 people died each day from preventable causes.
“We cannot allow business as usual, nor can we rely on the same strategies as the past. We must use this crisis to make clear what happens when we let profit come before people.”
Arguing that this democratic crisis was an obstacle that had to be resolved, Naidoo said: “Having the form of democracy, without the substance of democracy is of little value. It flies in the face of logic for victims of recent crises to be ignored, while the perpetrators who got us into the mess are allowed to determine our response out of it.
“Nor can we allow those in power to use the financial crisis to launch a second wave to decimate our public services. Without teachers, social workers and nurses, delivering our public services, we cannot achieve the MDGs.”
Naidoo praised the centrality of teachers and education workers in advocating strategies to overcome the deficit of decent, sustainable and green jobs which gave all people the opportunity to live with dignity and justice. He described the need to fight back by learning from successes within workers movements, and other struggles for equality and justice.
Naidoo said: “We must look to the women’s movement and embrace the concept of intersectional experience. We must understand the impact of crisis on race, gender, disability, sexuality and class on all people, and we need to look to a shared agenda between wage and environmental interests.”
Naidoo argued that delegates had to continue to build the alliances which had been forged at this conference, to unite trade unions with civil society, equality and religious movements
“Our demands, the demands of people, are for fairness and equity, so justice is on our side”
“History teaches us that when decent people take risks and engage in struggle, when we peacefully, principally and courageously, pursue civil disobedience, then those who occupy the instruments of power, whether it be in government or in the financial sectors, will listen and understand.”