21 Considerations for People’s Movements in the 21st Century

direct democracy
  1. The basic precepts for people’s movements to create a better world remain the same as before the 21st century –justice, equality, peace and real democracy, protection of environment and biodiversity.
  2. However the big difference in the 21st century is that the most important and unprecedented challenge is now that of saving the basic life-nurturing conditions of the planet. Hence the essential precepts have to be used in this bigger context. In other words, the life-nurturing conditions of the planet must be saved within a broad framework of justice, equality, peace, democracy and environment protection.
  3. The urgency of such a challenge before people’s movements is very great, much greater than ever before. The costs of failure or inadequacy of effort are simply too high.
  4. The world establishment’s response to unprecedented challenges is either very inadequate or, at times, even negative, as seen for example in very destructive wars, weapons race and strengthening of the military industrial complex in recent times.
  5. People’s movements hence have a very important role in meeting the most important challenges of the 21st century. Their responsibility is increasing; they have to grow fast but also thoughtfully. However they too have not been able to respond adequately so far.
  6. Keeping in view how much has to be done and time is short, many of the debates of the past which have dragged on for over a hundred years or more should be given up at least partially and temporarily in favor of preparing an evidence-based agenda for protecting the life nurturing conditions within a framework of justice, equality, peace, democracy, protection of environment and biodiversity.
  7. This will require more careful planning so that the consistency of various objectives can be confirmed, but this will not be centralized or alienated planning but will be linked closely to communities and to their decentralized functioning and empowerment.
  8. There is thus need for various movements to be united and to have a holistic understanding of the basic tasks and challenges. Each movement can pursue its own limited agenda but with an understanding of the bigger challenges and by establishing consistency with it.
  9. Keeping in view the big responsibilities and tasks ahead, people’s movements should avoid being unduly confrontationist, trying to avoid unnecessary confrontations and conserving energy for the really big challenges.
  10. People’s movements should be peaceful as far as possible, with a firm faith in non-violence, its many-sided creative possibilities and great potential.
  11. People’s movements should not be secretive; they should function with as much transparency as possible.
  12. People’s movements should be internationalist in their vision and reach, thinking about the welfare of the entire world and being concerned about the people of the entire world.
  13. People’s movements should be concerned about all life-forms and not just human beings, keeping in view also the increasing threats to other forms of life by human activities.
  14. People’s movements should give equal importance to the path of struggles as well as to various creative tasks.
  15. People’s movements should give a lot of importance to improving and strengthening various social relationships, as even in the middle of various difficult struggles this increases happiness of people, apart from improving solidarity.
  16. With increasing importance of protecting life-nurturing conditions for future, youth must be an increasingly important part of social movements.
  17. Even in those societies where their social role has been marginalized in the past, efforts should be made for women to play an increasingly important part in social movements.
  18. To involve more and more people, people should have opportunities to contribute even in small ways and feel free to contribute in the way they want, instead of being regimented. Essential messages of movements should be conveyed in simple, easy to understand, interesting ways.
  19.  To have a wider impact, people’s movements should strive to change the dominant values and value systems in society in such ways as to bring them more in tune with the precepts of justice, equality, peace, real democracy and environment protection.
  20. People’s movements should have much greater continuity in their work.
  21. There will be no single day when it can be said –‘mission completed, earth saved’. So people’s movements should be clear that their work will go on forever, and should go from strength to strength.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.     

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