What is the Peoples' Forum for Climate Justice and Financial Regulation?
From the 22nd to the 25th of June, indigenous and frontline activists from across Latin America, Africa and other parts of the world fighting fossil fuel projects on the ground are coming to Basel, Switzerland. They join forces with a broad coalition of non-profit and grassroots campaign groups, to stop investments in fossil fuels and grow an international network to decolonize and democratize the global financial system.
Everyone is invited to join the workshops, strategic discussions, and street actions, to learn from each other and build connections, and bring the protest to the doorsteps of the global rule-setters.
What does financial regulation have to do with climate justice?
Fossil fuel expansion is the main driver of the climate crisis and its devastating impacts are felt all over the world. Nevertheless, banks and insurance corporations (mostly from the US and Europe) pump billions into fossil fuel projects. It is the continuation of colonial patterns where Western corporations extract profits from across Africa, Latin America and Asia while leaving a trail of destruction for people on the ground. The people at the frontlines of these extractive projects are the ones leading the fights: from fishing communities in Peru and Senegal fighting oil exploration in the waters they depend on for their livelihoods, to the environmental defenders risking their lives to protect the Amazon. Women and indigenous communities stand at the forefront of the resistance against the extractive invasion of their homelands. All of these extractive projects need to be stopped once and for all. That is why frontline activists join forces with climate justice activists in Europe to cut off the money flowing into these projects for good. Finance industry watchdogs must use their power to put in place safeguards to rein in speculating bankers before the climate crisis spirals out of control.
What does it mean to democratize and decolonise the financial system?
The global financial system that we know today was designed during the colonial period to support the wealth extraction from the colonies to the empires. To this day, the pattern continues: multinational corporations extract wealth from formerly colonized countries with financing from banks and insurance companies mostly based in the global north. Moreover, these rich countries have disproportionate power in the institutions that govern the global economic and financial system like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (but also the Bank of International Settlements)*. This has for example allowed them to use their position of power as creditors to dictate economic policy and cheapen the prices of labor and resources in debtor nations to their advantage. Every year, the Global North drains commodities worth $2.2 trillion from the South - enough to end extreme poverty globally, fifteen times over.**
At the same time, with the growing concentration of capital, the ongoing privatization and widening inequalities, even in the richest countries, the financial system is currently not working in the interest of most people. The rising of gas prices which leave many struggling, while fossil fuel corporations celebrate record profits is just one example of this. Also with the fall of Credit Suisse, we have once again seen that we are the ones to bail them out when the gambles of bankers fail.
Democratising and decolonising the financial system means redistributing power and wealth more equally and ensuring that it works in the shared interest of all of us, prioritizing universal public services. But decolonising and democratizing the financial system also means asking the question of how we can learn to live in harmony with the living world that we are a part of. This means embracing the buen-vivir, the good-living and letting go of an economic model that depends on the hoarding of power and infinite extraction of resources and wealth.
How many indigenous and frontline activists will be coming to Basel? Who are they?
About a dozen indigenous and frontline activists who are leading the fights against extractive projects on the ground will be coming to Basel. As part of the Global Coalition of Peoples Facing Extractivism they represent various struggles including:
- people in Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo resisting the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline that is spearheaded by French oil and gas major TotalEnergies (Stop EACOP)
- defenders of nature in Colombia that risk their lives standing up against oil and gas exploitation and mining operations by multinational corporations that act with impunity and are complicit with paramilitary groups
- people in Senegal fighting oil and gas extraction by multinational corporations such as Total that threaten farming and fishing communities
- indigenous Nahuatl and Tenek communities in Mexico organising against fracking by European corporation like Eni, BP, Shell and Total in the Huasteca Potosina region known for its exceptional natural beauty
- people in Peru opposing oil and gas extraction off the coast and in the Amazon despite harsh repression and assassinations of environmental defenders
- local communities resisting fracking by corporations such as Shell, Wintershall, Repsol, ExxonMobil and Chevron in Vaca Muerta, Argentina that robs the region off its water, leaves behind a trail of contaminated, deserted and impoverished towns and comes with a steep increase in diseases such as lung cancer and leukaemia
- people in the Philippines fighting to protect the exceptionally rich marine ecosystem of the Verde Island Passage from the large-scale expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals
- Wet’suwet’en land defenders in Canada opposing the Coastal GasLin Pipeline project on indigenous land
- local communities on South Africa’s Wild Coast fighting for the right to reject mining projects on their land, even though community leaders who spoke up against the mining operations of Australian Mineral Commodities Ltd were murdered
All of these projects share a neo-colonial pattern of resource extraction by largely Western corporations with Western financing at the expense of communities on the ground, the environment and climate.
Who's coming to the Peoples' Forum?
Locals in Basel and environmental and social movements from across Europe are warmly invited to the Peoples' Forum. Above all the Peoples' Forum is a space for the different, diverse political cultures from which it was born: first, the frontline and indigenous communities and activists who co-developed this event through the Global Coalition of the Peoples Facing Extractivism . Second, the climate and social justice grassroots collectives fighting for the planet, against extractivism and against fossil finance. Third, the anti-racist diasporas and international solidarity networks that represent the global south within the global north. And last but not least, the financial experts and NGOs working to change the financial system as a whole and finding ways to pressure public actors to cut fossil finance flows.
What will happen during the Peoples' Forum?
In Basel, we want to plant the seeds to grow an international network to decolonise and democratize the global financial system by centering the experiences of the struggles of frontline and most affected communities. Together, we will discuss how to not only move away from fossil fuels but how to revolutionize our energy and financial systems in a way that allows communities to flourish from decentralized local solutions where wealth and power stay with the people.
The program includes large panels with renowned activists and researchers and intimate discussions involving all participants. Ceremonies and rituals will create community. Capacity-building workshops and intersectional round tables will allow us to share our experiences. Informative walks, film screenings, festive moments of art and music and exhibitions aim also to touch the hearts and minds of people beyond the space of the Forum itself. On Saturday, 24 June, we will gather hundreds of people for a Peoples' Parade to take our protest into the streets of Basel and straight to the massive tower of the Bank for International Settlements.
Why Basel and what is the Bank for International Settlements?
Basel is where the rules for banks and financial institutions are set. The global watchdog of the financial system, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), is based in Basel and has its annual general meeting at the end of June.
The BIS operates at the international level as a bank of banks. It is where the world's central bank governors and supervisors meet to discuss oversight of the global financial system. Together they establish new standards and norms for the financial system at the global level.
If the BIS categorizes fossil fuel assets as high-risk investments, as they have recently done for cryptocurrencies, it would effectively stop new investments in fossil fuels. A simple rule would require banks to cover losses of their speculations themselves: For every euro banks invest in fossil fuels, they would need a euro of their own funds to shoulder the risks themselves. This simple ‘One for One’ would make investments in new fossil fuel projects so expensive a bet for banks to effectively end new fossil finance immediately.
Who is organizing the Peoples' Forum?
The Peoples' Forum is organized and supported by a coalition of indigenous and frontline activists from across Latin America, Africa and other parts of the world fighting fossil fuel projects on the ground called the Global Coalition of Peoples Facing Extractivism together with climate justice grassroots and non-profit campaign and advocacy groups in Switzerland and Europe including BreakFree Suisse, Climate Alliance Switzerland, Fridays for Future, Collective Climate Justice, Change Finance and The Sunrise Project.