Jamie Kelsey Fry, from the New Internationalist writes his perspective on XRISN History
In November 2018 the extinction rebellion internationalist solidarity network (XRISN) was formed. This has been at the heart of the extinction rebellion movement since then. It has been a groundbreaking way for majority world frontline grassroots activists to establish the terms and forms of solidarity that can be developed with minority world activists. The key to this work is that it is necessary for a global justice movement to have at its’ centre people who have access to the specific knowledge that comes through being oppressed.
As a reflection of this centrality, XRISN has always been given a portion of the overall budget with no control whatsoever from minority world activists as to how that budget should be spent. As a result, some of the first spending by XRISN in 2018 has been to fund a safe space for African grassroots activists under grave threat from tyrannical dictators, fund safe comms networks for equally threatened grassroots activists in South America and establish safe networks globally.
This process has been ongoing since then and as a result a very significant network has been established. What is absolutely essential in this work is that minority world activists have to take a back seat because they are often ignorant of the grave danger that many majority worlds grassroots activists find themselves in on a daily basis. It is frequently the case that minority world activists choose to highlight certain majority world activists, not realising that back in that activist’s country she or he or their family have now been put in danger by the spotlight put on them by unwitting minority world activists in Europe and America.
One of the potential losses in the internationalist solidarity network has been the fact that there has not been a wider awareness of their work throughout the global extinction rebellion movement but this has purely been based on the fact that it takes a long time to establish trust with majority world activists who have all too often been betrayed by minority world activists in the past and most often betrayed by large western NGOs.
I recently tried to share awareness about the network on what I believed to have been the appropriate ‘mattermost’ channel however I was told that the global support groups wanted the internationalist solidarity network to be on mattermost so that they could be represented. However, the response from the internationalist solidarity network was that they genuinely don’t feel comfortable to be on ‘mattermost’.
Personally I find it a shame that so few people actually know about the amazing work that the internationalist solidarity network has been doing for these two years. It really is something that extinction rebellion can be extremely proud of. I did warn people on ‘mattermost’ that the global support network may be in danger of going over the same ground that the internationalist solidarity network has already been covering but to be honest, any work in the field of decolonising and remembering family is essential and as much of that work that can be done as possible is clearly a way forward for the movement towards climate and ecological justice.
But I would caution that better communications need to be established in the future because it feels like the global support team are also doing amazing work too, just as XRISN are.
It has been a lengthy process for those in the internationalist solidarity network to feel safe in pursuing the work that they are doing under the extinction rebellion banner. But of course these majority world groups have maintained their absolute independence and in no way are they controlled or guided or directed by minority world activists within the extinction rebellion network. I would like to pay respects here to the specific work of Gail and Esther Stanford Xosei, who with Kofi Mawuli Klu, actually set out this absolutely necessary freedom and independence that has led to the incredible work that XRISN have been achieving.
Many of us found it quite difficult in the early days to be accused of being a white supremacist movement with no consciousness at all of decolonising or any acceptance of majority world activists, when all the time we were fully aware of the fact that very influential majority world activists were actually at the heart of the entire movement that emanated from extinction rebellion in the United Kingdom!
From their formation, XRISN started discussing the prospect of a global citizens assembly and what that should look like and how it should be created and pursued. I was there at the foundation of XRISN and was part of those initial conversations. I stepped back as internal coordinator to XRISN around June 2019 to focus on other areas in XR and to respect the need for XRISN to be led by majority world activists. But I have supported their work since, particularly in making sure XRISN is a key component in discussions about a global citizens assembly. For the April 2019 uprising, I made sure that Kofi Mawuli Klu was part of a film covering the third demand.
Recently I have been working more closely with XRISN again around larger conversations on a global citizens assembly that have been convened with the XRISN network. These have involved African, Asian and South American activists discussing core issues as to what would make a truly representative global citizens assembly and what would constitute ‘knowledge’ or ‘expertise’ and how to weight the demographics of the assembly in order to reflect those who are impacted most.
I think it is a mistaken assumption that the global citizens assembly process itself needs to be decolonised, once you are aware of the fact that it has been mainly majority world activists who were working on it back in 2018.
It has been brilliant to have reached a stage where we have now been able to convene large meetings involving our majority world network of grassroots activists in online discussions as to how a global citizens assembly process can look like. Those on the minority world far left who assumed that there has been no involvement with majority world activists I am sure will be pleased to realise that this has always been very far from the truth.
One such online meeting a few weeks ago had 25 majority world grassroots activists online from Africa, South America, Asia and India. This involved a handful of citizens assembly experts who were able to tap into the kinds of consciousness, thinking and organising that would go towards making a powerful and potentially history making GCA.
Another such meeting will be coming up soon in a week's time, this time it will involve a larger amount of global South activists including the West Papuans and Mongolians who were involved in XRISN at the very beginning in 2018.
The spring uprising festival in Bristol, western U.K. in February 2019 really paved the way for the work of XRISN when a panel with African and Asian key members of XRISN discussed what authentic internationalist solidarity can look like and indeed, at one point, the huge audience were taken over by a wave of euphoria when everyone in the room was asked spontaneously to discuss what it means to ‘remember family’.
This signified something characteristic but rarely understood about XR: there is a deeply spiritual aspect woven into everything we have been doing that transcends the typical leftist identity politics based work of the established climate activist world. This has indeed been one of our greatest assets and is the reason why we have had such a huge and broad appeal with over 100,000 people joining within a year in the UK alone.
It is because we do not hit the public with a judgemental leftist approach at all and in fact contained within our communications is a seed of humanity wrapped in spirituality that has appealed to people and made people feel included where the established leftist climate activist world had evidently failed considerably to engage with the wider public in any meaningful way. If there is one lesson to be learning from XRISN it is the fact that there truly is another way to reach out to people than the public in Europe have generally become used to from climate activism and identity politics. Remembering family is one of the deeper connections XRISN has been developing.
What may be considered as a failing in the extinction rebellion internationalist solidarity network is that not many people have been made fully aware of the great work that has been going on with XRISN, but as mentioned before, this has been because majority world frontline activists need to have a long amount of time before they can feel that they can truly trust any liaison with western minority world activists. With the work on the global citizens assembly, I feel that this period has now been reached and there is an extraordinary network that has grown from the careful work of the XRISN.