XRISNUK History and Current Work - May 2020
Updated: Jun 28, 2020
Purpose of this document
XR Internationalist Solidarity Network UK (XRISN from hereon in) are a less well known/ less well understood aspect of work supported by the UK. This document aims to celebrate the work of this network and share information about it – we want UK rebels to be proud of what we have done! We intend to share this document with circles, in newsletters etc. A short video was recently released too.
Additionally, there are misinformation and rumours about XRISN we would like to counter, with an overview of history and rationale for this group. Others may have different perspectives and there have been inevitable conflicts and misunderstandings as we attempted in XRUK to do things differently, often with limited capacity and sometimes with insufficient care to detail. Throughout these difficulties XRISN and wider XR UK colleagues, especially XR Youth UK, have hung together to build relationships, trust and understanding. This IS the work of solidarity, of countering the forces that would divide us in order to exploit us; of coming through united, to develop a rebellion that aligns with and learns from other struggles for justice, working together to face, halt and heal what we have done to ourselves and the natural world. Ubuntu!
XR Internationalist Solidarity Network UK began forming immediately after the launch of XR (October 31st 2018) when Fe Fiammaif offered to introduce XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook (Stu Basden joined her) to the environmental and Pan-Afrikanist elder Kofi Mawuli Klu, who is also co-vice chair of the Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide Campaign (SMWeCGEC).
Prior to that In Summer of 2018, Matthew Tehanu messaged the SMWeCGEC and connected Esther Stanford-Xosei with XR co-founder Robin Boardman. Talks centred on how to build solidarity with struggles of those living in the exploited world. Kofi shared that he had felt constantly let down by environmentalists and other left-leaning people and organisations that had the stated intention of solidarity, but did not live up to the values, or over time became less radical and joined NGO’s, etc. Stu and Gail were moved by Kofi’s generosity in speaking with them and willing to give another white-led organisation a chance to develop joint work.
In the autumn and early winter of 2018 discussions progressed and work began to bring a solidarity aspect to the work of the international team (then only two people in the UK- Nils Agger and Annie Leanor,) who were supporting XR groups as they sprung up in other parts of the world.
The first crowd funder that XRUK ran (supported by The Climate Mobilisation) set aside 5% for TCM for their help and 20% for global/solidarity work. Nils and Annie worked with TCM and Lidewij Marinessen and Yan Golding from Together in Creation (the role and perspectives of different organisations was part of what had to be figured out later).
It was proposed early on that 20% of our crowd funder would go to internationalist solidarity work for the following reason:
XRUK was able to attract significant funding and it was appropriate for these resources to be shared with those on the front line of struggles across the world
That XRUK would inevitably not be able to do everything in an “environmentally friendly way” – and rather than pay for some kind of “offset” that might involve planting trees in someone else country, we could give money to front line struggles in acknowledgement of the harm we are all involved in committing and our intention to reweave our family to a place where we stop harming and start repairing – so a reparations-type of approach to our work.
The processes to decide how to make payments to front line struggles / communities of resistance have been led by Esther Stanford-Xosei using best practice and robust processes, the mandate and documentation is here.
XRISN formed steadily and carefully under the Afrikan Heritage and Global South community-rooted Servant-Leadership style of Movement building and Cross-Community Dialogue and Networking Praxis experiential know-how of Kofi Mawuli Klu and Esther Stanford-Xosei, both from the Stop the Maangamizi Campaign; with an active co-leading involvement of Farhana Yamin and Jamie Kelsey-Fry, a contributing editor from New Internationalist, who organised the solidarity talks during our XR bridges action in November 2018 that Kofi and Esther both spoke at.
Not only the sharing of ideas about new ways and means of the grassroots building of Internationalist Solidarity from the Minority World of the Global North, with due recognition of the agency, ongoing Reparatory Justice work of Planet Repairs and Affirmative Action of Global South peoples of the Majority World, but also the very respectful and caring conduct of Jamie during the London Bridges Blockade NVDA, in which representatives of the Stop the Maangamizi Campaign and its networks participated as their first public engagement with XR, and to which Gail brought and displayed her own Stop the Maangamizi placard, hugely impressed a significant number of Afrikan Heritage Community Activists enough to encourage the SMWeCGEC to formally agree to building an affinity relationship with XR Worldwide; and to do so mainly through commitment to playing a dynamic proactive role in the establishment and global development of XRISN.
Nils Agger (our Co-founder from Sweden) was the delegated budget holder for IST/ISN teams, supported by Mawuse Yao Agorkor from the VAZOBA Afrika and Friends Networking Open Forum in West Afrika, an SMWeCGEC partner-organization based in Ghana, and Rumana Hashem of the Phulbari Solidarity Group from Bangladesh.
There was a lack of clarity of the distinction between the work of the forming XRISN Team and the then International Support Team (IST) and some conflict regarding the best use of monies. (Documentation regarding the history and mandates etc are here, here and here).
ISN Mandate: Fostering mutually respectful, co-operative and beneficial connections with people from existing grassroots communities of resistance on the front lines of the climate & ecological crises in both the Global South & Global North who are working on environmental justice, so that: a) These perspectives get represented throughout XR UK b) There’s 2-way learning between XR UK and people from these communities of resistance.
This was resolved by developing mandates, supported by the emerging Self organising System (SOS) Team. Agreement was also reached on the allocation of two separate amounts of monies to two different teams, with different focus, helped by the generous donation of royalties from Radiohead, (IST have since been renamed Global Support and have gone on to open their own bank account/ have their own constitution and fully fledged independent from the rest of XRUK).
The agreement between XRISN and the then IST, facilitated by Gail, provided for XRISN to hold on to the 20% XR Crowdfunding allocation, which was to be included in its official mandate as approved by the then XRUK Anchor Circle; while the IST settled for a generous share of the Radiohead donation as its restarting up grant, plus more to gain from international fundraising from environmentally concerned circles of millionaires like those in the USA who were represented at the Rebel Fundraising event in London, United Kingdom, which took place on 20 August in 2019. Nils Agger decided to focus their energies on XRISN and XR Youth from May 2019. The 20% allocation to XRISN has continued and was specifically mentioned in some crowd funders (though the information to do this did not always get carried over as there were personnel change in the fundraising team). As an example from January 2019:
"Extinction Rebellion is the fastest growing climate & ecology non violent direct action movement in history. The level of support from individuals and communities has been unprecedented. Money and energy are being spent by our UK working groups organising, reaching out and scaling up. 20% of the funds raised here will support the Internationalist Solidarity work of Extinction Rebellion UK, and 80% will go to the various UK working groups."
(It should be noted that 20% of our crowd funder is not 20% of XRUK’s income which includes some grant monies, direct debits and contributions from major donors.)
It is important to note that:
The building of XRISN’s work has necessarily been slow because it demands rigorous studiousness by way of shared Action Learning, earning trust with due regard for Security and huge concerns about Counterinsurgency, and the mutually respectful cultivation of culturally sensitive relationships of Pluriversality, rooted in the Cognitive Justice of Decolonization and Intersectionality, with grassroots activists and their Communities of Resistance overseas;
We haven’t yet celebrated the work of XRISN - this story should now be told to inspire our movement – we didn’t want to indulge in “virtue signalling”; the work needed time and space to develop and some of the separation we experience has made the work less visible.
That payments to those involved in this work and on the front line need to be made with utmost care for a variety of reasons, including to keep people safe.
So the various activities that are being organised, as for example the Movement of Movements building consultations with Communities of Resistance and their various Freedomfighting organisations and networks, guided by VAZOBA and its allied groupings such as the UBUNTUDUNIASAFO Movement and the Global Afrikan Family Reunion International Council (GAFRIC), led by some indigenous community chiefs and elders in Afrika, with the Grassroots Women's Internationalist Solidarity Network (GWISAN) and Vidya Safari Moksha (VSM) in Asia, and also with the Hagua Que Pase and its networks in Abya Yala (the Caribbean and other parts of the Americas), all have to be conducted with utmost respect for the cultural and security sensitivity of those involved.
Therefore the need to show high appreciation for the hugely important gains of XRISN for the whole of XR and the wider global movement for Climate and Ecological Justice in such delicate endeavours, like those of the UBUNTUDUNIASEMKA Conversations that led to the successful holding, during the period of the current Lockdown, of vital online engagements like:
the 1st May 2020 Afrikan Liberation Awareness Month (ALAM) Opening Reasoning on Pan-Afrikan People's Power into a Global Citizens Assembly (PAPP-GCA);
the ALAM mini-series on Pan-Afrikanism and Climate Change, coorganised alongside African Voices Forum, XR Bristol and XR Youth UK ;
followed by the 21st May 2020 commencement of International Consultations with Global South Activists on the Global Citizens Assembly Process.
Accordingly, Dukometsitsiga Kosi Agoko and Dukofenokploga Nyoefe Yawa Dake, both leading Nation-building Spearheads of the Ewe-Fon-Adza indigenous Communities of the Gbetowo, who live in a colonially partitioned homeland stretching across the borders of Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria in West Afrika, are joining Osie Adza Tekpor VII, the Paramount Chief of Avatime in the Volta Region of Ghana, who is a Co-Chair of the GAFRIC, in opening their communities to XRISN and its Affinity All-Afrikan Network, for popular educational work on the Climate and Ecological Crises, guiding their communities to start learning, through their own convened Glocal Assemblies for Planet Repairs Action Learning (GAPRALs), from the Grassroots to Global Citizens Assemblies (G2GCA) Process to enhance their own participatory deliberative governance customs and traditions with their own Community self-empowering adaptations of Global Citizenship Democratization experiences from all over the World.
Working together with Laz Tamana, one of the veteren activists of the of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), XRISN is also assisting with the self-regenerating efforts of the currently heavily repressed and fragmented MOSOP so that it can get back to playing its front-line role in the still simmering Rebellion of the Ogoni and other Communities of Resistance in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. Such hugely important gains could not have been possible without the painstaking efforts in careful trust-earning relationship building with indigenous and other Communities of Resistance and the resourcing of some of their leading grassroots Activists by XRISN, through its partner-networks such as the XR Affinity All-Afrikan Network (XRAAAN), based in Accra, Ghana, the XR Affinity Network of Asia (XRANA), based in Delhi, India, and the XR Affinity Network of South Abya Yala (XRRAAYS), based in Colombia, South America.
Diligently listening, learning from and paying serious attention to the valid concerns about the sanctuary as well as culturally appropriate decolonizational educational and training needs of grassroots Activists from indigenous and other Communities of Resistance throughout Afrika has made XRISN to lend support to the XRAAAN and VAZOBA joint initiative of starting to build the Miano Asase Yaa Community Educational and Sanctuary Complex (MAYCESC) in Ghana.
XRISN generosity in the face of XRUK financial difficulties
In spring 2020 XRUK faced financial difficulties, as do many groups (a significant factor was a lessened ability to crowd fund as we could not get on the streets under lock down).The finance team had “cash-flowed” payments in the first part of the year by borrowing from the monies set aside for XRISN (also Global Support and crowd justice) in the belief that monies would soon become available. This is normal financial practice but hadn’t been done with XRISN’s permission. (The finance team have apologised for this and XRISN have graciously accepted the apology, on the understanding that monies borrowed would be paid back as soon as possible).
That XRISN had monies available is a testament to their careful and considered stewarding of resources; significant plans are afoot and in place for spending and distributing income. XRISN also agreed to forgo 20% of crowdfunding income (worth £47k) this year given the financial difficulties XRUK is under.
XRUK finance team and Compassionate Revolution Directors have been deeply humbled by the generosity and collegiate approach of XRISN colleagues – give the reality that we have essentially borrowed money from the Global South!
Much inspirational work has happened and more is planned, especially to better catalyse, with Internationalist Solidarity Glocal Link-Networking from the grassroots, the real Movement of Movements self-activation of indigenous and other Communities of Resistance, not only in the overseas regions of the Global South, but also their diasporan organizations and networks throughout the Global North, starting from here in the United Kingdom and Europe.
A great role in this is the ongoing organisation in South London of the Gaia House of People-to-Peoples' Internationalist Solidarity (GHOPPIS), including the XRISN office, in order to provide a multiculturally sensitive Decolonizational Praxis home of Pluriversality, with audiovisual educational productions and training facilities, a Rebellion Action Learning Library and Archives of Global South Internationalist Solidarity, and other culturally appropriate Global Citizenship Action Learning and Grounding Reasonings as well as Edutainment Conscientization resources for all those interested.
Even though the current XR financial difficulties and the Lockdown have slowed things down, considerable efforts continue to be made 24/7 by XRISN Rebel-Activists to progress work on organising the GHOPPIS. The house therefore continues to be slowly refurbished and equipped also for training XRISN Activists, through courses of the Peoples' Internationalist Fora for Inter-Community Lifelong Learning (PIFICOLL), in partnership with Scholar-Activists of the Maangamizi Educational Trust (MET), of the International Network of Scholars and Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR), based at the University of Edinburgh, of the GAFRIC associated with the University of Cape Coast in Ogua, Ghana, of the Leeds University-associated Global Justice Institute of the Global Justice Forum (GJI-GJF), of the UCL Centre for the Anthropology of Sustainability (UCL-CAoS), and of the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora of Tufts University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the USA, among others.
Such PIFICOLL courses are to include those for training in Glocal Link-Networking, the XRISN 'Merge Rebellion' Internationalist Solidarity Approach to Movement of Movements Building, as well as Grassroots People-to-Peoples' Internationalist Solidarity and Groundup Diplomacy Action Learning.
In March 2020, XRISN were able to host at the GHOPPIS 'Dukofenokploga' Nyoefe Yawa Dake from Ghana, one of the leading activists in the XRAAAN from Ghana for a two-week study visit to the UK as part of 'Planet Repairing Freedomways' Action Learning Conversations Study-Visit with the UCL Radical Anthropology Group (UCL-RAG) in association with the MET. Nyoefe is one of the prominent female leaders of the Pan-Afrikan Community Regeneration for Planet Repairs Movement currently resurging from, among others, the Intergenerational Rebellion of the kindred Ewe-Fon-Adza indigenous Communities of the Gbetowo nationality domiciled in West Afrika (Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria).
You can read Jamie Kelsy Fry's perspective on history of ISN here https://xrisnetwork.wixsite.com/xrisn/post/jamie-kelsey-fry-from-the-new-internationalist-writes-his-perspective-on-xrisn-history