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If you haven’t already heard, one way you can participate in the upcoming Peoples’ Summit of the Americas is as a volunteer. So if you can offer the time  — and particularly if you have some language skills — please fill out the attached and very explanatory Volunteer Information Form and return it right away by email, fax, mail or by hand.

Dear Friends,

The coming together of Caribbean, Latin American and North American social movements and activists at the IV Peoples’ Summit in Trinidad and Tobago, April 16-18th, offers a rare opportunity for all of us to educate, empower and transform ourselves and our society. The practical skills trainings, analysis and debates, bilateral or small group discussions, information sharing and alliance building may ignite sparks for some, and fuel already raging fires for others, leading us closer to that transformation we seek and the vision of the future we share.

To that end, and given the resources and venue capacity, the Peoples’ Summit will feature 26 open sessions in which any local and international groups can organize their own events: workshops, teach-ins, panel discussions, presentations—the form and content are all up to you. The criteria for selecting these workshops will be the relevance of their topic to the Summit’s themes, and the extent to which they will encourage participants to analyze issues that are complementary to those discussed in the working groups, which will be held on the previous afternoon.

The main theme of the Summit will be policies in the hemisphere for addressing the global crisis, as considered from many, integrated perspectives:

— a) Economic
— b) Social
— c) Food Sovereignty
— d) Environmental
— e) Culture and Identity
— f) Energy Sovereignty
— g) Governance and Citizenship

Significantly underlying the discussions will be U.S. policies for the continent and the search for an alternative form of integration, developed from the people’s perspective; and the importance of culture, affirming the need for cultural and ideological renewal in achieving social justice and generating alternatives to neoliberalism.

This gathering is a tremendous resource, particularly for our Trinidad and Tobago activists, to educate a wide segment of the local population—as well as social movement activists, international journalists and other visitors from across the hemisphere, and beyond—on the histories, realities, challenges, and future goals of our local struggles and movements. No matter the size or scope of your organization, group or collective, or the popularity of your issue, we all need to share our stories and learn from our experiences.

So share your expertise. Spread the word. Register to host an event today.

The available time slots are on FRI, APRIL 17 in two periods:

I. 9 am-10:30 am                                       13 workshops

II.  11 am-12:30 pm                                      13 workshops

The Registration Fee for groups from Trinidad and Tobago is $300 TT (up to 3 persons). For more information on fees for international groups and individuals (student registration is free), visit the official Peoples’ Summit website here. To register, you can fill out the online form here. Registration is also accepted via fax to (868) 652-7170, and registration fees are payable at the venue. The deadline for registration is March 31st.

The Secretariat and members of the Local Working Group are also available to assist in the preparations for your event. Please feel free to contact us by phone, email, or via the web.

Contact: The Secretariat, IV Peoples’ Summit (868) 652-2701 Ext. 117, 105, or 107

Nikki V. Johnson: njohnson@owtu.org; Rosa-Mae Whittier:

rosa_in_cuba@yahoo.com

Communications, Digital Media Group: Steve Cupid Theodore: sctheodore@gmail.com

Visit our Facebook page: Peoples’ Summit 2009 Trinidad and Tobago

From the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs, the local organizing committee of the IV Peoples’ Summit, for the Hemispheric Social Alliance.

The V Summit of the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas will take place in Trinidad and Tobago in April, 2009. It will be the first continental Summit after Mar del Plata in 2005 that has been held since the failure of the FTAA became evident, and it will be the first to be attended by Barack Obama as the new President of the United States.

For the popular movement this event marks an important moment to define a public stance with regard to the fast-moving events over the past year.  These include: regional integration problems; the global crisis; our position in response to the new government in the U.S.; taking the opportunity to discuss the popular movement’s agenda with an eye to deepening the debate; confronting the neo-liberal model and formulating alternatives.  It will also be an opportunity to strengthen ties with social movements from the Caribbean.

The thematic areas for the presidential Summit of the Americas have been put forward by their organizing committee, and their formulation points to a growing adherence to neo-liberal ideas as the way out of the current crisis, along with a heightened preoccupation with security issues and the militarization of our countries. The thematic areas in the ‘official’ Summit are:  energy security; environmental sustainability;  public security;  and democratic governance.

An important thing to keep in mind in the process leading up to this Summit is that on the initiative of the U.S. under the Bush administration, government representatives from Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and the U.S. met in New York on the 24th of September, 2008 to underline a “commitment to the liberalization of trade and investment” and to claim that they had “taken measures to sign and implement free trade agreements” that, according to them, “have contributed significantly to a reduction in poverty” and they reaffirmed their “commitment to the securing of an ambitious agreement in the WTO Doha Round of negotiations, based on free trade and the continued effort to promote economic integration in the hemisphere.”

As was made clear at the People’s Summit in Salvador de Bahia, “the Bush government has sought to divide the region, resuscitate the failed FTAA proposal, put obstacles in the way of, or avoid the alternative regional integration processes while deepening the free trade blueprint– opening up to foreign investments, indebtedness in various countries, and militarization – and the European Union for its part is pushing similar policies in the region.”

The jury is still out on whether the government of Obama will continue with these policies or it will be looking to make a fundamental shift in its relations withthe restof the region. On the other hand, in Latin America integration initiatives are being developed that point to greater regional autonomy, excluding the U.S. (and Canada) as could be seen from the results from the Presidential Summit (Latin America and the Caribbean) held at the end of 2008 in Salvador de Bahia. Nonetheless, these processes and the distance-taking from the Bush policies are not in themselves free from contradiction.

The role of the social movements in recognizing where these contradictions exist while generating alternative proposals for integration takes on now, as we approach the IV Summit of the People, a much greater importance. This gathering in Trinidad will be a time to renew our opposition to the neo-liberal economic model and demand that our governments support development policies based on:  equality and social justice; guarantee of food and energy sovereignty; concern for the environment; Latin American development ties; gender equality; and ethnic and cultural diversity.

The IV Peoples’ Summit represents an important moment to have exchanges with the social movements in the Caribbean with the purpose of continuing to advance our work with respect to peoples’ integration and to strengthen our voices in opposition to the neo-liberal model.

We invite social movements, campesinos, indigenous peoples, unions, women’s organizations, environmental organizations, human rights organizations, students, as well as networks and other organizations to participate in the IV Peoples’ Summit that will take place in Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009 as the V Summit of the Heads of State of the Americas gets underway.

Announcing the launch of an online campaign to promote social justice, international solidarity, and an exchange of ideas and information on Trinidad and Tobago and the upcoming Summit.

Today, as tens of thousands come together in Belem, Brazil for the opening of the World Social Forum, we send early word of a parallel volunteer, grassroots effort coming out of the Caribbean to extend the debate over globalization and the global economic crisis into new realities of social justice, equity, sustainable development, and peace for our region.

The IV Summit of the Peoples will be held in Trinidad & Tobago from April 16-18, 2009, and as with previous Peoples’ Summits held in Santiago, Chile (1998), Quebec City, Canada (2001) and Mar del Plata, Argentina (2005), social movement activists from throughout the Americas are expected to gather to challenge the orthodoxy of neoliberal policies and their impact on trade, industrialization, workers’ rights, militarization, inequality, crime, the environment and other issues. The fifth OAS-sponsored Summit of the Americas, to be attended by U.S. President Barack Obama, will take place concurrently in the islands’ capital, Port of Spain.

Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest nations, per capita, in Latin America and the Caribbean. With substantial oil and gas reserves, it is the United States’ foremost foreign supplier of liquefied natural gas, and 46 years after independence from Britain, accounts for a full quarter of British Petroleum’s global profits. Yet it is marked by serious rises in inequality, food prices, gang-related murders, and a war on workers. The country’s leader, Patrick Manning, is a strong proponent of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and has spearheaded the move to headquarter the practically defunct regional plan in spanking new waterfront offices built for that purpose.

The Summit will present a unique opportunity for the Caribbean’s insistent, sometimes struggling yet powerful movements, old and new—of environmentalists, farmers and fisherfolk, gender activists and youth, organized labor and villagers who successfully opposed the mighty aluminum corporation, Alcoa—to work directly with their Latin American and other hemispheric neighbors toward ending the discredited Washington Consensus policies that have characterized the region, and to help define a possible new relationship with the United States under an Obama administration.

Working with the IV Peoples’ Summit, several local and international organizers and activists are announcing today the launch of our online campaign to promote social justice, international solidarity, and an exchange of ideas and information on Trinidad and Tobago leading up to, and hopefully extending beyond, the Summit.

We hope that you will support and join us. There are several ways that you can.

For weekly updates, and to join in regularly on the discussions and the activities around the Peoples’ Summit, please visit us at:

* Facebook: Peoples’ Summit 2009 Trinidad and Tobago

* Our first webpage and blog, SmallWorld at https://sctheodore.wordpress.com/

* YouTube: IVPeoplesSummitTnT, http://www.youtube.com/IVPeoplesSummitTnT

* Google Group: Peoples Summit IV T&T

-Group home page: http://groups.google.com/group/peoples-summit-iv-tt
-Group email address peoples-summit-iv-tt@googlegroups.com

* Delicious: http://delicious.com/PeoplesSummitTT

* flickr: PeoplesSummitTT

* Twitter: http://twitter.com/PeoplesSummitTT

An official Website with full registration, travel and accommodation information, and more will be announced soon.

Thank  you.

Day One

Announcing SmallWorld, the first blog on the IV Summit of the Peoples, April 16-18, Trinidad and Tobago.


“To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work
alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean
waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry
minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy
relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford
indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can
we consume the world’s resources without regard to
effect. For the world has changed, and we must change
with it.”

— U.S. President Barack H. Obama, January 20, 2009

Our doubts are traitors. — Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler

This day—January 21st 2009—marks not the first, but the third in an extraordinary series of days for the United States, the Americas, and the world.

On the first of these remarkable days, the nation celebrated the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., at a time when King’s vision of a more perfect union never felt more real or more present. The reason was what followed on Tuesday: the historic inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama, an event writ large across the imagination of the country and the world with its promise of hope and shared responsibility, change and renewal, and a new opening and sensitivity to the world beyond all boundaries.

Today, however, represents more than President Obama’s first full day in office: it carries with it particular meaning for the inhabitants of a twin-island republic thousands of miles to the south, and especially those in its ranks of organized labor. For it is also the birthday of Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, the founding father of the Trinidad and Tobago labor movement, and a truly transformative figure in the Caribbean’s path toward self-determination, dignity, and justice.

Butler was an agitator, and proud of it. The fiery Grenada-born preacher and wounded World War I veteran (he had served with the West India Regiment of the British Army in Egypt) who found work in Trinidad as a rigman for an American-owned oil company, would challenge the deplorable slave wages and work conditions there. The unrests he sparked in the oilfields in June 1937 would spread, and usher in the modern period of workers’ rights, constitutional change, electoral politics, and universal suffrage. In language that President Obama would surely recognize and respect, the self-described “Butler: the black, brave, and bold Briton” once declared “not the rich or poor man; not the white or black man; but freedom and justice though the heavens fall!”

Buzz Butler would be imprisoned several times for his principles. Yet the tradition of resistance he forged has remained, imprinted upon the collective psyche of the islands, where he is now considered a national hero and treasure. The labor unions that emerged and the movements he continues to inspire have played pivotal roles in every major national accomplishment since: breaking the hold of the imperial oil behemoths, pushing for independence from Britain in 1962, in the Black Power uprisings of 1970, resisting the IMF-imposed structural adjustments of the 1980s, opposing aluminum smelters in the 2000s, playing the role of a de facto peoples’ opposition in the Trinidad and Tobago national scene.

It is fitting, then, to invoke the spirit of Butler on this day, as the descendants of his legacy, working with their counterparts across the Americas, prepare to host the upcoming fourth Summit of the Peoples, the alternative to the fifth installment of the Summit of the Americas conferences–which are sponsored by the Organization of American States and will be presided over by the new U.S. president. The Peoples’ Summits were established by social movements in the global south in response to the aggressive free-market policies embodied by the Free Trade Area of the Americas plan, which opponents argue have been detrimental to the vast majority of peoples in the Americas and around the world. Previous Peoples’ Summits have been held in Santiago, Chile (1998), Quebec City, Canada (2001) and Mar del Plata, Argentina (2005).

That’s why it’s fitting to launch a space like this on this day, where emerging, sometimes furtive but insistent and powerful new voices from the Caribbean—farmers and fisherfolk, anti-smelter and gender activists, land and fair housing advocates, youth and many others–can connect with themselves and others across the globe, and so amplify their voices. Working in close collaboration with the local organizing committee for the summit in Trinidad, the intention is that this blog–SmallWorld–can serve as a portal for activism, ideas, news, comments and analysis leading up to, and hopefully extending beyond, the summit. And that a new generation imbued with a sense of urgency, action, movement, service, activism, and yes, hope, can make its presence felt beyond each others’ shores.

Welcome to the summit of the possible.

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