13 Jan 2023
Why should groups care about international issues?
"It shows you can think global and act local." Ruth, West Cumbria and North Lakes Friends of the Earth.
Like many of us, Ruth from West Cumbria and North Lakes Friends of the Earth believes we need to care for the whole planet, and not just our small corner. Janet from Stratford-upon-Avon Friends of the Earth agrees:
"I think that a group should take action at every level – town, district, country and international, because climate and ecological problems are interlinked."
And as Warren from Llangollen and District Friends of the Earth points out, it's often the simplest of messages that helps communicate why international issues are our issues:
"Phrases like 'carbon dioxide doesn't respect borders' and 'we're not safe until we're all safe' sum up one reason to take international action. Looking beyond that, when we see injustice laid bare, regardless of self-interest, as campaigners we feel obliged to speak out."
But how do we translate caring into action?
Case study: international solidarity
During the 2021 UN climate talks, more than 100 groups marched through Glasgow with other activists to demand justice-led solutions to the climate crisis. Since then, the campaign for climate justice has played out most prominently in activities centred on a huge liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.
The gas project is in Cabo Delgado, north Mozambique, and has been at the heart of conflict, human rights abuses and displacement since 2017. The UK government pledged $1 billion of taxpayer money towards the project, despite estimated emissions equivalent to the annual aviation emissions of all EU states combined.
That's why in December 2021, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland took the government to court over its decision to fund the project. Meanwhile, 27 of our groups took action by joining our demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice, holding processions and delivering letters to their MPs.
All of the activity was shared with Justiça Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique), which has been raising awareness of the project and its effect on local communities for years.
"By taking action, we're showing that we stand united with every single person across the world. We may be one group, but when we all stand together with many groups our messages are amplified, showing communities that they are not alone and we are listening." Libby, Birmingham Friends of the Earth.
Collective action makes an impact
"Within the Liverpool Friends of the Earth coordinating group, we believe there is the sense that seeing how our local efforts can usefully fit into the wider context can provide a significantly enhanced sense of collective purpose." Don, Liverpool Friends of the Earth.
Collective action and mobilisation work. We’ve seen it time and time again. In our own network, contributing to international pressure helped secure the quick release of Ugandan activists who were campaigning against Total and arrested without charge. Friends of the Earth used a petition, social media and letters to embassies to put pressure on authorities.
Future victories may be harder to secure if we don't act as global allies and take a stand, no matter where injustice is taking place.
What's more, by campaigning on issues with a global reach, there's a chance of attracting new people to our cause:
"I was surprised that taking an international perspective attracted some people I hadn't met before. We put a notice on social media publicising the event outside our MP's office, and this was seen by several new people, including an independent photographer, which was very useful." Janet, Stratford-upon-Avon Friends of the Earth.
While our Mozambique court case initially resulted in a split judgment, with one of two judges agreeing the decision was unlawful, it's since been rejected by the Court of Appeal. This is very disappointing, but our lawyers are studying the judgment before deciding on next steps, including the possibility of an appeal.
If you want to be a part of future solidarity work, get started by brushing up on what solidarity means and why it matters.
"The more groups that take part, the more chance there is of our voices being heard." Sarah, Norwich Friends of the Earth.