Inter Pares Annual Report 2009 – Seizing the Moment

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The future has never been more uncertain, but that’s not all bad news. This moment could belong to those who want to articulate something that is . . . local, durable, human, imaginative, inclusive, and open to ongoing improvisation, rather than locked in place as a fixed ideology. The moment is ours to seize.
Rebecca Solnit

Several years ago, an Inter Pares staff member had the opportunity to participate in a biodiversity festival in Andhra Pradesh, India, organized by the Deccan Development Society. It was an extraordinary sight. The festival was comprised of women farmers who walked from village to village, accompanied by a procession of carts pulled by oxen garlanded with flowers. The carts, decorated with sheaves of grain, flowers, and colourful fabrics, carried baskets of seed varieties the women saved and used in the growing season. The women sang and danced, proudly displaying the rich biodiversity that is the foundation of their agriculture. When the procession ended, colourful clay pots with seeds were arranged in rows, and an oil lamp ceremonially lit in front of each row. The women sang prayers to seek the blessing of the Lord of Food and Farming.

These women know that diversity is at the root and the heart of life. And through their work on their farms and in their villages, they are doing what Rebecca Solnit describes as “local, durable, human, and imaginative.” They are devising their own solutions to meet their food security needs.
As we emerge from the first decade of the 21st century, the need for imaginative and durable solutions has never been more apparent. Violent conflict continues in places such as the Middle East, Iraq, Burma and Afghanistan, destroying the lives of millions. The economic crisis has demonstrated the urgent need for fundamental reform of the global financial system. Speculation in the world’s food markets has helped push food prices beyond the reach of millions of people. In Copenhagen, world leaders were unable to reach a consensus on a binding climate change treaty, leaving the poor in both the North and South more vulnerable.

It is these political and policy failures that are opening up spaces for people to take control over their own lives, to invent new ways forward and imagine new futures. People around the world are challenging the old nostrums of how the world works. They are rejecting the notion that economic growth will eradicate poverty, that corporations will solve food insecurity, that the market is the best mechanism for allocating resources and privilege, or that technological fixes will alleviate climate change. They know the problems of the world will never be solved by top-down solutions devised in Washington or London. They understand there can be no peace without justice, and that the crimes of the past cannot be extinguished from memory.

On the cusp of a new decade, these voices for change are speaking out. People are protesting that Northern governments have chosen to reinvest in the International Monetary Fund whose lending policies have wreaked havoc on Southern economies. People are speaking out against ‘land grabbing,’ in which foreign countries lease large land areas in other countries to meet their own domestic food needs. People are resisting corporate control over food production. And people are demanding more effective forms of international collaboration to address global problems such as climate change.

Inter Pares’ thirty-five year history has reinforced our belief in diverse and multiple solutions, and in locally rooted responses to poverty, oppression and injustice. There is no panacea to the world’s problems; no single solution to hunger, oppression, environmental pillage. In fact, there are many. There are solutions in the strong women who farm the fields of Andhra Pradesh, preserving and celebrating their biodiversity. There are solutions in the backpack health workers who provide health services to displaced communities in Burma. There are solutions in the human rights workers from Chiapas who, despite death threats and assault, are bearing witness in the face of extreme danger. There are solutions in the Ghanaian men and women who insist on transparency in the trade and resource extraction agreements between their government and Northern interests.

In this Annual Report, we provide a glimpse of how Inter Pares and our counterparts are seizing the moment, how together we are resisting the imposition of top-down political and economic monocultures, and creating solutions that begin with those most affected.

We invite you to read our report, and to join us in seizing this moment.

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