PGA Process

 Evaluation of Eurodusnie’s convenorship of PGA

author: PGA/Eurodusnie workgroup

  1. A short evaluation (Part 1)
  2. Eurodusnie proposal for future structure of the European PGA network (Part 2)

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A short evaluation

The PGA/Eurodusnie workgroup wants to contribute to the discussion about improving the organisational structure of the European section of the PGA network. This topic will be discussed at the PGA conference in Leiden, which will be held between August 31 and September 4.

This contribution is not a complete evaluation of the year of shared convenorship between MRG International and Eurodusnie, because we can only speak about those parts of the convenorship that Eurodusnie was involved in. Therefore, we will concentrate on the experiences of the last year which are directly related to the goals we set ourselves with the convenorship.

Since autumn 2001, Eurodusnie has been the convenor of the European PGA network together with MRG International. From the beginning, it was clear how the tasks would be divided. At the plenary meeting in Milan, Eurodusnie already specified that, if the collective was chosen as the next convenor, it would concentrate on organising the conference and improving the European PGA network structures. MRG later agreed wished to focus on global networking.

The wish to concentrate on improving the European PGA network structure existed because we were aware of the widespread disappointment within the PGA network and wanted to do our part improving it. Even the complete lack of transparency in how organisations were nominated for the convenorship, made obvious how important this point was. During the somewhat confusing conference in Milan, we heard that there would be a meeting about the convenorship. The status of this meeting was – and remains – unclear to us. It is equally unclear with whom we spoke. At any rate, we introduced ourselves and provisionally put ourselves up as candidates for organising the next conference and for improving the PGA structures.

It turned out that there was a second candidate, the Catalan MRG International, but they too needed to discuss matters internally before they could definitely agree to be the convenor. MRG was, like us, asked by various ‘PGA veterans’ to put itself up as a candidate.

The intention was for us to put our candidacy before the plenary meeting that would be held in the evening. The plenary meeting quickly agreed with our bid for joint convenorship. After all, here were no other candidates.

We do not know what procedure was used on other occasions, but in general we do not think this is a good way to find and nominate convenors. As far as we know, there was no public call for candidate convenors before the conference, and we and MRG were both asked only at a very late stage. That is clearly not a democratic or transparent procedure.

After the conference, it took another few months before it was clear whether PGA Europe had new convenors or not. After all, Eurodusnie and MRG had only provisionally offered themselves as convenors, and so could have withdrawn this offer.

However, they did not and during the global PGA conference in Cochabamba in September 2001, the suggestion that Eurodusnie and MRG become the European convenors was accepted by the convenors of the other continents. We do not know precisely how this happened; we were not in Cochabamba and did not have money for the trip. In the mean time, it is clear that at the coming conference we have the right to choose our own convenor or to introduce a different model of convenorship.

From Cochabamba to the second European conference

At the first meeting of Eurodusnie and MRG in Barcelona in the autumn of 2001, representatives of the former convenors, Ya Basta! And RTS, were present. There were also a number of people calling themselves the “support group”, who said that they occasionally did support work for the (global) network. In addition to this, there wer a couple of people who numbered themselves as “interested individuals”.

The “support group” explained that it wasn’t actually a group, but a (in part) fluid gathering with no formal status. Apparently, the global PGA convenor meeting had at some point in time acknowledged that the “support group” did however exist.

The ‘non existing’ “Support group” turned out to be made up of various PGA veterans, who looked after the PGA website and the PGA Caravan email list, had supported global PGA conferences like the recent one in Cochabamba and above all did lots of ‘networking’.
It wasn’t clear who was doing what, but we have no doubt that some of these people do or did something for the network, because after all, they were up to date with what had been happening in the PGA network over the last few years.

The representatives of the former convenors, RTS and Ya Basta!, were less well informed. Unfortunately, the people present turned out not to have been personally involved in being the convenor, and so had little useable information. The entire administration from Milan was for example “missing” or had been “destroyed in a fire”, it wasn’t exactly clear. There was hardly any handing over of information either then or later. Still, we found the meeting in Barcelona very enlightening: it became clear just how bad the status of the network actually was.
Eurodusnie and MRG met again in December 2001 in Leiden. The meeting was made public and open for “every PGA supporter”. The 40 people present discussed amongst other things how to improve the necessary support for the European section of the PGA network. The suggestion was made to create four technical workgroups (Communication Tools, Finances, global Contacts and The European Gathering). These four workgroups are now part of the proposals that the PGA Process Workgroup will work on during the conference and which will hopefully be put before the plenary meeting (4 September, Leiden) for ratification.
Between the Leiden meeting in December 2001 and the beginning of August 2002, one month before the conference, there has been almost no contact between the two convenors. There was a very limited amount of email traffic. The European convenor email list (which includes both the MRG and the Eurodusnie workgroups) has, to date, remained unused. Basicly we were left to organise the PGA-conference alone.
There are occasional messages sent out over the global convenors list, but these tend to be messages that are useful to us. Moreover – and we have researched this very carefully – these sporadic messages do net even tend to come from (former) convenors, but from individuals who happen to have gained access to this list. How exactly they became so privileged we do not know. The reason we mention this is not to accuse anybody of anything, but simply because we refuse to fool ourselves into thinking the situation is better than it actually is.

In conclusion

All in all, we conclude that there is little of practical use for us to work with. There is no process to choose convenors, the handing over of information and experience hardly takes place and there is not even a minimal transparent, grass roots organisational structure. What there is, is a collection of good intentions and above all many informal structures which are neither transparent nor democratic.
Although the above might lead one to believe otherwise, we are not negative about the perspective of the PGA network. The experiences of four years of PGA show that international cooperation between social movements is complicated but has been quite fruitful. In addition to this, the PGA network is one of the global networks which in recent years has inspired people to fight back and to form global alliances. The network has played an important role in uniting people internationally and so making visible the beacons of grass roots resistance against injustice and capitalism. This visibility has given many people hope that there is (still) a world to be won, and that the ‘end of history’ has not been reached. Given all the neo-liberal suffering that people have had to endure in recent years, this is no small achievement.
But, before we can call PGA an international and grass roots opponent for and alternative to ‘the capitalist international’, this network still has a long way to go.


 Eurodusnie proposal for future structure of the European PGA network

(Part II in the evaluation of our convenorship)

Our evaluation of our convenorship is far from complete. There is for example no mention of any of our positive and inspirational experiences, or the fact that the process of organising the PGA conference has helped us meet new organisations and build local bridges.

What is most important for us, is that we achieve the two goals we set at the beginning of our convenorship, namely:

  1. Successfully organising the conference
  2. Contributing to a minimal, transparent and democratic organisational structure for the European PGA network

We firmly believe that the only way to construct a European network that is truly democratic, is through an extremely clear structure. In order to be able to integrate new people into the network, organisational clarity is essential.

We have formulated the following proposal for the future structure of the European PGA network, based on our practical experiences during our convenorship.

A) Annual conference

We propose that the European PGA conference should take place annually, with a different convenor and in a different country each year. This will:

  1. Offer continuity to the European PGA network
  2. Create a regular and physical discussion place for European grass roots activists, to serve as a much needed addition to our digital spaces (email lists, websites etc).

B) Joint convenorship of two groups, organisations or collectives

Until recently, the only task of a PGA convenor was organising the global PGA conference. Since Ya Basta! organised a European conference in Milan last year, and since the global PGA conference in Cochabamba (2001) decided that PGA regions can function autonomously, this role has been changing. At the present time, there are two European PGA convenors and the second PGA conference is about to start. This is the right time to reformulate and determine the nature and functional of the European PGA convenorship.

We believe that certainly for the time being, the convenor model should be kept in place. We think that the system of joint-convenorship, such as has been attempted between Eurodusnie and MRG, can be continued. Joint convenorship has a number of advantages above solo convenorship:

Because PGA itself is a network, we do not think it wise that other networks act as convenors. Instead, we think it would be better for this task to be fulfilled by established and locally active groups, collectives and organisations. This has a number of practical advantages:

Obviously the group, organisation or collective must be prepared and realistically able to make the substantial time commitment needed, when they take on the convernorship.

C) Convenorship handed over from old convenor to new convenor

It is important for the continuity in the European PGA network that information and experience is handed on from one convenor to the next.

To make this possible, we propose a convenorship model, whereby a collective, group or organisation holds the function for two years. In the first year, a convenor hosts the conference and in the second year, the convenor support a new convenor to host the conference.

So: Eurodusnie hosts the 2002 conference, and then helps Collective X to host the 2003 conference. Collective X in turn helps Organisation Y to host the 2004 conference, and so on.

By 'helps to host the conference', we mean that the second year convenor explains to the first year convenor how they organised the conference and passes on all information (for example contact lists of the participants).

D) Procedure for choosing a convenor

We propose the following procedure for choosing a new convenor:

The decision:

  1. If there is one candidate: the plenary makes the decision.
  2. There is more than one candidate: the candidates present themselves and the plenary decides which one it prefers.

E) Communication tools

In addition to the annual conference, digital communication tools (websites, emails lists etc.) are an important aspect of the European PGA network. We propose to create three PGA email lists:

  1. A list for announcements and reports of actions
  2. A list for discussions and analysis
  3. A PGA Process list

We suggest that these lists are only open to people who subscribe to the PGA hallmarks and that the lists are moderated by the convenors.

The function of the first two lists is clear. The third list, the PGA Process list, will include ALL the current technical support groups. The PGA Process list will offer a space for everything related to "organising the PGA conference" and "European input into the global PGA network". With other words: the PGA Process list will be one digital space for all tasks related to the European PGA network, and will replace the various small lists that exist at the moment.

We see sufficient possibilities for furthering the European PGA network process and have taken three days at the Leiden PGA conference for preparing the draft decisions on PGA Process. We hope that many people will involve themselves in the discussion and that the workgroup will be productive.

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