Beyond Trafficking and Slavery

What are the building blocks of an effective transnational alliance?

On 8 October 2018 we published the BTS Round Table on the Future of Work, in which 12 experts explain recent changes to the nature of work and offer new ideas in labour policy, organising, and activism. This is a followup question to those initial responses.

Shawna Bader-Blau
1 March 2019, 4.37pm

The Solidarity Center doesn’t have a unique template, and there are many good models across different social movements of successful and lasting transnational solidarity. We have, however, learned a thing or two over two decades as an organisation.

First, transnational solidarity means to be grounded in the idea that we are all equal. Fundamental is that we all have equal rights to dignity, to cultural freedom and sovereignty, and to decent lives as we define them. Equally fundamental is recognising that the forces preventing people from achieving equality and justice are global and affect all of us. The world has not treated us all as equals. The world has treated people very differently based on historic discrimination. People in the Global South have been occupied and exploited by the Global North, and within the Global North we have massive gender discrimination and racial disenfranchisement, among other things. Both points need to be recognised at the same time to have transnational solidarity. You build trust by grappling with all that at once.

Second, relationships are not built on one-off visits. They're built on trust and commitment to each other. You must put in the effort to communicate regularly, to listen. Really listening to counterparts in other countries, who exist within a different social movement context, is not a well-enough developed skill. But you can't be a good ally if you don't develop empathy and love, and that comes, in part, through really listening.

Third, it's critical to develop joint analyses of power and visions for change. That comes through spending time together and putting all your cards on the table. This is who we are, this is what we're about, this is who we want to be in the world, this is what we need, this is what we can contribute. You then listen to the other folks, develop a joint analysis, and then situate your relationship and joint work within that. That's really critical and often missing. When you don't take the time to do that, you might build a friendship but your work will be less powerful if it is based in assumptions rather than in a joint analysis and theory of change.

Finally, developing of a true understanding that we are all in it together. We need to think about mutual interests and reciprocal actions, so that we practise solidarity by treating each other's campaigns and priorities with a high level of seriousness. In short, we need to really show up for each other.

This project is supported by the Ford Foundation but the viewpoints expressed here are explicitly those of the authors. The foundation's support is not tacit endorsement within.

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