Dialogues for Justice, the Public Interest, and the Common Good: From the Margins and the Frontlines

Following the fanfare of the past week’s global leaders’ summit on development, Land is Life collaborated with the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness, IBON International, International Migrants Alliance, NGO Mining Working Group, The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, and The Migrant Center at the Church of Saint Francis of Assissi in hosting the “Dialogues for Justice, the Public Interest, and the Common Good: From the Margins and the Frontlines” event.


The event was a place for those most marginalized worldwide to voice their experience suffering from the effects of the current unjust and unsustainable global mode of development. The need for such a space was clearly evident even during the opening session; Eni Lestari, an Indonesian migrant domestic worker in Hong Kong, underlined the powerlessness many of those on the frontlines experience with high-level talks and processes. As a representative with the International Migrants Alliance, she had hoped to share her story at the United Nations but was unable to do so.

Octo Mote, West Papuan leader and Land is Life partner, discusses the harsh realities faced by West Papuans due to extractive activities and illegal land grabs.  

Octo Mote, West Papuan leader and Land is Life partner, discusses the harsh realities faced by West Papuans due to extractive activities and illegal land grabs.  

The Dialogues event following the summit provided an area for those most vulnerable to explain how the current system has affected them, and propose effective solutions. Land is Life Indigenous leaders and partners from around the world joined us in New York City to discuss major issues threatening the livelihoods of those most threatened around the world. West Papuan leader Octo Mote spoke of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and what such goals signal for those on the ground. He emphasized the weak protection for West Papuans under current Indonesian laws and the threats faced by the West Papuan populations due to mining, extractive activities, and land-grabs.  Furthermore, he described how the language and approach of the talks and activity (such as the touted public-private partnerships) surrounding the Sustainable Development Goals do not serve to address such situations.

The event also involved different breakout sessions on various topics related to the newly formed Sustainable Development Goals. Jiten Yumnan, a Meitei of Manipur, India, the South Asia Regional Coordinator for Land is Life and Secretary of the Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur, led a session on land, water, and resource grabbing. Case studies from around the world demonstrated the negative impacts due to government and corporate activities surrounding illegal grabbing of land, water, and natural resources, and the subsequent pattern of resource commodification.


Furthermore, the discussion addressed how to achieve constructive action given the current global context. Such solutions included collaborative bottom-up implementation efforts, along with the need for continued and increased pressure on leaders around the world representing those most vulnerable and marginalized. Other proposed solutions involved social media as a tool to give amplified voice to those on the frontlines.

Jiten Yuman leads a break-out session on land, water, and resource grabbing. 

Jiten Yuman leads a break-out session on land, water, and resource grabbing. 

Along with these efforts, it was also determined as vital to improve access to education – and not just mainstreamed education – especially for the global youth, as their potential to contribute to broader social justice and international solidarity movements is great. Education enables more people to understand and begin to actively defend their rights, consequently promoting self-determination of all peoples, especially Indigenous peoples.

As we continue pushing for a shift in economic and development models, it is fundamental that we maintain local and traditional knowledge at the heart of our efforts and vision.

Environmental activist and anti-globalization author Vandana Shiva delivering her keynote message for Dialogues for Justice, Public Interest, and the Common Good, scheduled for Monday, September 28, 2015, 10am-6pm at St. Francis of Assisi Church (135 West 31st Street in Manhattan).