Achieving civil and social rights – towards a 21st century constitution

August 4, 2006

In the present climate of a failing British state and creeping authoritarianism we need to find a way to work together as individuals and groups to transform our political culture. Recent reports indicate that both the major political parties are now considering constitutional reform, and there are even hints of support for a written constitution.

We propose a series of alternative events aimed at a grassroots campaign around:

[1] An inclusive written constitution that
     embraces the aspirations of the powerless
     majority and

[2] A civil and social rights mobilisation in support
     of its terms.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

To start a process, an open forum was called on the 26th of July 2006 in Euston (London) around the following statement: Achieving civil and social rights – towards a 21st century constitution

Despite the heat, more than 40 people came and participated. They included representatives from groups and organisations as well as individuals. Organisations either present or who sent messages included People in Common, Global Women’s Strike, Payday, Creative Forum, A World to Win, the Muslim Parliament, London Social Forum, Hands off Venezuela, the Independent Victims Helpline (UK), INURA network, Interplay, mutualground and Animal Aid.

Four people volunteered to draw up an interim statement that reflected the discussion and points raised as the basis for a campaigning document. They have since met and plan to complete the draft before the end of August. Another open forum will then be called to discuss the statement and plan the campaign/actions to win support for C421

Minutes of meeting

1. Meeting opened by Chairperson (Corinna Lotz, A World
    to Win)

2. Presentations by organisers and sponsors: Mark Barrett
   (People in Common), David Cozens (Creative Forum),
   Ghayasuddin Siddiqui (Muslim Parliament – unable to
   attend, statement read out) and Paul Feldman (A World
   to Win)
 

3. Meeting opened to Group [approx 40+ people] 

4. Points from discussion

  • Need human rights lawyers with ability to interpret human rights laws
  • Can we use human rights law to bring the European Constitution down to local level?
  • Shameful state’ rather then false state
  • Anarchist approach would be unable to support many of the ideas suggested?
  • Simultaneous Policy? Developed in other countries
  • Fathers4Justice example of effective direct actionVarious small groups now coming into confrontation with the state – need to unify
  • European Union/State exists to propagate a [top-down] European Constitution
  • State tends moving ahead of those fighting for single campaign issues, there is a need to bring these people/groups under an umbrella organisation
  • What are our rights as citizen of this country?
  • What do we want our rights to be as citizens of this country?
  • No clearly written constitution; No judicial power to override politicians’ abuse of power
  • Mass action/series of actions to remove present regime/ruling class and bring in new order
  • Evolution / development of democracy & human rights
  • Unwritten Constitution: right to do anything that is not written down as unlawful – need to keep this benefit but also make some principles clearer
  • Democratic voting procedures in NGOs and other groups – do they reflect what we stand for?
  • No such thing as democratic voting – need for PR
  • Is this the right time & place to bring about radical change to the constitution? Yes, example: current governments’ attacks on civil liberties, environmental breakdown etc
  • Venezuelan constitution had a major input from the common people
  • Any constitution proposals have to challenge the control of economic power & of the multi-nationals – separation of State and Corporations akin to separation of Church and State [we need both in UK].
  • Ground rules of corporate & business laws need to be changed /companies now have human rights – these should be reserved for humans.
  • Action / mobilisations /ways of organising must reflect the ideas contained in the proposed constitution so that the rights are embodied/made real – as well as put into writing.
  • ‘Sunset clause’ responsibilities on citizens to reconsider necessary law/rights in constitution say, every 10-15 years into the future or else constitution lapses – so that things never get set in stone
  • If we develop a constitution who are we going to present it to? The government, the people…
  • Development will not guarantee implementation, however, not having a constitution is not an option in developing new social orders and human rights
  • We need to create an empowerment framework which reflects the fundamental difference between the rights we have and the laws we have to obey as well as the rights we have yet to win
  • Campaigning & fighting for a new constitution cannot be reached via the existing States/multinational corporations’ rule 

5. Proposals, statements and ideas for new constitution
   from group members

  • Neighbourhood Councils/ Committees to create/work together towards new constitution ( Zapatista concept)
  • Principle of Participatory Democracy
  • Right to DemonstrateEqual Rights for all age groupsHorizontal – non-hierarchical managementCompliance with International
  • Rights documents &/or parts of Charter 88
  • Business to be encouraged on non-profit basis
  • Right not to be killed by the state and arbitrary arrest
  • Right to conscientious objection and/or refusal to serve
  • No money for killing by the state and police instead money for home and community work
  • Equal protection from all kinds of violence
  • Protection of environment and sustainability
  • No borders
  • Equal rights for everyoneAnimal rights
  • Regulation/abolition of multinational corporationsRegulation/abolition of global capitalism eg Tobin Tax
  • Abolition of ‘civil’ servants and promotion of public servants
  • Right to control own healthRight to health, food and healthy diets
  • Right to natural unrestricted movement, throughout the day
  • Right to clean water, green areas and natureRight to free, open and sheltered spaces
  • Right to free access of information and knowledge
  • Right to spaces free of advertising
  • Accountable food labelling
  • Right to democracy in the work place
  • Right to organise, strike, and speak out free of state interference
  • Right to civil and religious rights and beliefs
  • Equal rights for all in the UK/elsewhere: including refugees and asylum seekers
  • Rights to housing education and health training
  • Rights to employment and education
  • Political Funding proportionate to number of activists
  • No human rights for corporations
  • Homeless rights
  • Right to un-harmful clean air
  • Precaution principles (seventh generation/long term thinking)
  • Right to human communities/ land held in common/land access for self governing sustainable communities
  • Right to a representative electoral system (and delegate system from local participatory ones)
  • Mental health rights
  • Right to privacy/no surveillance or  ID cards
  • Right to rehabilitation for offenders
  • Right to culture
  • Right not to be exploited
  • “Life, liberty and the cultivation of wisdom”
  • Right to freedom from religious privilege [ie separation of church and state etc]
  • Right to a fair voting system: PR
  • Right to a representative parliament and a system of local and regional participatory democratic structures to feed into it

6.  Actions/proposals 

    6.1 Work on an interim statement using proposals and
         minutes of meeting
 

    6.2 Carry out an action asp 

    6.3 Possible group titles:

  • Alliance/Campaign for 21st Century Constitution
  • Coalition 21″Future Constitution”
  • C421
  • Global Nation
  • People In Common

LSF People’s Assembly Meeting

April 3, 2006

Participants

Michael, Richard, Teresa H., Nico, Nick, Sofia, Massimo, Frank, Helena, Conor, Pauline, David, Alan, Teresa T., and Brenda

Discussion

There was a wide ranging discussion of where we are at and where we’d like to go with the campaign for a People’s Assembly for London.

  • New participants from ‘Creative Forum’ and elsewhere were welcomed to the meeting.

  • There was agreement that LSF should be active in facilitating the ‘initiative’ for a People’s Assembly in London, less agreement on whether LSF should have a primary organisational role.

  • In answer to his written question submitted at the last Mayoral ‘Question Time’ event at Hackney Empire, Nico has received a letter from the Mayor’s Office stating that the ‘Review of the Power and Responsibilities of the Mayor […] does not consider the need for more direct and deliberative forms of participation’.

  • It was agreed that work needed to continue to raise awareness more generally of this initiative. Written material would be useful for this, as would the cultivation of any media contacts we have. It was agreed that the LSF’s Democracy sub-group would draft written material on the aims and objectives of the People’s Assembly initiative.  This material should include different options, such as a People’s Assembly which has statutory power, with its own budget and powers of scrutiny.

  • It was agreed that the focus of the initiative needed to be made sharper for the purposes both of communication and of getting more people involved. This is an ongoing issue that will be most effectively addressed through getting more people involved in the initiative in order to build the vision and the practice through participation. It was agreed that LSF wishes to work with Creative Forum on a creative event to raise awareness of the initiative, ideally outside City Hall and possibly in September.

  • Richard and Sofia agreed to make further contact with the London Civic Forum to follow-up the contact that LSF has already had. The key point here was about establishing how we might or might not be able to collaborate with them on this initiative following the support of the participants of a recent Civic Forum meeting that was attended by LSF members.

  • Nico made the point that as LSF is not an organisation in the conventional sense, it cannot be represented as such. Individuals act as individuals but cannot act on behalf of the LSF as a whole.

  • Richard agreed to forward his list of contacts to the general LSF email list so that we can begin to approach individuals and organisations as part of this campaign.

Date of next meeting

To be announced.


People’s Question Time at the Hackney Empire

March 28, 2006

On the 28 of February, the Greater London Authority under the hospices Ken Livingstone hosted its biannual People's Question Time event at the Hackney Empire Theatre which members of the London Social Forum used as a platform to distribute leaflets, inviting the public to join them for the next full session of the LSF to be held on 3rd April 2006.


London Social Forum

March 28, 2006

The planned restructuring of regional democracy is a constitutional change that affects all London citizens.

In response to the government's current review of the Mayor of London's powers, the London Social Forum therefore calls for a democratic process that gives Londoners the lead in key debates about options for the future of their city.

To help it realise this vision, London Social Forum would like to take this opportunity to invite you to join them for their next full session to be held at 7:00pm on the 3rd of April 2006.

For directions and more information about the London Social Forum and its activities please visit their website.


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