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Just transition – a potential framework for collaboration

[Marko Ulvila] One of the challenges, that various movement groups and organisations working for a common cause are facing, is the fruitful framework for collaboration. There are ideological, organisational and practical reasons why there is a tendency to work separately on a limited aspects of a larger problem or a vision. For example, there are lots of resistance efforts protecting communities from harmful expansion of extractive industries, but much less focus on controlling the aggregate demand that is a key driver for the expansion. Similarly, some solutions to environmental problems may unnecessarily cause hardships to local communities or workers.

Just transition has been developed as a framework that would address also the root causes. Furthermore, it introduces strategies that would reduce pressures on the environment in ways that would benefit also the workers and communities. The aim is to overcome the false “jobs or environment” contradiction.

The just transition framework has its roots in the labour movement. Documents supporting the concept have even been approved by the international trade union bodies. Also environmental groups, such as Friends of the Earth, have worked on the concept of just transition (pdf).

At the end of August, Engaged Donors for Global Equity (EDGE) organised a workshop in Budapest at the Central European University to develop the ideas of just transition further. There some forty representatives of funders and civil society organisations from Europe and outside came together to put together their expertise and visions. The basis of the workshop was a strategy framework developed in movement processes in the United States. The strategy is summarised above in a chart that describes they way from an extractive economy to a living economy.

In the workshop, the idea of just transition and the strategy were by-and-large accepted as a good basis for future collaboration. Making use of participatory methods like open space and world cafe, the group developed many of the ideas further. Commons, deep democracy, technology and other aspects were among the topics that draw further attention (picture about the topics of spontaneous open space sessions below).

I think that the just transition framework has a lot of potential. A social and political movement that could initiate and drive through the great transformation, which our society needs, has to be based on an agenda that is appealing to the world’s marginalised majorities (such as women, workers, poor and rural). Justice is a natural rallying point for such transition effort.

Marko Ulvila, 6.9.2016
Writer is the Chairperson of Siemenpuu Foundation