School strikes / Friday for Future have spread all over the world recently. This is an organic grass root mainly youth-led mobilisation, which has sparkled what is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) global climate mobilisation to date.
Young organisers have regularly asked NGOs and other well established climate organisations for their support – either directly or by asking them to do their own share in mobilising adults. They’re now explicitly asking us to mobilise this September.
This wave of mobilisation is as amazing as it is fragile – its organic nature, the fact that it’s led by (very) young people, the absence of a large form of centralisation, the DIY culture and the zero-budget approach are both one of the reasons for its success and one of its main weaknesses if it is to last and trigger the change it is seeking.
It is thus important for NGOs and other organisations to approach their own participation in this wave with a lot of care – it is about supporting this moment, not capturing its visibility, co-opting its members/leaders, etc.
The following guidelines are inspired by the Jemez principles. The idea isn’t for each organisation involved in the September mobilisation to formally sign-up to these guidelines. This document rather aims at defining the spirit of our collaborative effort.
We won’t brand the school strikes momentum
We might have contributed to create the conditions for such a momentum to emerge. But the day-to-day organising work that led to this amazing wave of mobilisation is being handled by young people within their own networks. Some of them might be members of our organisations, but they’re not organising under any umbrella. They’re doing this under their own capacity. We’re committed to respect that – and won’t try to brand this mobilisation, by putting our logos, our spokes, our specific campaigns at the front.
We will support school strikes from behind
We will (learn to) stand back. We will stay at the back – not because we like to control things from outside, but because we want to be good allies. Supporting building the momentum where it is needed, yet leaving the youth be at the center, as well as at the margins, of this wave of activism: this isn’t an opportunity to build our membership or our lists, but a historical moment, led by the youth. We’re building this mobilisation together – we’re going to step up, and do our share of the mobilisation, but we will proceed with a lot of care and permanent consultation and discussions with school strikes organisers.
We will be transparent and accountable for our decisions
We don’t want to capture the moment, yet we don’t want to build a hidden locus of power. Henceforth we will report regularly on our conversations and our actions regarding school strikes on the various channels that organisers use to coordinate themselves (Discord working groups, Telegram groups, etc.). We will obviously be accountable for the consequences of our actions, intended or unintended.
We are committed to dignity, respect and equal opportunities
Everyone should have an equal opportunity to contribute to discussions on our role and to challenge us on our decisions and actions. We will treat everyone with respect, including those who disagree with us, who criticise us, and won’t try to promote or push those who only agree with us.
We will share our experience
We will support organisers with our experience: sharing lessons from our past successes, and most importantly, failures. Based on demands coming from school strikes organisers, we will organise trainings – on strategies, communication, organising, etc. – through webinars, guides, but potentially also face-to-face opportunities.
We will promote diversity, strengthen equity and nurture inclusion
We’re committed to make this moment an opportunity to intentionally build a broader climate movement, and to support its diverse voices and stories.
While the center of the attention of the initial mobilisation has been Europe (and more generally the global North), it’s becoming global. We’re committed to support activities, voices and projects based in the global South; as well as outreach and support going to those who are too often invisible, yet are the frontline of this fight, in the global North.
Supporting strikers’ safety and well-being
School strikes organisers have faced, are facing and will face a variety of threats and attacks – in some countries, going on school strike can expose them to repression. In other places, they’ve been attacked personally in the media or on social media. We consider that it is part of our role and responsibility to support them, protect them and help them care for themselves.