Highlights of the year: what we achieved together in 2018

Highlights of the year: what we achieved together in 2018

By: Nick Dearden
Date: 20 December 2018

Brexit, Trump, trade wars, climate catastrophe, creeping fascism. Fear of what the future holds was never far from the minds of global justice campaigners in 2018. But the only way to build a better future is to organise and campaign – to light a candle rather than curse the darkness.

So in 2018 we pulled out all the stops. As a result we’ve helped build extraordinary resilience – and we’ve even made some significant progress. For that we should be really proud.

As tradition has it, now is the time to ‘take stock’; remind ourselves of the amazing things we’ve done and renew our energy for the year ahead. So I’ve compiled a list of my highlights from 2018 to share with you. I hope they show just how much we appreciate your continued support for Global Justice Now. They’re proof that by working together, we can change things. And we are.

There are many dangers ahead. We work together in organisations like Global Justice Now so we can face them together. We owe it to each other, and to the future of humanity, never to give up. Stay strong, and enjoy the Christmas break.



The Scottish parliament endorsed our principles for a just trade system, and we came from around the country to oppose Liam Fox’s Trade Bill

In Scotland we work with other campaign groups and local activists in Trade Justice Scotland. In 2016 we held an assembly with local activists from across Scotland that drew up a set of principles we believe should underpin a just trade system. In January 2018 these principles became part of the Scottish government’s international strategy when they were supported by a majority of MSPs during a debate in the Scottish parliament.

At the end of January, we brought campaigners from constituencies around the country together in London for two days of action on trade democracy. There was a walking tour of London trade landmarks, a protest outside the Department for International Trade, a public meeting with leading opposition politicians, and a chance to lobby MPs about amendments needed to Liam Fox’s Trade Bill.



We ruffled some feathers in the Department of Health

And last Christmas, hundreds of supporters signed our action cards calling on the health secretary to unlock access to vital medicines for people in the UK and around the world. In February, we handed in the many action cards to the Department of Health.


We stood up to big corporate bullying, exposed the truth behind drug companies’ extortionate profits, and made headway with our aid campaign

Along with our supporters, thousands of people signed a global petition to protest against Swiss drug company Novartis’s bullying tactics towards the Colombian government. Colombia had tried to use international trade rules to make the corporation’s leukaemia cancer drug affordable. Activists in Geneva handed Novartis the petition at its annual general meeting and local stunts were organised in South Africa, Malaysia and a snowy UK.

Thanks to your support, we also published ‘Pills and Profits’, our report about how UK taxpayers and patients worldwide are being denied the medicines they need, despite the public sector playing a pivotal role in the discovery of new medicines.

We helped draw up the Labour Party’s comprehensive new development policy published in March, called ‘A World for the Many’. This reflected key Global Justice Now demands, including an end to the privatisation of aid and ensuring that aid money is spent not just fighting poverty but reducing inequality as well.


We hand-delivered a revealing poll to Liam Fox, empowered hundreds of young activists and told the Home Office what we think about the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants

We conducted a poll finding that up to 88% of Liam Fox’s own constituents opposed US food standards being imported after Brexit; 63% opposed offering US corporations access to the NHS. Dressed as concerned ‘chlorinated’ chickens, we joined our Bristol group activists to personally deliver the poll to Liam Fox at his constituency surgery in Portishead.

In April, more than 140 young people got together for our youth network’s annual gathering for a day of discussion, debate, activism and live performance. Young people from across the country gathered at Goldsmiths University in London, united by opposition to the rise of the far right and the wave of right-wing populism engulfing much of the world.

Together with other migrants’ rights campaigners, we blocked the entrance to the Home Office in Westminster to demand the government puts a stop to its hostile environment policy towards migrants, following the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd.


We celebrated a step forward for migrants’ rights and revealed how internet giants might harm economic development in the global south

We celebrated the Home Office’s announcement of the suspension of immigration checks on bank accounts, while pushing for a complete end for all hostile environment policies.

Thanks to the support of our supporters and members, we published a briefing on ‘e-commerce’ sections in new trade deals. These could give internet giants vast extra powers and hand them dangerous levels of control over our lives, as well as profoundly harm economic development in the global south. It was covered in an in-depth report in the Observer and by international media.


We celebrated the NHS and helped build the movement for migrants’ rights

We joined the ‘NHS at 70’ demo to celebrate our free publicly-owned health service and demand the right to health is realised for everyone on the planet. We also spread the word about our campaign to put people before profit in the global drug industry.

In late June we organised ‘Beyond Windrush – building the movement for migrants’ rights’, an event in London to support the wider migrants’ rights movement. It involved migrant-led grassroots groups and campaigners sharing what’s wrong with our immigration system and exploring practical ways of taking action.


We helped organise the biggest protest of the decade, got 100 MPs to pledge not to report their constituents to immigration officials, launched our internationalist network and got tantalisingly close to a vital step towards trade democracy

From the looming threat of a US-UK trade deal to his attacks on migrants and climate action, Donald Trump represents the very opposite of global justice. He’s also become a beacon for those who oppose our vision across the world. We helped organise the Stop Trump demonstrations across the country as the US president arrived on his visit. Tens of thousands joined the planned protests in towns and cities across the UK, with hundreds of thousands in London.

In July, together with Migrants Organise, we launched a campaign focusing on how MPs are contributing to the government’s hostile environment policy in their constituency surgeries. We called on MPs to publicly pledge that they won’t participate in the hostile environment by reporting constituents to the Home Office for immigration enforcement. We asked them to sign an ‘MPs Not Border Guards’ pledge to make clear that their surgery is a safe place for all, regardless of immigration status.

We launched our internationalist network as a way for local associations, trade union branches and other groups to plug into international solidarity efforts, the fight against global corporate power and the campaign work of Global Justice Now.

In July we got tantalisingly close to securing a vital trade democracy amendment. An amendment we helped draft with Caroline Lucas MP to give parliament control of post-Brexit trade deals, was defeated by only 30 votes in the House of Commons. As a result of this work, we still hope to win amendments in the Lords in 2019.


We reached a milestone for our MPs not Border Guards campaign

Thanks to thousands of people like you taking action, by August more than 100 MPs had signed our ‘MPs not Border Guards’ pledge and committed not to report constituents to the Home Office for immigration enforcement.


We took our migration campaigns to the Edinburgh World Justice Festival, called for a halt to funding for privatised education, organised a major event at The World Transformed and threatened the UK government with legal action

Together with Scottish Refugee Survival Trust, CAAT and Glasgow Caledonian University Centre for Climate Justice, we put on an event at the Edinburgh World Justice Festival exploring why people migrate.

Together with partners from the global south and the National Education Union in the UK, we sent a comprehensive letter to the Secretary of State for International Development, calling on the UK to halt funding for Bridge International Academies, a profit-making company which runs schools in the global south. Bridge schools exclude the poorest in society, use unqualified teachers who are poorly paid and have been widely criticised by teacher unions and governments.

We organised a major event at The World Transformed to celebrate internationalism: ‘None of us are free until we’re all free’ with speakers and artists from India, Tanzania, and Brazil. We even had a shadow minister or two pop in.

We also threatened the UK government with legal action over the granting of export licences for surveillance equipment to countries with poor human rights records.


We made a splash in the media, told Asian and European leaders directly why we need profound change, published a new report on alternatives to the profit-driven pharmaceuticals industry, and pressed for a binding corporate treaty in Geneva

The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show ran a feature highlighting our campaign. Migrants Organise, our partners in the MPs not Border Guards campaign, explained why it’s so important that MPs make sure they offer representation to everyone, regardless of immigration status.

On behalf of the Asia-Europe People’s Forum – which brought together 425 representatives of movements and organisations from 48 countries – we presented our case for a just, equal and inclusive Asia and Europe directly to the ASEM meeting of national leaders – including Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Shinzō Abe – in Brussels.

Thanks to the support of people like you, we also launched our new report on alternatives that put public health needs, not profits, at the forefront of drug research and development. The report made a splash in the media as it featured in The Times, Washington Post, and BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

We joined the Week of People’s Mobilisation in Geneva pressing for a binding treaty that will ensure access to justice for victims of human rights violations caused by the global operations of transnational corporations. During the week we released updated figures on the extent of corporate power – showing that 69 of the world’s 100 biggest economic entities are corporations, not governments. It was covered by the Independent among others.


We brought together migration campaigners from across the country, co-convened a hearing of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, and celebrated another blow to the inhumane hostile environment policies

In November we held a national activists’ meeting on migration, to bring together Global Justice Now activists from across the country to share experiences and learn about recent developments, strengthen the understanding and confidence of our activists and to give them an opportunity to shape our campaign direction.

We also co-convened and participated in a meeting of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal in London. In a series of hearings, we gave migrants themselves a platform to explain their experiences of migrating including the violations of their rights. The tribunal invited the public to join, hear the evidence and make real links with people on the front line who are fighting for the rights of migrants and refugees.

We celebrated that the government scrapped data sharing between NHS Digital and the Home Office.


We celebrated the UN declaration for small-scale farmers, pushed for meaningful action against climate change and contributed to the biggest government consultation ever

For the last few years, we have mobilised to support the process for a UN declaration of rights for small farmers. In December, a committee of the UN General Assembly voted in favour of the declaration.

We joined the UK climate march to make sure that political leaders and decision-makers take urgent action against climate change.

Together we pushed Liam Fox’s trade bill consultation which had over 600,000 responses, making it the biggest government consultation ever.

Again, thank you for making all of this possible. I am sure we can go even further in 2019. If you’re not a member of Global Justice Now already, why not make today the day you join us?