12 struggles of resistance and hope in 2017

The bad news streaming through our media in 2017 has been relentless. Behind the headlines, though, social movements are on the rise and scoring impressive victories. Here are 12 struggles that inspire us to act in 2018.

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El Salvador bans mining

Photo Credit: MOVIAC

This small Central American state became the first country in the world to ban metals mining, defeating one of the largest transnational mining corporations. Farmer communities led the struggle when they came together in 2004 to save the Lempa River watershed. They built a national coalition in the face of massive repression (including the assassination of several activists), formed alliances internationally, took on the Canadian corporation OceanaGold and finally secured a mining ban in March 2017.


#metoo campaign challenges impunity for sexual harrassment

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Revelations of Hollywood mogul Weinstein's repeated sexual abuses prompted 1.7 million #metoo tweets in 85 countries, highlighting the prevalence of sexual harassment and prompting many more women to come forward publicly to denounce sexual harassment. Decades of tireless campaigning by women's organisations worldwide led us to this moment, hopefully a watershed in the fight for equality.


French law on multinationals

Photo Credit: Brian Sokol / ActionAid

After a four year popular campaign and in the face of corporate opposition, France approved a new law recognising the responsibility of parent companies for human rights violations committed by subsidiaries, subcontractors and providers. This is a major step forward in the fight against impunity of transnational corporations (TNCs), addressing the legal complexity of TNCs that has made it so difficult for affected communities to get justice. The law also gave a boost to ongoing efforts to create an international binding treaty on TNCs at the United Nations.


Privatisation defeated in Colombia

Photo Credit: Sintraem Cali

A local public sector workers union in Cali succeeded in defeating the proposed privatisation of the municipal owned telecommunications company, after it exposed the city's plans. The union used TNI research on Lazard, a global financial advisory firm hired by the city to develop its plans. The union then helped to set up a public-public partnership (PuP) with a Uruguayan national public enterprise to facilitate reform in the public interest. Cali's workers' defense of a municipal service is part of a pattern, with more than 835 communities worldwide bringing their public services back under public control in recent years.


Trump's agenda faces massive popular resistance

Photo Credit: @NeilCummings

From the very first day of office, Trump's presidency has faced unprecedented popular resistance. In the first week, his blanket ban on Muslims from six nations was met with spontaneous protests at more than 20 major international airports across the USA - and has been blocked repeatedly by courts ever since and is now only temporarily enacted. Popular movements involved in fighting the white supremacy, corporate greed, and militarism that the Trump regime represents have reported a massive surge in engagement and support.


Brazil's biggest ever general strike

35 million people from Brazil's largest unions and popular movements took to the streets to oppose labour and pension reforms imposed by the deeply unpopular Temer government that won power through a coup. The general strike succeeded in bringing Brazil's biggest cities, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Brasilia to a halt and was evidence of growing popular opposition to Temer.


Gambia autocrat overthrown

Photo Credit: Jason Florio/IRIN

Military ruler, Yahya Jammeh, who ruled Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years was forced to step down after he lost the 2016 election. Jammeh predicted he would rule for a billion years, but young Gambians came out in large numbers and used social media to mobilise votes for his opponent, Adama Barrow. Jammeh tried to overrule the election results, but fierce opposition from trade unions, professional associations and pressure from outside states forced Jammeh to relinquish power.


Farmer rebellion in India

Photo Credit: Vikas Choudhary/CSE

In November, tens of thousands of peasants and rural labourers from 20 states representing more than 180 peasant organisations gathered in Delhi for an unprecedented show of strength against the reactionary Modi Government. Facing rising production costs, increased droughts and falling incomes, the farmers demanded debt relief, better prices and effective crop insurance schemes. While the government did not immediately respond to their key demands, the united platform is likely to have an impact as it takes its campaign across the country in 2018 and 2019.


Supreme Court in Indonesia rules in favour of public water

Photo Credit: TNI

Thanks to the tireless campaigning of citizen groups in Jakarta, Indonesia's Supreme Court ruled in October that privatisation of water is a violation of human rights and annulled an agreement between city-owned water operator PAM Jaya and two private companies. The court prohibited private partners from running tap water services and agreed that privatisation had deprived poorer citizens of access to water. Jakarta is one of more than 235 cases of communities worldwide that have brought water back under public control in recent years.


Zambian farmers' court case victory against Vedanta

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Zambian farmers overcame an appeal by UK mining giant Vedanta, allowing them to proceed with a legal case in the UK. The farmers are demanding remediation and compensation for the devastating pollution of the river Kafue by their subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) that caused sickness and devastation of livelihoods.The judgment is an important precedent for holding transnational companies legally responsible for the actions of their subsidiaries.


Almost two-thirds of Australian voters say yes to marriage equality

Photo Credit: Paris Buttfield-Addison

Australian voters overwhelmingly voted in favour of changing the definition of marriage to include same sex relationships in an advisory referendum. Australia's parliament then approved a bill almost unanimously, becoming the 25th country to legally embrace marriage equality. 20 years ago, there were none.


Guatemala rises up against institutionalised corruption

Photo Credit: WNV/Jeff Abbott

Since 2015, a series of mass protests against corruption have rocked Guatemala. These came to a head in September when President Jimmy Morales attempted to expel a Colombian investigator of the U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. Indigenous communities have played a leading role in the protests and are also in a fight with Congress to approve a constitution that would recognise greater indigenous autonomy.

Thank you to the many activists who helped us source these stories including John Cavanagh, Manuel Perez Rocha, Patrick Bond, Miriam Planas, Francine Mestrum, David Sogge and Isabelle Geusken.

"Some activists are afraid that if we acknowledge victory, people will give up the struggle. I’ve long been more afraid that people will give up and go home or never get started in the first place if they think no victory is possible or fail to recognize the victories already achieved. Marriage equality is not the end of homophobia, but it’s something to celebrate. A victory is a milestone on the road, evidence that sometimes we win, and encouragement to keep going, not to stop."

– Rebecca Solnit

Transnational Institute wishes you a happy and inspiring 2018!