Green Isles Alliance: Building bridges in times of turmoil

The British Isles is home to a clutch of Green parties, united by their common environmentalist purpose and geographical location, but organisationally divided. Now, the Green Isles Alliance has been launched in a bid to enable the parties to act together to advance political goals.

Alice Hubbard and Michal Chantkowski

On Sunday 7 April, Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) International Coordinators Michal Chantkowski and Alice Hubbard participated in the launch of the Green Isles Alliance (GIA) at the Scottish Green Party (SGP) conference in Edinburgh. The newly (re)formed alliance includes Green parties from England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland (Comhaontas Glas), Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Image
Green Isles Alliance

In recognition of historical and cultural links between countries and nations inhabiting the British Isles (Great Britain and the island of Ireland), the alliance proposes to renew communication and cooperation between Green parties to act together to advance political goals. The alliance will provide a forum for exchanging information, discussing areas of common interest and learning from each other’s methods, as well as ensuring coordination between parties in areas such as campaigning and policy (particularly where cross-border issues are concerned).

After seeking support from the European Green Party (EGP) and informal contacts made at the European Green Party Conference in Berlin in November 2018, intermediation in internal meetings preceding the SGP conference allowed for guests from GPEW and the EGP to be welcomed as representatives, together with others via videolink.

During the morning of 7 April, the GIA held an internal meeting to discuss what the alliance can achieve for members and how to do it. The internal meeting was joined by Evelyne Huytebroek, member of the Brussels Parliament and committee member for the EGP and Global Greens, who provided guidance regarding the formation of a regional network, together with insight on how some of the regional networks in Europe currently function.

It was agreed that the alliance should be a knowledge sharing platform to assist in coordinating policy and providing greater links between Green parties across the isles to be able to work together on common issues, such as a People’s Vote, UK relationships with the EU and climate change policy, amongst others.

In addition to quarterly meetings held online by International Secretaries/Committee members for the parties of the alliance, the alliance also purports to provide a space for all party members to engage with other parties across the isles, whether it is by means of thematic working groups or during conferences and other events. There was a proposal to hold another meeting during the GPEW’s upcoming Spring Conference and an agreement to organise meetups on a rolling basis during EGP Council meetings.

Following the internal meeting, the SGP International Committee presented a ‘road show’ about the work they do, followed by a presentation from Evelyne Huytebroek (EGP) regarding the role of the EGP and what they are doing to support MEP candidates. The last 30 minutes were spent on a refugees and asylum-seekers policy workshop.

The alliance will be a knowledge sharing platform, providing greater links between Green parties across the isles

The workshop was followed by a GIA fringe, chaired by International Co-Coordinator from GPEW, Michal Chantkowski. Panel members included Kate Barry (Chair, Green Party Northern Ireland), Ed Davitt (International Secretary of Green Party), Linda Hendry (Member of the International Committee of SGP), Evelyne Huytebroeck (Member of the EGP Committee and member of the Brussels Parliament), Andrew Newton (Party Leader Isle of Man Green Party) and Duncan Rees (Deputy Leader of Welsh Green Party).

Each panel member shared some of their current experiences and challenges in relation to climate change and Brexit, together with presenting ways in which they would like to be able to use the GIA. The panel talked about better aligning climate change policy across the isles and building solidarity networks via thematic issues and working groups (such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). Other topics included: relations between England, Wales and an independent Scotland in a scenario when Brexit is carried out and Scotland becomes an independent state; the inspiration to form the alliance; leadership within the network and plans; the rationale for a formalised structure; and the Northern Ireland peace process within the context of Brexit.

Panel members and attendees were largely supportive of building the alliance and felt that the rationale for forming it at a time when we are facing unprecedented societal and environmental challenges was evident.

The GIA hopes to organise another physical meeting during the next GPEW conference in June.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the GIA and/or the work of the International Committee, contact Michal Chantowski at michal.chantkowski@greenparty.org.uk.

You can also follow the International Committee on Twitter.

Alice Hubbard and Michal Chantkowski are International Coordinators of the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW). This article also contains contributions from Andy Symons.