Supporting global and international justice in our council work

Green MP Caroline Lucas highlights the need for ‘joined-up thinking’ in world politics – something that is currently in ‘desperately short supply’ – and how we can call for more of it.

Caroline Lucas protests
Caroline Lucas protests
Caroline Lucas

“Think global, act local.” Almost for as long as Green politics has existed, this slogan has been associated with our movement.

It identifies something we always strive for as Greens: to think and act as though our actions right here and right now have the potential to change the world around us.

This ‘joined-up thinking’ is sorely needed in world politics – and at times like this, it seems to be in desperately short supply.

It could scarcely be clearer that we are living in an age of accelerating climate breakdown. One of this year’s landmark IPCC reports found that we are facing increasingly extreme weather events, biodiversity and ecosystem collapse – and a rapidly closing window of opportunity to reverse the damage that human activity on our planet has caused.

It’s not just in ecological terms that our world is ‘joined-up’. When we talk about struggles for global justice, too, Greens have long understood that the actions we take in the UK have huge ramifications for the rest of the world.

In a globalised economy, with supply chains stretching out across vast distances and pulling in billions of people, decisions taken in the UK have powerful ramifications for people on every continent.

Too often, consumers in the UK and other wealthy countries, whether unwittingly or not, use their spending power to buy goods and services that are produced in the Global South under exploitative conditions. From electronics to textiles to food, and much more – we as consumers in the Global North often become complicit in oppressive systems for producing goods, and unfair systems for distributing them.

It is the goal of Greens to change this picture. ‘Thinking globally’ and being aware of the impact of our decisions as consumers in the Global North, we can ‘act locally’ to leverage our power to demand decent conditions for everyone across the world.

To avoid confusion, let me be clear: this is not about reducing ourselves to individual consumers. As Greens, we know that system change cannot be ‘picked off the shelf’ or put in your shopping basket. Individual action is important, but ultimately it is acting collectively to make use of our political power that matters.

A key aspect of our political power as Greens is the power we have in elected office. As hopefully more and more Green councillors take office after next month’s local elections, they will have the opportunity to use their position to support global justice in tangible ways.

One such way is by recognising and using local government’s power as a major consumer in global industries. Local governments are major purchasers of goods and services – not only some of the biggest in their local area, but also in international markets like electronics.

Electronics Watch, for example, is building momentum among local authorities to change how they make decisions about the procurement of electronics to prioritise supporting worker justice, sustainability, and better industrial relations. The more local authorities who follow this path, the greater the pressure on bosses and managers on electronics producers throughout the supply chain.

This is just one effective way in which Green councillors can use their power and influence: to strengthen the hand of workers’ organisations globally and increase their leverage, and to demand fair pay and conditions from their employers. Global thought and collective local action in practice, in support of justice for workers across the world.

And it should not stop there. As Greens seek to take control of more and more local authorities in the future, we can take the lead in standing up to bullying and immoral behaviour wherever we see it. We can refuse to be complicit in war, authoritarian abuse, and man-made humanitarian disaster.

Whether it’s boycotting Russian corporations complicit in Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression; divesting pension funds from Saudi-government linked companies complicit in the destruction of Yemeni homes; or supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement of Palestinian civil society organisations to stop illegal and immoral actions by Israeli authorities; Greens are standing up for what matters.

Elected Greens at every level can add real backbone and tangible actions to the struggle for global justice. But only if we all go out and vote Green on 5 May, and keep building our power in local council chambers.