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Report on UFPJ national conference in Chicago

By: 
Zein El-Amine
Date Published: 
June 15, 2003

To All,

The following is a short report on the United for Peace and Justice meeting that just occurred in Chicago this past weekend. Several Left Turn members from DC, Baltimore and New York were in attendance. Virginia Rodino and I and went as voting delegates for left turn. Each organization in attendance was allowed two voting delegates.

The purpose of the conference was to set up a permanent structure for UFPJ, vote in a steering committee to replace the interim leadership, finalize a statement of unity and vote on what actions should UFPJ priotitize in the short term.

Over 500 delegates were in attendance representing over 250 organizations and community groups. The event was very well organized and all delegates were provided with room and board (including lunch and dinner) at the hotel where the conference took place.

Thirty five people were elected as the new steering committee. Since UFPJ was created in the crisis of war, it was being led by a small interim committee up to now. Out of the 35 elected delegates, 50% were women, 50% were people of color and 15% were LGTB as per the criteria set by UFPJ. I don't have the list of the names and organizations that were elected but perhaps max or virginia can forward that to the list.

A statement of Unity was approved but it did not include dozens of amendements that were presented by activists around the country. The reason given for this exlusion is that the amendments were too numerous to be voted on during this conference so they will become a "living document" which the newly elected steering committee will consider over the next 18 months.

Over 70 action proposals were voted on by breakout groups. These groups were able to prioritize the actions and present them to the steering committee.

As for our role in the conference, we mainly focused on proposals for actions around palestine. virginia and i were part of the people of color caucus and the Palestine Caucus. We had the pleasure of working with such notables as starhawk and rania masri. Both groups wanted to push for actions on palestine and both consensed on an amendment to the statement of unity that includes the right of return as a UFPJ demand. In addition we drafted and approved amended statements requiring the addition of the Golan Heghts and the Shebaa Farms (in lebanon) to be included with the occupied territories as stolen land that has to be returned.

The last statement that we wanted to add was changing any references to "the Bush Administration" (in the statement of unity) to " the Bush administration and the US Government". This was important to us because we wanted to make sure that the UFPJ mission is not used as a vehicle to campaign for the democratic party as the election nears.

The one thing that we worked on that was approved was a proposal for an International Day of Action for Palestine. This would be preceeded by an educational tour on palestine held by UFPJ around the country. This was voted as one of several "priority one" actions for UFPJ.

For those who attended the conference please feel free to provide any assessments that you have and correct any mistakes that i might have made.

love,
zein el-amine
left turn DC