The vigour shown by the PACD, the citizens’ debt audit platform in Spain, who organised this meeting, as well as the debt chapter of the Plan B Conference, was echoed in the renewed level of motivation that it inspired in the participants. Thirty-five representatives from Belgian, British, Cypriot, French, Italian, German and Greek networks took part in the opening session, reflecting the current vigour of the call for debt audits in Europe. New participants from Poland, Switzerland and Ukraine contributed new ideas and fresh approaches.
The question of the debt was one of the central issues at the conference: a full plenary session and two workshops were entirely devoted to it, many references were made and resolutions were also taken during other debates. This important event bore the stamp of the struggle against illegitimate debt.2
In 2014, the activities of the ICAN network almost came to a stop, overwhelmed by the levels of involvement demanded by local and domestic actions. However, ICAN is now back on track.
ICAN’s objective is that our collective action strengthens our networks rather than demanding additional involvement, effort and ‘unspare’ time. Not only is the network a valuable tool to share experience in the fields of audits and debt system campaigns,3 but taking part in a European network (although not restricted to Europe) stimulates actions and adds credibility to the work of all the network member groups, creating confidence at local and national levels.
The involvement, motivations and methods of approaching debt audit actions vary from one country to another, this is why networks like ours are useful and necessary: the Spanish network, for example, has developed throughout the country springing up from local actions on various debt questions: health, education, military spending or corruption. This capacity allows PACD to create tools of public awareness and to help “Local Councils for Change” create a popular front against illegitimate debt. Others are at the start of the process and are still to be orientated, but they do have a strong determination to fight against illegitimate debt and are eager to share their experiences.
Several collaborative projects have emerged, taking into consideration the independence of each collective and campaign: case studies of the debt of European countries, the need to search out the links between debt and public-private partnerships, auditing personal debts (studies are already ongoing at Debt Resistance UK in the UK and at ACiDe in Belgium, amongst others). Finally, the Greek experience was ever present in all discussions and from it ICAN has learned valuable lessons. Special attention will be given to implicating social movements into the audit process and to preparing the sharing of the results of the audit.
The ICAN network, as the collectives and organisations that make it up, is convinced that only popular action can truly modify the balance of power and produce profound change. Actions aimed at increased awareness of the European populations are essential. As was often said in Madrid “We are Plan B!”.
A coordination committee was created in order to improve network exchanges, whether internal or external. So we will once again be active, on the web and on the streets!
3 It is to be noted that it is not necessary to have a citizens’ audit in process to join ICAN, rather, that the specific aim of the network is to link up analyses on debt, austerity and capitalism.