Over the past couple of months we collaborated intensely with the Rotterdam Social Alliance (RoSA!) on writing their ‘Manifest Towards a New and Fair Poverty Policy in Rotterdam 2018’. After distributing the Manifest to thousands and thousands of households in the city, last Tuesday, on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, it was presented to the leaders of the majority of political parties represented in the Rotterdam City Council. Eight out of ten parties have openly stated their support of the Manifest.
After some introductions and under the watchful eyes of almost 100 guests, the politicians all took their positions at the table to discuss what they could do to overcome poverty in their city. Setting the tone, one of the first speakers reminded his colleagues of the fact that they, the politicians at the table, actually already represented a majority in City Hall and that there was no need whatsoever to wait till #2018 to start implementing some new regulations that could alleviate the most urgent needs. This was met with a big applause and almost a sigh of relief from the audience.
When it came to concrete measures they could take, almost surprisingly, there was no shortage of solutions: ‘Let’s reinstate some remissions that have been abolished.’ ‘Let’s not overburden people with a multitude of complicated forms; one form should do. And let’s approach people differently, not with distrust, but with kindness.’ ‘Instead of saying it’s the people’s fault when they get into debts, let’s first say, ‘no, it’s the governments fault, we are the biggest creditor,’ and go from there…’ ‘We have to stop punishing people on welfare and cutting on their benefits.’ ‘City Hall shouldn’t do business with companies in the ‘debt industry’.'We need to stop lying to people.’
In general, there is a great potential and also a fertile soil for experiments with new welfare tools proposed by Commonfare among politicians in Rotterdam. The need to create a broader movement of people experimenting with bottom-up welfare provisions, complementary currency systems and creating visibility for these to increase their reach by sharing stories and experiences was shared and endorsed by all political parties. When it came to the role of City Hall in this process, the answer was: ‘let’s facilitate this and not be in the way.’ But it was also noted that perhaps politics could play a role in making sure that these experiments and alternatives would be inclusive, as they tend to attract mostly white and high-educated citizens.
March next year the municipal elections will take place. RoSA! and Museu da Crise will remind these politicians of their words on October 17 2017…