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WSF: Moving Forward

Thursday 21 May 2009

Morocco had been decided as the venue of this meeting towards the end of the previous IC meeting held in Belem just after the WSF 2009 in January. Morocco, which had held the Maghreb Social Forum earlier, had made the request for an IC meeting there as, in their opinion, it would strengthen their efforts in consolidating the Magreb-Mashrik process, encompassing the Arab world.

The meeting was however clouded in a controversy since COSATU had called for a boycott of the meeting pointing out to the occupation of Western Sahara by the monarchy led Morocco state. In their opinion, an international meeting in Morocco could be interpreted as a legitimisation of the Moroccon occupation by the international movements. This had led to a certain debate within the WSF process, without however altering the decision to go ahead with the meeting. COSATU had been requested to reconsider their decision to boycott the meeting. In the end, COSATU expectedly did not come to the meeting, but it was not clear if any other movement or group had kept away on the basis of their boycott call. The attendance at the meeting was pretty good.

The Maghreb-Mashrik Process

Perhaps because of this backdrop, the two day Maghreb-Mashrik meeting preceding the IC meeting – May 4 and 5 – was significant, since it brought together many movements and groups from the region, including from Iraq, Palestine, Western Sahara, Lebanon and Egypt, in addition to the Maghreb groups from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco etc. Attempts were made at the meeting to identify the convergences and divergences of the region in order to clarify relevant approaches in bringing together the social movements of the region. In the end, the problems in defining the ‘Arab’ identity, the manner in which ‘political Islam’ should be dealt with, along with the ways to deal with the question of integrating or rejecting groups within Israel that are opposed to the Israeli regime emerged as major issues with divergent viewpoints. However, the general feeling was that the debate on such contentious issues that the two day conference provided was very healthy and welcome. An appeal, signed by over 500 groups in the Maghreb region on the West Sahara issue was circulated. About 20 members of the IC from outside the region participated in this two day meeting.

The IC meeting

Belem Evaluation:

The four day meeting began with an evaluation of the Belem forum. It was reported that the forum had had a good impact at the local, pan-Amazonian level. The five head of states forum did not disturb the forum process much; but it was reiterated that political parties/persons should be present only on invitation from the movements, and the practice of not allowing them space for their own events should continue. Concerns were expressed about the ‘criminalization’ of the local population through preventive arrests and other oppressive measures by the local authorities, but it was reported that the local anger against these measures were directed not at the Forum but at the local authorities and police. It was also felt that the 6th day process, of Assembly declarations and action plans, requires a much better evaluation before future repetition, since it appeared chaotic and somewhat ineffective.

Global Crisis:

The outlining of the financial crisis that has led to the larger global crisis had been initiated in Belem, but there was no time for discussions there. The Strategy Commission had in the meanwhile prepared a brief draft for discussion that had been circulated in advance. The issues were presented by members of the Strategy Commission in three parts: The Crisis (Gus), the impact on people (Vinod), the possible response from the Forum process (Ana Maria). This was followed by a three hour debate on the issues, on the second day, the 5th . It was decided that the Strategy Commission would prepare a summary of this political debate retaining all the divergent views and circulate it, and outline the strategic inputs that could inform forum events in 2009 and 2010. In particular, the suggestion of calling one day of the US Social Forum in June 2010 as the ‘Global Day on Global Crisis’ will be explored with the US social forum organisers. There was also some talk of preparing similar strategic inputs on the ‘Ecological Crisis’ that could be incorporated into the WSF2011.

Forthcoming Events

Members representing various movements across the world presented their plans for events in 2009 and 2010. Some of them are as follows:

1. Indigeneous People’s Forum (Crisis Of Civilization); Bolivia, 2010

2. World Education Forum; Palestine, October 2010

3. Forum of Social Movements (Maghreb-Mashrik; e-joussour), Morocco

4. Thematic Forum in Niamey (Niger); 2010 (leading up to the 2011 World forum)

5. 10 years of WSF – all over Porto Alegre in January 2010

6. Forum on Financial Crisis; Mexico, 2010

7. European Social Forum; Istanbul 2010

8. A forum in Catalunya – coinciding with 2010 Davos dates

9. US Social Forum; Detroit, June 22-26, 2010

10. South Asia Forum; Kathmandu

11. A possible forum on Democracy, Bangladesh.

The US, Palestine, Maghreb-Mashrik and the Crisis of Civilization forums particularly sought the support of the international community to make these forums effective.

WSF 2011 Venue

As decided in the Berlin meeting of the IC, the venue was to be somewhere in Africa. It was informed that three candidates had been discussed in the Africa Social Forum Council - South Africa, Niger and Senegal. Of these, South Africa withdrew earlier on and the Council had finally decided on Senegal, keeping in mind the logistics of international travel. But Niger would hold a thematic forum in 2010 in Niamey as a prelude to the World Forum in Senegal. The IC unanimously accepted the decision of the Africa Council that Dakar would be the venue of the 2011 forum, with the hope that the inclusion process in Senegal would be broad-based. The Dakar organisers said they would be holding a seminar in July 2009 with international participation to flag off the process.

The Dakar organisers also mentioned that the 2011 forum would focus on South-South unity, but some of the members ( e.g.via campesina) found this disconcerting and didn’t want the forum to bring up North/South divisions in the social movements.

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