[WSF-Discuss] 2015, a key year for World Social Forum activists
US Social Forum
info at ussocialforum.net
Tue Mar 31 12:49:08 CDT 2015
2015, A KEY YEAR FOR WORLD SOCIAL FORUM ACTIVISTS
_BY BRYAN CARTER - EQUAL TIMES_
The 2015 edition of the World Social Forum (WSF) closed this Saturday with
a march in solidarity with Palestine through the streets Tunis, which was
hosting this grand annual celebration of alter-globalisation for the second
During four days, over 1000 workshops, seminars and round tables brought
together members of associations, NGOs, trade unionists, researchers and
activists from 120 countries at the El Manar University campus, decorated
for the occasion with countless posters and drawings calling for more
fiscal justice, a healthy environment, free universal healthcare, new
consumption models, or a people's revolution.
The Forum provided some organisations with a chance to sharpen their
arguments in the run-up to two major events this year: the 21stConference
of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Agreement on Climate Change
(COP 21), at the end of 2015, and the UN Special Summit on Sustainable
Development, which will give birth to the new post-2015 agenda as the
Millennium Development Goals (MDG) reach their deadline.
According to Barbara Adams, an advisor at the Global Policy Forum (GPF),
"The MDGs are frankly disappointing on the whole and have not been reached.
But they have been a mobilising force for many organisations. What is also
worrying is the way they were drawn up. It was done behind closed doors and
with very little participation."
"What we are now observing is a reaction to that, with many people
conscious of the new targets to be reached and determined to be involved."
Adams argues that the awareness built up about climate change and the
growing equalities in the world over the last fifteen years has reframed
the debate within civil society organisations, underlining the urgent need
to tackle the direct consequences of these problems affecting humanity as a
Evidence of this can be seen in the joint call published on the eve of the
Forum by the directors of five heavyweight NGOs such as Greenpeace, Oxfam
and ActionAid, placing inequality (the power of the 1%), the environment,
climate change and women's rights at the centre of the struggles to be
In its final declaration, the Assembly of Social Movements, for its part,
returned to the foundations on which the Forum has been built since its
advent in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, less than two years after the
"Battle in Seattle" put the spotlight on the WTO and its promotion of free
It points the finger, first and foremost, at the "transnational
corporations and the financial system (IMF, WB and WTO), who are the main
agents of the capitalist system, privatizing life, public services and
common goods such as water, air, land, seeds and mineral resources,
promoting wars and violating human rights, and ransacking resources".
It is a text that echoes the Charter of Principles drawn up by the pioneers
of the WSF, united under the banner "another world is possible", asserting
that the fight should focus on these international trade representatives.
The World Social Forum was designed to incarnate civil society's response
to the World Economic Forum in Davos, and the two events used to be held
simultaneously, which is no longer the case.
Fifteen years on, this analysis of the structural flaws in the economic
system remains pertinent for many activists, but the urgency of the stakes
are now such that a French activist argues: "As long as we don't have
system other than capitalism, rules have to be set to limit the damage".
A Belgian trade union agrees and defends the idea of an alliance between
various organisations, saying he is "convinced that it is not the trade
union world that is going to change the system; because we are part of the
system from the moment we sit at the same table with governments and the
"We could envisage the development of a public service for environmental
protection," says Nathalie Guay of the international department of the
Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN) of Quebec.
She argues that the climate change issue is central to creating a
favourable balance of power between civil society, the government and the
"Research has been conducted by the environmental and trade union movement
showing that if we focus on the production of renewable energies and leave
fossil fuels behind, we will create many more jobs than if we continue down
the current path."
YOUNG TUNISIANS AT THE HEART OF THE WSF
Despite a lower turnout than expected - the organisers' latest figures
indicate 40,000 to 50,000 participants, rather than the 60,000 initially
expected - Alaa Talbi, one of the coordinators of the 2015 Forum, draws a
"Despite the problems and shortfalls, it has been a successful edition," he
says, alluding to the occasional organisational chaos and unfortunate
episodes marking the WSF: the protests of hundreds of young volunteers,
disgruntled with their lodging conditions and the payment of their
expenses; a few banners calling for the destruction of Israel; and a
deplorable physical assault on people taking part in a debate on Western
Sahara by a group of protestors claiming to be from Algerian civil society.
But for Talbi, this 2015 edition had the merit of showing the resilience of
Tunisian society and its young people, who were present en masse during the
Forum, in a country seriously wounded by the terrorist attack staged at the
Bardo museum less than a week before the start of the activities.
This attack also led to the issue of terrorism and religious fundamentalism
being placed on the menu of discussions during the WSF. The organisers,
moreover, are planning to publish a "Bardo Pact" against terrorism "and in
support of oppressed peoples".
They also celebrated the upcoming creation of an "African Citizen
University" aimed at establishing partnerships between the academic world
and civil society on the continent, as well as a "North African Migration
According to Asma, a 24-year-old Tunisian student, "Having a forum in our
country is always an interesting idea. It opens the door to discussions and
the sharing of ideas."
Like many young people in her generation, who have witnessed or taken part
in the Tunisian revolution of 2011, employment nonetheless remains one of
her main concerns. Her friend Mohamed, aged 25, feels the Arab spring has
had a negative impact on the economy, due to the political instability that
followed the departure of the former president, Ben Ali.
"But regardless of the state of our country today, we will never regret
having had this revolution," concludes Asma. "Never."
_THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH. 31 MARCH 2015_
REGISTRATION FOR THE UNITED STATES SOCIAL FORUM 2015
Thanks for your interest in attending the 2015 U.S. Social Forum.
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