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Comments on Bamako Appeal

Peter Marcuse on WSFDiscuss, May 4 2006

This comment is not intended as criticism of the content of the Bamako Appeal, which includes a great deal that is critically important, as well as much that is substantively debatable (as the comments of Dorothea Haerlin suggest) but of the form and process of the Appeal.

Process and form go together. If the Appeal is intended — as I assume it was — to be democratically discussed, debated, formulated, ultimately in some form agreed upon, then it should be written in a form to support such a process. The major points should be stated simply and clearly (Peter Waterman's summary at page 3 of his comment on the Appeal, of 8 principles and 10 "chapters"-proposals, both illustrates the possibilities and the problems. The principles are of varying generality; some of the proposals are principles, some lead to more specific formulations of goals, some lead to detailed programmatic proposals, some simply to demands. In some cases background information is provided in the appeal, in others not. In spots it is repetitious, mixed in point of view, varies in what time scale it wants to consider. It mixes immediate action demands with long-term strategic goal statements. It varies in whether it wants to talk of how to organize or what demands to make. It varies in whether its addressed to activists, to governments, to a broad public, to a leadership circle formulating a program; Its unclear as well who is supposed to sign it, from whom it is ultimately supposed to come. The level of detail is great on some points, almost non-existent on others. It could use very substantial editing.

In short, if the Appeal is really intended as the basis for discussion, as I assume it is, it needs to be organized in such fashion as to facilitate discussion.

It would be possible to (although not easy) to present the substance as a limited number of key points, with each having behind it both the general principles it represents and background information and perhaps alternate proposals that are under discussion around them. And if the democratic nature of the process is to be taken seriously, there should be a proposal, submitted perhaps to the WSF for how such a discussion could take place. (If to the WSF, it wouldn't necessarily commit the WSF to be any more than a forum, but would open the door to a discussion of that view). My own view, that the WSF could indeed be more than a forum but less than an organization, is in a piece I did, noted below; the proposal was that, at the end of more general and perhaps open discussions, there could be international agreement on specific campaigns with specific goals and targets, linking groups already engaged in each area, leaving it open to whoever wishes to join that campaign to do so but providing a space where they could organize for that purpose.

The entire discussion has been very provocative. But it seems to me there needs to be attention to the procedural next step: in what form, where, when, how, can the contents of the Appeal really be democratically debated? What should the next step be? (Perhaps the immediate next step needs to be a discussion of whether in fact further debate on the content of the Appeal is desirable, and exactly what the outcome (perhaps none? would be odd) that is desired, procedurally, should be: who should sign, to whom addressed, how detailed, how open to further discussion?

Reference Marcuse, Peter. 2004. “Are Social Forums the Future of Urban Social Movements?” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 2005 Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 417-424.]

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