Report from the Methodology and Content Commission meeting held in Rome, 7-8 July 2006.

By Francine Mestrum Friday, 7 July X http://www.nigd.org/nan/archived-news-and-notes/center-news-and-notes-2006-7-19-center (external link)

A brief overview was given by Edward Oygui of the preparation process for WSF 2007. Preparations began from 2003 onwards, especially in Eastern Africa. The government has been taken on board, there are now good contacts with the ministry of planning, foreign affairs and migration. These good relations with the government are very important for avoiding security and visa problems. Though Kenya has not a progressive government, it is totally committed to the WSF process.

The consultation process on the WSF 2007 has been launched a couple of weeks ago and will also be made available in Swahili, in order to have more and better contacts with social movements. The organising committee also has a commission on culture, since this is going to be an important dimension of the WSF process.

The proposal that has been submitted by the East-African? organizing Committee with the ASF (mail 04/07/2006) is primarily for financing purposes. Good contacts have already been made with European partners, Finland and Sweden. Other good contacts were established at the ESF in Athens and in Brussels with the group of the United Left in the European Parliament.

Most activities at the WSF 2007 are planned to be self-organised. For the co-managed activities the proposal is to have at least 50 % of excluded/marginalised people in every panel.

The proposal mentions four ‘spaces’: they are purely organisational. Thematic axes are not defined and should be derived from the consultation process. They should fit within the four axes. They should also fill the gaps that some representatives noted, e.g. the intercontinental dialogue, social justice, etc. The consultation process should help to have a large debate on the content and to have a democratic way to define the thematic axes. It is a kind of bottom-up process. The challenge remains though to have a relevant articulation of thematic and geographical dimensions. The territory should not be cut off, as Edward noted.

Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda already have each about 30 social movements involved in the WSF process. One of the most important challenges for the WSF 2007 process is to show that strong African social movements do exist. Two transnational “caravans” will leave for Nairobi: one from Conakry (Guinée) and one from South Africa. Contacts have been made with the African Union in order to safeguard security.

More attention should be given to the matter of exclusion and its reasons: linguistic exclusion is a very important tool. Therefore, efforts should be made to include the communitarian radios.

Finally, Chico W expressed his discontent with the term ‘space’ in the proposal. He proposes to change it for ‘perspective’.

The second point that was discussed in detail was the consultation process. The questionnaire was established by a working-party and has now been launched on the internet. It was briefly introduced by Chico W.

A lively discussion took place on the timetable and the interpretation of the answers given to the questionnaire. It is the Methodology and Content Commission that has to appoint a working party in order to have a participatory and transparent interpretation of the consultation. The cut-off date will be August 30th, though the working-party has to start its work earlier. In October, registrations for the WSF should start.

It was noted that if we want to be serious about this consultation (Hamid/ India), we cannot limit it to the internet. The period is also too short. This new, bottom-up approach for the WSF process will have to take account of the tens of thousands of Africans that will want to participate. For that reason, and even if the working-party needs the cut-off date of August 30th, the process must go on in order to make it more inclusive. The consultation will be made available in Swahili and communitarian radios can be a big help. The working-party will have to decide on the thematic axes and start a process of ‘aglutinaçao’. Two smaller working-parties have continued this discussion in the evening.

Saturday 8 July 2006

Reports from the two smaller working-parties: the date of the technical meeting planned in Nairobi on July 31- August will be changed. Instead, there will be a meeting in Nairobi on September 3rd, in order to look at the results of the consultation process. On 4 and 5 September, there will be a meeting of the Methodology and Content commission. On 6 to 8 September, the technical meeting proper will take place (logistics). The discussion on registrations cannot take place until the results of the consultation process are known

The working-party that will interpret the answers to the questionnaire will start by spreading the information on the consultation. One of the problems is that the questionnaire is written in a language that many people will not understand. It therefore will have to be ‘translated’ and to be submitted to the communitarian radios. The consultation process will have to lead to the definition of thematic axes, but it has to be seen as a permanent and dynamic process. The interpretation work is very political, it is necessarily somewhat subjective but will have to take into account the pluralism of the Forum.

In order to introduce the discussion on the organisation of Nairobi, Hamid (India) recalls the history of the Forum process. He again stresses that the consultation process has to be used to fashion the program for Nairobi. This new dimension will also help to not only define issues/thematic axes, but also strategies. This shows that the Forum has changed a lot since tis very beginning. A lot of progress has been made.

Three speakers introduce the discussion on WSF 2007 in Nairobi: Candido G.: WSF 2007 has to be seen in the context of the continuity of the global struggles for global citizenship. The Forum has to promote the dialogue between different groups, has to give visibility to the struggles and has to look forward. It can present a kind of map of ‘citizens in action’. The ‘memory’ of the forum has to be used to prepare the future and to define what direction to take.

Chico W.: proposes to have a WSF of 3 + 1 days. During 3 days, three ‘rounds’ will be used for the self-organised events. It should be tried to let them give messages with the objectives of their struggle. The fourth ‘round’ of these 3 days should be reserved for events organised by the WSF (and thus avoiding simultaneity). On the 4th day, all proposals should be collected and articulated. In that way, the struggles of 2007 can be prepared and the WSF process of 2008 and 2009 can be started. This is a kind of ‘refondation’ of the Forum that should make it the space for the organisation of global struggles.

Taoufik BA: the African social forum has to play an important role in order to articulate the struggles with the global level. The process has to be as inclusive as possible. An important point will be the ‘controversies’ (space 4) that can be a kind of ‘passerelle’ to others.

Again, a lively discussion followed these introductions.

Many questions were asked about the importance of the ‘controversies’: it is surely useful to have a possibility to discuss with heads of state or government, but is it wise to discuss with the World Bank or with transnational companies? Is this not also a space where a North-South? confrontation can take place and where the Africans can have a unique opportunity to tell the North what they see as ‘development’ and ‘development cooperation’. However, should we show the divisions amongst ourselves? Another point that was much discussed is the inclusion of 50 % of ‘marginalized’. It was pointed out that we are almost all in one way of another marginalized or discriminated against. Maybe it is better not to put a percentage on this noble objective.

Raffaela Bolini made a call for another global day of action, so that we can show our strength.

In their answers, Chico pointed out that the ‘content’ should not be discussed, since in fact that is a separate commission of the WSF. Candido stressed that the controversies can also be a tool to have more media attention. Taoufik points out that not everything can be solved with a theoretical division between ‘methodology’ and ‘content’. The democratic debate is very important for the Africans, and the context is very new. We should not forget that discussion with African governments is extremely difficult. To be able to challenge the African Union or Nepad people can be very useful.

The final point of discussion was the place and date of the next IC: instead of India and 6-8 October 2006, it could become Italy or Africa (Dakar?) on that same date.

Comments

Two points seem to be particularly important:

The consultation process: since this will be used to define the thematic axes, and these will have to lead to strategies and objectives, the answers to the questionnaire are extremely important. They should be given with an articulation to the thematic axes one wants, strategies and objectives in mind. The thematic axes themselves will have to be defined in strategic terms. The second point concerns ‘space 4’ and the ‘controversies’: this still leads to a lot of ‘controversies’ within the movements and will have to be carefully organized. It certainly can be used to invite friends from governments and parliaments, as it can be used to discuss with the World Bank and the IMF or with Nestlé and Chiquita. It could be useful to let the organizing committee know your reactions.

Finally, a question:

I mentioned the possibility of a North-South? debate on ‘development’. I do not know whether this is feasible, but I do think this could be a unique opportunity for African movements to let us and more particularly Northern governments and multilateral organisations know what they see as ‘development’ and what kind of ‘cooperation’ they want. Personally, I do not think this can be a divisive argument for the movements participating in the WSF. I would be happy to have your opinion on it. Personally, I do not have the necessary contacts with African groups to organise such a seminar or conference, but if you have or if you think this can be useful, I am willing to practically organise it.