People’s Solidarity Against Poverty and Oppression

Third edition of the Southern African Social Forum

1 October 2006

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Malawi will be hosting the 3rd edition of the Southern Africa Social Forum 2006 in Lilongwe, Malawi from 13-15 October 2006.This year’s SASF is expected to bring together thousands of participants from community-based groups, social movements and civil society organizations from SADC under the theme, ’People’s Solidarity against Poverty and Oppression’.

1.0 Introduction

The Southern African Social Forum (SASF) is a continuation of the Africa Social Forum, (ASF) that takes place annually, since Bamako (2002), as a prelude to the World Social Forum (WSF) that was initiated in Port Alegre (Brazil) in 2001. The latter is an annual event that is deliberately organized to coincide with the World Economic Forum (Davos). The timing is meant to signify civil society opposition voices to the high-level one-sided pro globalization and neo liberalism deliberations between the world leaders and international financial institutions.

Following the Bamako Forum and the Addis Ababa Forum, a process of consultations have taken place around Africa to find a way of effectively exposing the current social, political and economic injustices for better government and state action. A forum creates a platform for various interest groups of civil society to discuss issues together pertaining to social, political and economic justice. In addition, a forum increases solidarity in the sub-region and Africa as a whole before going to the global social forum, in this case in preparation for the next World Social Forum to be held in Africa in 2007.

The need to host a Southern African Social Forum (SASF) arose from the second African Social Forum held in Addis Ababa, 5-9 January 2003. Participants resolved to establish sub-regional forums as a way of getting diverse views on Africa’s socio-economic and political issues from a wider constituency prior to Africa Social Forum (ASF) and World Social Forum (WSF). Each sub -region was designated to form its own Steering Committee of at least five persons. Six persons that represented mass movements in their constituencies were selected as members of the Southern Africa Regional Steering Committee (SARSC).

The Malawi Social Forum (MSF) concept was brought by the people that attended the World Social Forum (WSF) which was conceived as an international forum against neo-liberal policies and capitalist led globalization. The first World Social Forum (WSF) was initiated in Porto Alegre Brazil in 2001. The World Social Forum is now an annual event that is deliberately organized to coincide with the World Economic Forum. The World Economic Forum is a gathering of rich nations and powerful corporations from the North who makes key decisions on global policies. The timing of the World Social Forum is meant to signify civil society voices opposing the high level profit motivated deliberations at the expense of poor countries and their citizens.

Thus the Malawi Social Forum (MSF) emerged out of a need to combine efforts at national level in order for the country to be represented meaningfully and audibly at the World, Continental and Sub Regional Social Forums. Malawi Social Forum intends to open debate, inform the general public and conceive a plan of action on critical factors to poverty reduction/ The Malawi civil society held a successful Malawi Social Forum (MSF) from 19 - 21 October 2004, under the theme of “Another Malawi is Possible and A Better Malawi is my Right”.

Malawi Social Forum (MSF) operates on the following mission statement:

“Malawi Social Forum exists to serve as a civil society platform to pursue and advocate for a self-determining Malawi, defined by political and economic nationalism through dialogue generation of alternatives, exchange of experiences and rejection of domination by capitalism, neo-liberalism, and imperialism”.

Malawi Social Forum has had a chance to participate in different social forums at global, regional and sub - regional levels. It is after this experience that Malawi Social Forum accepted to take up a challenge to host the 3rd edition of the Southern Africa Social Forum.

2.0 Key Components of The Southern African Social Forum

As African people with similar problems, the 2nd edition of the Southern African Social Forum SASF will provide space for advocacy for a better quality of life and development for all. The Forum will more specifically:

i) Provide the sub-region a platform for social activists to strengthen popular democracy and mobilization.

ii) Critically challenge the status quo of abject poverty, gender inequality and discrimination, high level corruption, social insecurity, unconstitutional governance, HIV & AIDS pandemic, etc.

iii) Build a sub regional solidarity network around issues of social, political and economical justice.

iv) Create a loose coalition that will guarantee effective participation in the future Southern African Social Forum [SASF], the African Social Forum [ASF] and the World Social Forum [WSF].

2.1 What are the Issues?

  • Solidarity to fight Poverty and Oppression
  • Popular Democracy meeting people’s needs
  • People to People solidarity in Southern Africa

3.0 Justification Of SASF 2006

The ZSF has been nominated as host of the Southern African Social Forum (SASF) 2006 in October this year. This in itself is a good opportunity for Malawi to continue building solidarity beyond our borders as the struggle against poverty in its entirety continues. It is also hoped that the SASF will facilitate active participation for countries from the SADC region at the World Social Forum scheduled for January 2007 in Nairobi, Kenya. There will be no Africa Social Forum this year and the preparations for the World Social Forum will be done at regional level working hand in hand with the Africa Social Forum Council.

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