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Tentative observation and comment on the WSF process November 7 2020

Perseverance among those old and newly interested have now brought the WSF process to a decisive moment. A call has been formulated and any day soon also in more detail  a hybrid both physical and virtual WSF during a week in the end of January will be announced. Starting with a day of action all over the world preferably outdoor if possible but otherwise in other forms, continuing with regional and national assemblies followed by some days with events organized along thematic axis ending in a day of action-oriented convergence. This opens for a useful WSF opposing the Davos virtual event. The first general call has already been made public, a more precise description day by day you have to wait to see for some day more. 

This means that from now on a lot of work has to be done to make this call come true. Planning and organizing are already on its way gradually expending growing with the willingness to participate and contribute resources. As we all know no plans are perfect. There has to be a open attitude so that newcomers feel as welcome as those who during a long time have devoted themselves to the process. In that way obstacles on the way can be met.

It will be helpful with some self critical understanding to allow for newcomers to sense that what they bring aboard is of equal value as what everybody else is doing. The severe democratic, social, environmental and peace crisis call for such a common spirit among ourselves allowing not only of gradual change of the process but also qualitative leaps forward in terms of inspiring at least one or some common action uniting all movements or a radical take over much of the process by many young people. 

The attendance at the later meetings have been rather reduced. Apart from interpreters it was down to some 30 at the meeting November 7. More of a problem is the profound lack of continental and regional balance. Maybe even more problematic is that leadership in international organizations with a local base and active on most continents are missing in the last meeting. There is also a problem that many social issues as class struggles, gender, etc are well represented while ecological issues less or one can say so weak that  it will need some extra efforts to bring such movements on board as strongly as needed. 


Youth, continental, and regional balance needs a drastic initiative now. Inspiration can come from the World Youth Assembly organized on issues as nuclear disarmament and climate change May 2. There is also the European/Prague Spring process with half of the speakers young or other youth movements.This calls for a systematic strengthening of youth participation at all levels in the process with the goal of making half of the speakers young, as a well needed renewal of the WSF.

Continental and regional processes

This type not necessary renewal of the WSF is also necessary to create another geographical balance. It is about time to set the goal to make WSF global by inspiring preparatory meetings on all continents. This includes the possibility to do as in Europe with the first day a meeting on Central and Eastern European issues and the second day an All European process doing both continental and regional meetings the same weekend. This has to drastically addressed. As far as I know no one from Oceania or North America participated at the WSF IC meeting November 7, only one from Asia and Africa and the majority from Latin America and quite a few from Europe, all from Western Europe with one exception from the CEE region. I might have missed someone but the grave unbalance needs a strong effort to compensate. The idea to build on existing regional and national social forums have two major setbacks. Such forums does not cover more than very tiny parts of the planet. Secondly the whole idea that a main avenue for a national member of an international popular movement should mainly be a national social forum as its avenue towards WSF is a misunderstanding of the role of such general social forums as replacing the democratic organizing of a common will via internationally organized movements. But of course when they exist they can be an important tool to inspire their participating movements to take part. 

Strengthen multiissue participation and action follow up

A physical meeting provides the possibility for the immediate reaction in common to a message that addresses the multiissue crisis we are in. A hybrid process were most are participating online makes it necessary to have clear ideas about the nexus between a core message from the meeting and a common action as follow up. The January 2021 WSF sequence: action, regional, thematic and conclusion has a chronological order than allows for this. But what is the place, how is the process organized, who are the actors, what is the issue at hand, and why are we doing this?


The place

Ideas about decentralization has been central to WSF and something all seem to agree upon this time as well. In a conversation I head with Franco Agusto from Argentina and the Global Tapestry of Alternatives, one of few young people that has been engaged in the extended IC meetings, he stated that the IC while doing this: "they seem to be unaware of the need to think about decentralization at the 'infrastructure/logical layer', not only in the 'contents layer' ". The immediacy of coming together for a common goal at local or global level on a single issue or mulitiissue platform is essential and our main tool for social and ecological change that can challenge the present world order. The social bonds and political coming together created when doing so is what also can make virtual ways of interacting useful. Decentralizing the infrastructural level in a balanced way to find an optimal way is thus central to a deeply rooted result. Combining local and international democratic communities or what is also labelled popular movements structured both geographically and thematically needs to be done in a careful way that maintains both openness and maintains the respect for the integrity of democratic communities. Collective processes as existing or emerging democratic movements should not be marginalized and fragmented by a centralized technological platform for maximizing participation by individuals.  


So far there has been two opposing views on how to organize WSF and a third model proposed to integrate the best of both. The idea of WSF as an open space where not decisions are made in common and the opposite idea that we now have to e able to do such decisions has dominated the discussion so far. In practice the European preparatory process for WSF has chosen the Assembly of Social Movement model allowing for making common decisions and action orientation aimed at bringing movements together and linking issues together rather than expanding the number of issues addressed. A model addressing the need for strengthening a multiissue movement possible to also organize with in the WSF open space formula as a self organized process. The two opposing views on how to organize the WSF has been combating each other to a degree that for both outsiders and those inside the process as been tiresome or confusing. Yet in practice by working together the process has moved in significant ways forward. The need for becoming more action oriented is something all agree upon. The final outcome is still to be seen. Will the whole WSF find a model to come to common decisions preserving the open space. Or is the solution an Assembly of social movements in the end summarizing the results of the previous regional and thematic days including a youth process? 


WSF is in conflict with the actors behind the World Economic Forum in Davos and wants to strengthen actors opposing their agenda. Who can be those counteracting with enough strength the forces behind the Davos agenda. This from a perspective of defending a relationship between human beings and the rest of nature making it possible for coming generations to live on a planet providing a good life/buen vivir and opposing commodification of everything as well as imperialism and other forms of authoritarian rule. Just adding actors and hope that the sum will make it, is not enough. Very many have the reason to oppose Davos. The challenge is how to enable synergetic strength of each other while maintaining the integrity of the different actors. Here the Covid 19 pandemic have set an example showing the importance of interaction by mutual aid and action to build a less vulnerable future. Movements cannot any longer afford to address themselves only to a middle class with abstract notions about structural issues but needs to be present in peoples daily life and be active in local communities both on social and ecological issues. This is acknowledged by the main democratically organized popular movements as Via Campesina, International Peace Bureau, Friends of the Earth, Global Campaign Demanding Climate Justice, Worlds March of Women, International People's Assembly and also well expressed by the Pope in his message to social movements. It has also contributed to a growing understanding in the transition movement to see he need to connect their efforts with resistance to the present development model and militarization of conflicts stealing the resources needed for a ecosocial transition. This is a decisive step forward compared to when the anti globalization movements started mainly addressing policies and not so much connecting this struggle with a movement for constructing alternatives. The process of finding strength through synergy needs to build on the acknowledge of that such a multiissue process already takes place outside the WSF context. The ley to success for WSF is to relate to these parallel processes and invite to a common facilitation of a process towards common action.

Providing a space were all actors wanting to oppose Davos can present their proposal and a calender for individuals and organizations to pick from whatever they want is rather contributing to organize a market place of endless expanding opportunities for atomized action rather then contributing to synergy. What we need is to acknowledge the needs of movements already addressing the global crisis and how it has beenexagerrated by the Covid 19 pandemic and lockdown. They need to see that their efforts leads to an outcome that strengthens their and other movements struggle and do not gets lost in a process were they cannot see if decisions will be made in their name that effectively bring about cooperation between different popular actors bringing issues together or which tehy do not approve of or that decisions are made in their name which they do not approve of. A clear message on how this decionmaking on espeicially transversal issues bringing movements of different kind together is crucial for taking a decisve stpe forward. The idea of gradual expansion of thematic social and national forum  as if they are actors has some merit but is also problematic as social forums are not ment to be actors. The relationship with armed liberation movements and political parties is also of concern but van best be solved outside the formal WSF process with dialogue with the Zapatistas of special importance during a Mexican WSF and political parties or inviting people in their personal capacity. 


Mass mobilization is necessary to be able to challenge the Davis agenda. But as Francine Mestrum commented in in email conversation with me: "They are necessary, yes, but far from sufficient. I am very afraid of mass mobilisations without any strategy/programme behind them, then you can end up as in N-Africa. You topple a dictatorship and you get the islamists or the military instead ..." This is of importance, bringing on board already existing movements able to support mass mobilizations is precisely to enable the construction of a popular movements program of resistance against the Davos agenda and replacing military armament and new cold war with an ecosocial transition. 


Franco Agusto have warned us against "platform perfectionism". Much effort is put into discussing, repeating and seeing ideological unity as central to understanding how we can strengthen our way forward and bring about change. Intersectionality on social concerns as trade union rights, gender, HBTQ and other minority rights, indigenous rights, etc are well established. Environmental rights and ecological concerns in general less so. This general unbalanced is of concern. At the meetings including the later meeting in October and November frequent claims are made that what unites us is anticaptialism as if the WSF charter does not put on equal level "building a global society directed towards fruitful relationships among people and between humankind and the planet." The many examples of anticapitalist and antiimperialist political forces and governments that come in conflict with movements opposing damaging extractivist development calls for a far more receptive understanding and respect for other traditions in the WSF process than those of the ideological left. 


With these changes in the process that all lies within the posibilites given by present WSF charter it is possible to make a decisive step forward: