• gtiandwsf farewelltowsf discussion input10

last modified February 2, 2020 by facilitfsm

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input#10/ GTI - Farewell to the World Social Forum?   Beyond the Choir

By OLivier   board member of the Mouvement Utopia in France and former director of CONCORD Europe from 2003-13.

Thanks to everyone for all the contributions, which I read with real attention and interest. @0 All that you raised in your papers is likely right even when in contradiction with each other. @1That is the nature of the World Social Forum: a lively marketplace which resisted falling into the trap of a “single global campaign” approach (an option I was nevertheless keen to support until recently). But, on the contrary, the World Social Forum encouraged a diversity of opinions and approaches within the so-called progressive movements, allowing unexpected deliberations, partnerships, and convergences.

You are right to state that those last 20 years of the WSF helped shape our civil society galaxy today: diverse, sharing common values, creative in terms of strategies of influence and actions, horizontal and influential (most of the WSF’s ideas and ideals are in one way or another in the mainstream debate today). I personally don’t feel competent to engage in a detailed discussion about the assessment of the past. What happened, happened because of the conditions and the actors present in those processes. We seem to acknowledge that the WSF has been an outstanding experience shaped by participants and leaders over the last 20 years.@2 Actually, I didn’t perceive any attempt from any “sector/actor” to manipulate the process so far. Or at least, the process as it has been proposed (open and diverse) prevented any “sector/actor” from hijacking it. And this is a positive track record for the left political spectrum we represent. @3 I only regret that the Anglo-Saxon world has been insufficiently active in the process, perhaps because there were assumptions (“non-dits”) on both parts that this space was run and dominated by Latin American and European organisations and leaders. @4 From my perspective, this mistrust still reflects a leadership divide between two Western streams within Civil Society Organisations (CSOs): Anglo-Saxon and Latin CSO worlds and traditions. The fact that the neo-liberal system is broadly seen historically as an Anglo-Saxon ideology might be partly responsible for this obvious tension.

Once again, the World Social Forum is reflecting who has been leading Civil Society movements and organisations over the last 30 years in this framework. @5 The WSF is by the way an excellent footprint of our sectors, strengths, and contradictions. For sure, future “archaeologists” will enjoy analysing what the WSF has to say (and didn’t say) about our contemporary societies.

But from my perspective, the most urgent issue is to put on the top of our various “tables”/mesas/desks” the difficult questions for the future that the World Social Forum couldn’t address yet:

@6   Should it be the time for CSOs to collectively agree on strategies for breaking the glass ceiling of 20% radical progressive people in our respective societies? In other words, should we keep putting all our scarce resources into talking and targeting the already convinced people?

@7   In this new context, can our current radical narratives (pointing out the bad guys & assuming we are the good ones) be effective enough to engage with people who either disagree with us or don’t have radical opinions on all the latest issues?

@8   Where can we calmly discuss the fact that intersectionality is not a strategy strong enough (alone) to guide large and diverse streams of societies towards the Great Transition?

@9    Can we discuss the fact that current Civil Society “identity” strategies have involuntarily echoed and sometimes reinforced the identity narrative of our opponents?

@10   Can we discuss the main societal challenges ahead which consist in overcoming current national identities and institutions (toward a shared—and not universal—sense and responsibility of/on our Humanity) without feeding an anti-nationalist discourse? Actually, the current universalist discourse (either economic, philosophical or/and humanist) has almost no resonance beyond Europe (because of its Second World War history) and global/cosmopolitan urban elites. Opposing Nations and Global governance has been one of our major mistakes (showing our limited understanding of the realities and societies of the so-called Global South).

@11    Where are the spaces where individual leaders from social movements and CSOs (based on an ambitious and utopian prospect) can start building an alternative COMPREHENSIVE political project which is multi-issue (covering the entire complexity of our societies), concrete (solutions oriented), and serious (in terms of what can be done TODAY with the CURRENT institutions and powers we have) in order to engage with new forces within society such as universities, new citizens movements, young entrepreneurs, change agents within institutions, progressive funders, media (traditional and new media), etc.? Those approaches should no longer be systematically opposed to the long-term vision of challenging and changing power and privileges.

@12 I do hope the next 20 years of the World Social Forum (as well as other initiatives) will contribute to opening the space for more open-minded (while less like-minded) discussions and will contribute to push us beyond our current echo-chambers. The majorities (which are not the sum of minorities) are ready to follow our radical thinking ON THE CONDITION we show them that the future will be built with them TOO!