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About Social Forum

de parte de Uddhab Pyakurel on 2017-12-01 02:13
Dear Comrades

I find a very good write-up to understand what is Social Forum and where is
it heading today. Please feel free to read and share your thoughts.

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Reinventing the World Social Forum: how powerful an idea can be
FRANCINE MESTRUM <https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/francine-mestrum> 18
November 2017

The collective in Salvador has succeeded in bringing together thousands of
organisations for preparing the Forum: the slogan is ‘to resist is to
create, to resist is to transform’.

[image: open Movements] <https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements>
*The openMovements <https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements> series invites
leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives
on contemporary social struggles.*

was in 2001. Almost a generation ago now! The first World Social Forum
(WSF) was organised in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the city of the Workers’ Party
of future president Lula da Silva and the city of the participatory budget.
There was hope, much hope, and a belief that ‘another world’ was possible
and that we could shape it. This became the slogan of all future WSFs.

There were not that many people at this first meeting, though the fact that
almost 15,000 people from all over the world gathered at short notice was a
real surprise. Those who had taken the initiative included people from the
Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT), intellectuals from Latin America, Africa,
Europe and Asia, such as François Houtart, people from the French monthly
Le Monde Diplomatique… It was a real success and one year later there were
50,000 making the trip to Brazil, with more than 1000 journalists! The
World Social Forum was the reply to the World Economic Forum in Davos and
wanted to propose an alternative to neoliberal globalisation.

An ‘International Council’ was created in order to strengthen the process
and a ‘Charter of Principles’ was written containing the main rules for the
Not in the name of the Forum

One of the most important of these principles is that no one can ever speak
‘in the name of’ the Forum. Participants can speak for their organisations,
possibly together with others, but not ‘as Forum’. Organisations involved
in the armed struggle are not welcome. The Forum wants to be an ‘open
space’, something that can be interpreted in different ways and at the same
time needs to be seen as a guarantee for ‘horizontality’ – no hierarchies,
self-management and the democratic participation of all.

[image: lead]
march of the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela in January 2006.
Flickr/Brooke Anderson. Some rights reserved.Initially, the international
council was a closed gathering of intellectuals who jealously guarded their
privilege, tried to control the Forum process and discussed world political

*Big crowds*

After three very successful forums in Brazil, the event left for Mumbai,
India, with as much success. Nevertheless, the first small cracks came to
light when the anti-capitalists, refusing to envisage even the slightest
compromise, organised their own anti-imperialist forum, parallel to the
official WSF.

Afterwards, we had a ‘polycentric’ Forum in Caracas, Venezuela, Bamako,
Mali and Karachi, Pakistan. One year later we moved to Nairobi, Kenya,
which was not a success because of failing organisation and a lack of
resources. We went back to Brazil with a gigantic Forum (150,000 people!)
in Belem and the focus on the Amazon region and its indigenous people. We
tried Africa once more but again the organisation was below zero.

The rules which were set up to guarantee democracy and horizontality were
not as solid as expected. At each meeting of the international council –
twice a year – a new commission, a new working-party or another liaison
committee was necessary to mend the cracks.

But the cracks kept emerging and the global left appeared to be as weak as
its national counterparts: bickering egos, divergent philosophies … the
European forums did not survive the endless squabbling.

The belief in ‘another world’ came under threat after the events of 11
September 2001, and almost disappeared with the financial crisis of
2007-2008. The WSF continued to gather, but became less dynamic.

The Arab spring gave new hope and we organised an excellent Forum in Tunis
in 2013 and another one in 2015.

The Canadians proposed a new formula for the WSF and organised one in
Montreal in the summer of 2016. It was fine, but there were hardly any
organisations involved. As is the case for many young people today, its
philosophy was focused on individuals, with little vision of the global

*Bursting cracks*

The Brazilians were fed up. They were no longer keen to organise
international council meetings and had doubts on future world social
forums. A couple of times, there were real clashes at meetings and one had
to be an expert with lots of empathy to understand what was being said
during the debates. What was meant was hidden under several layers of
newspeak and empty concepts.[ii]

It has often been said that the main problem of the WSF is the opposition
between NGOs and social movements. NGOs are said to be reformist with
little or no contact with their social base, whereas social movements are
supposed to be revolutionary and very popular. I do not believe this. Some
NGOs are very revolutionary and some social movements know perfectly well
how to keep their members in line.

*So what’s up?*

A first real problem is the failing and vague definition of the ‘open
space’, including its intrinsic ‘horizontality’. These are attractive
principles but they do need a concrete meaning. In any place where people
are gathering, in small or less small groups, power relations will exist
and these have to be monitored in a democratic way.

If the ‘horizontality’ means that the really existing hierarchy remains
hidden behind a non-defined principle, problems with accountability and
transparency will necessarily arise. If structures are so complex that no
one knows who has to do what, misunderstandings are inevitable. A small
group within the international council continued to request a light
structure with clear responsibilities and transparency, to no avail. Those
who have power, especially if it remains invisible, will not accept any
changes.In Europe as well as in Latin America, Asia and Africa, democracy
is threatened. The differences are often smaller than they seem to be at
first sight.

A second problem is that some of the Brazilian ‘fathers’ of the Forum fear
political positions.[iii]
if the first Forum was organised just before the elections that made Lula
president of the country – and promoting his candidacy – today, there is a
tremendous fear of touching anything political. This obviously is very
absurd when one wants to shape ‘another world’, but it does lead to a
permanent struggle between a small club of ‘fathers’ and the many dynamic
and younger members of the international council. The former do not want to
organise general forums any more and instead focus on thematic forums, such
as on water, migration or nuclear matters. They keep focusing on diversity
and the idea of ‘convergence’ makes them shiver.

walk of the World Social Forum, 2002. Wikicommons/Passeata de Abertura.
Some rights reserved.The third problem, finally, is purely material: a lack
of resources. A meeting of the international council will easily cost
around 100,000 euros, except if all pay their own ticket. The budget for
the forum in Salvador is around 2.5 million Euro, a very modest amount
compared to previous forums. The fact that the international council paid
tickets for many of its members made it very easy to make alliances. Now
that this has stopped, it is only the more autonomous members who remain
and can put the ‘old guard’ in a minority position.

Financial constraints, all over the world, make it very difficult for many
movements to make long trips. It explains why the last forums may have been
a success but were not really ‘global’ forums any more. The participation
of Africa has dwindled, Asian participation has almost disappeared.
A new beginning

The international council meeting in Porto Alegre in January 2017 was a
real turning point. Two and a half days long, discussions were serious and
calm, everyone fearing to repeat the clash of Montreal, where even in spite
of a consensus, it was not possible to condemn the ‘coup’ in Brazil. But
the last half day, the old guard flatly refused to envisage a next Forum in
Salvador in spring 2018. They were defeated …

Now, in October 2017, another meeting of the international council took
place in Salvador in order to concretely prepare the Forum. It was a very
positive and constructive meeting, without any conflicts. The movements in
Salvador are very dynamic, all are very optimistic about the chances for
the next Forum.We have to act as adults, forget all egocentricity and learn
to search for what we have in common.

A very interesting cooperation with the Federal University of Bahia, a
public establishment with more than 200,000 students, is very promising.
After the international council meeting, we had an international conference
with activists and academics, with very good results. For the rector of the
University, this is a unique opportunity for reaching out to society. The
opening ceremony was particularly moving, with, obviously, many discourses,
but also lots of music, theatre and poetry, and lots, lots of politics.

These are politically difficult times for Brazil, the memory of the
military dictatorship remains vivid and moreover, in the same way as in
other parts of the world, a struggle needs to be organised against
budgetary cuts in education and research.

The collective in Salvador has succeeded in bringing together thousands of
organisations for preparing the Forum, trade unions will be massively
participating, the slogan is ‘to resist is to create, to resist is to
transform’. In the same way as in the past, the Forums offered an
opportunity to directly listen to Chavez, Lula, Correa and Morales, the
proposal now is to invite Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

All are very optimistic about the chances of the next Forum. The movements
are very dynamic and the international council can also take a new start.
From the one hundred and fifty movements on the list, fifty have confirmed
they believe in its future.
A global transversal gathering

The WSF is not the only global Forum. Thanks to the many initiatives that
were taken from the 1990s onwards, many thematic networks have been created
and they continue their very useful work. But the WSF is the only global
transversal gathering where different groups can discuss their objectives,
their strategies and their campaigns. There is now a general understanding
that climate justice is not possible without social justice, that peace is
not possible without climate and social justice and that media play a very
important role in all these sectors. It therefore is urgent to sit and plan
together. In Mexico, a major Forum on migration will be organised in
November 2018 and we all know that labour law, climate change and peace
will have to be discussed there.In Mexico, a major Forum on migration will
be organised in November 2018 and we all know that labour law, climate
change and peace will have to be discussed there.

Too many movements have now withdrawn to the local level and have forgotten
that local and global levels are not opposed or hierarchical. They need to
go hand in hand. Moreover, in Europe a new tendency to put up more barriers
is growing, whereas we need the opposite. The WSF can make an important
contribution to this.

This Forum can be a new start. The old guard of the opponents has certainly
not disappeared and one may expect it will make itself heard once again
after March 2018. That is why major mobilisations in Latin America, Europe,
Africa and Asia are very important, because yes, another world is possible.
Does anyone believe the world today is in a better shape than fifteen years
ago? That the demands of the alter-globalist movement are now irrelevant?
We should not be afraid of politics, on the contrary. But we have to act as
adults, forget all egocentricity and learn to search for what we have in

Today, some global initiatives are worth defending, such as the social
protection ‘floors’ of the ILO, or the Sustainable Development Goals of the
United Nations. But these certainly deserve a boost from social movements
in order to make them really transformative. We have to act as adults,
forget all egocentricity and learn to search for what we have in common.

Hopefully, many movements and people will participate in the Forum,
directly, in Salvador, or at a distance, thanks to the new technologies.
The very interesting local initiatives, in Europe, Africa or Asia can learn
from what is happening in Latin America, and vice versa. Working together,
movements are strengthened and better able to tackle the dominant system.
If the World Social Forum succeeds in giving a voice to many different
voices, in helping movements search for their commonalities, respecting
their diversity, this Forum can play a major role.

In Europe as well as in Latin America, Asia and Africa, democracy is
threatened. The differences are often smaller than they seem to be at first
sight. By working together, we are stronger and have more chances to win.
We do not need new borders but have to build new bridges.

The fathers of the World Social Forum have created a very powerful idea

extensive literature now exists on the World Social Forum. Here are
mentioned some of the first and most important books : Fisher, W.F. &
Poniah, T., *Another World is Possible, *London, Zed Books, 2003; Polet, F.
(ed.), *Globalizing Resistance, *London, Pluto Press, 2004; Pleyers,
G., *Alter-Globalization.
Becoming Actors in the Global Age, *Cambridge, Polity Press, 2010.

a kind of overview, see Boaventura de Sousa Santos, ‘Indispensável
Reinvençao’ in *Carta Capital, *18 Outubro de 2017, p. 40.

better understand the origins of the WSF, read Milcíades Pena, A. & Davies,
T.R., ‘Globalisation from Above? Corporate Social Responsibility, the
Workers’ Party and the Origins of the World Social Forum’ in *New Political
Economy, *2013.

On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 8:07 PM, Uddhab Pyakurel <upyakurel@...>

> Dear WSF comrades
> I wish to inform you about the bi-lateral/multi-lateral consultation to
> revive Nepal WSF process. Some of our friends are for the national level
> Social Forum to be organised in Kathmandu in the first week of March 2018.
> If we feel like we can do it, we need to sit together and finalise the
> themes, registration process and deadline, etc.
> We expect your constructive suggestions shortly so that we can move
> ahead....
> regards
> Uddhab

Uddhab Pyakurel, PhD
+977-9841566932 (Nepal)/+977-15535628
Skype: uddhab.pyakurel1

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