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last modified June 26, 2021 by facilitfsm

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLjUpjfZGsY meeting may 22nd with mexicans

Meena. II thought that I was going to speak about the Mumbai forum but I see that I've been put in there as Asia. I wouldn't want to speak for all Asia. For instance, the Karachi forum was part of the polycentric forum, there was the Nepal forum, there are many processes, sectoral events and processes, for instance the sectoral  dialogues on gender.  

I will talk about India, the experience of the process in India.  Maybe it is similar to what happened in the processes of Karachi, Nepal, and other fora, But the event as well as the process of the Indian process will be useful for our future events and processes. But assessing and understanding the experiences of organizing the forum - in India as well as elsewhere- is important when charting the future of the forum. 

In India, the Social Forum was very important because it was a very different framework. It was difficult, it was very contentious, but at the same time it was fascinating, because it brought together all the sectors, and political ideologies, even those from two extremes, within a single space, without having to agree with each other. 

All those who were in the social forum space, opposed globalization, neoliberalism, and they were opposed to sectarianism, casteism, racism, patriarchy. This was the general idea, the understanding based on which various groups came together. that we had to bring people together. The relevance and significance of the social forum usually lies not in its slogan - which is simple enough-, but in the long two year process of alliance building through mobilising and preparing for a huge event, at state, city, district and even village levels, all over the country. 

Organisations belonging to different political streams and sectors who do not normally work together, and sometimes do not even speak to each other, worked together during the run up to the WSF IV in Mumbai. That this had an impact on the work of small organizations working in relative isolation in different parts of the country on issues related to basic demands of people: land, livelihood, natural resources, gender rights, dalit rights, minority issues. The majority of those who attended felt that they were inspired by the forum, by a sense of collective envisioning, by the potential for working together despite differences.

In India over 1,00, 000 delegates attended the 5 day World Social Forum 2004, which saw the participation of many well- known resistance movements, all sectors workers, farmers, Dalits, women, cultural activists, progressive religious groups,  and also thinkers, writers. . The event was largely ignored by the Indian mainstream media, impressed and supportive of the neo-liberal vision of the world. The process of the social forum began in India with an Asian Social Forum which was organised in 2003, in Hyderabad. After the 2004 event, a follow up event – an Indian Social Forum-, was held in Delhi in 2006, after which the Forum process has lain dormant, despite some minor attempts to resuscitate it from time to time.

Keep in mind that India is a subcontinent of many peoples, languages, so for this reason, it was a very diverse event. We had the participation of a large number of women, as well as people from vulnerable, marginalized sectors. It was more like a ‘resistance party’, and I say that, because that was a very important part of the nature of the forum.

This forum took 2 years, a process that took 2 years. Many of us spent practically all of our whole time trying to build the process, and it was a new experience for us, something that affected us in a profound way, as well as the movements with which we worked, in terms of the way we used the participation for the forum. 

This event was largely ignored by the media, because at that time media and mainstream policy makers in India, were deeply committed to the maby the story of their success of the neo liberal paradigm. , and  the entire social forum event was something marginal, parallel, and the media thought that all those who were against globalization were crazy. The Indian success story was there for all to see. The high growth was accompanied by the rapid marginalisation of labour, with joblessness and informalization, but mainstream media was blind to this fact. 

It is a fact that after the WSF 2004, except for one national event- the Indian Social Forum in 2006, we did not organize other forums. Possibly many were tired after this work they did, and therefore no one volunteered to do it again. 

 But there is a change today. The political situation in the country, the need for coming together is being felt again, There is much more interest at the moment. 

The methodology is important: how we did this, how the process built participation and decision making based on consensus. Besides having the organizing committees, we had maybe 300, 400 organizations that were part of it. They had their own ideas and opinions. . It is important to have the different organizations from the north, from the south, from different parts of the country, and in this way it was possible to mobilize the entire country.

 The 100,000 forum participants represented great diversity, and perhaps not more than 5- 10 people from each organization, because unfortunately, people did not have the money to travel long distances. For this reason, many who could not come supported others by contributing money so that their representatives could participate .

We had a working committee that was open to all organisations, and an Organising Committee made up of people who dedicated 40% of their own time and their commitment to participate. Otherwise they could not be part of the working committe


Each meeting was like a battlefield, with each organization making sure that they had their political and organisational space.other Ad this was the way we were able to progress, even though each meeting was exhaustive, exhausting.

I want to talk about the role of the International Council and it is important to understand the role it had. Members of the IC Committee were part of the Content Committee, and the Secretariat of the IC helped with the planning of logistics. This was an important contribution. But the IC as a body did not take the lead in the Indian process, and that helped us to develop our own way of developing our forum. This was very important.

All work was done in the form of committees. We had committees that have to do with logistics, mobilization, communication and media, content, liaison, etc. I, basically the same way others organised in other forums because we followed the methodology suggested by the International Council. Each committee had maybe 15 or 20 members per committee. Therefore, all the organizations observed what the Committees were doing, to make sure their opinion was included, their point of view was taken into account, and this type of inter-organization was important. Besides the committees, each state had its own committee, which were again broad based and inclusive and open. This was not an easy process, it was hard but it created networks of allies and friends across the country, across political differences. This was a great strength in our forum

I want to say that the most important thing was the decision making process, the issue of how  to make decisions based on consensus, which is a basic principle of the Forum process everywhere, including the IC. One of the strengths of the social forum process has been the decision making process. It has also been its challenge. But somehow, because there was an event to organise, because we did not have the luxury of endless discussion, because we had to collectively organise a big event, decisions did get taken. For all of us who were involved in organising the Forum it was an  deeply educative experience of the essence of  what constitutes democratic process. 

After the 2004 WSF in Mumbai there have been a few state/thematic events, there was an Indian Social Forum too, but there was no WSF process at a national level. Today, 17 years after the WSF 2004, there is a new interest in the forum. There is a possibility of revival of the process. While some of the older organisers are part of it, we all agree that we need to have younger people, they have to take the initiative. They represent all sectors; all political groups, in terms of gender; castes, and they managed to have a balance and are moving forward.

Although there is a history of the Forum in India, the main inspiration for the present revival of interest is the upcoming forum event in Mexico. Even if a large number of people are unlikely to attend, the excitement of a physical forum is significant. And organising in support of that, mobilising for it, participating online from afar, through video, will generate interest in India and Asia. It will give continuity in Mexico, for us it would be as if we were present here.

For initiating and organising in India and South Asia and the rest of Asia, we will need active support of the IC, of the Mobilising group of the IC-and of comrades organising the Mexico event. We need the Mexican committee to attend the mobilising meetings where possible to speak about the forum.We need the solidarity and we are in solidarity with the Mexico process. . 

Thank you