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The role, tasks and future of the WSF International Council ( October 2015)

Gina , Francine , Teivo , Giuseppe  IC WORKING GROUP       >>      Follow up 2017 in group transicionci dynamics of ic 



This paper provides a synthesis of reflections on the future of the International Council based on work done over the past three years by different working groups. The last was composed of Gina, Francine, Giuseppe and Teivo. Two questionnaires were sent, with a total of 52 responses reeived and 28 interviews performed. The following gives a number of reflections such that they emerged from this research on the reformulation of the work of the WSF International Council so that it can better meet the needs of its members and WSFparticipants, to the global justice movement as a whole.

This document is divided into three parts. The first part deals with working groups prior to 2015. The second part deals with the more or less consensual points about the work and procedures of the IC. The third part deals with the less consensual reflections mentioned in the answers to the questionnaires and during the interviews. These are not only questions of principle, but also practical points that can contribute to the smooth functioning of the IC process.


1. Background

The process of revising the dynamics of the IC has experienced its ups and downs and has led to reflections, recommendations and new ideas on what the International Council could be. What has been achieved so far is the result of a process of accumulation based on all the steps taken in recent years.

The revision of the dynamics of the IC was put on the agenda as of 2011, but the first concrete works do not date until July 2012 in Monastir. This discussion took on a more dynamic and collective dimension in Casablanca, at the end of 2012, in preparation for the WSF in 2013. The process was continued until now. Everything mentioned in this paper is based on two widely shared considerations about the nature of the relationship between the WSF and the IC from the beginning of the discussions:

1) The WSF has experienced throughout its history changes in its composition and dynamics. Each WSF has left a new legacy of new movements, organizations, issues and struggle dynamics. After the first forums of Porto Alegre,  came the WSF in Mumbay, more popular than the previous ones, and WSF in Belem, with the presence and integration of proposals of the indigenous groups, then two WSF in Tunis, with a rapprochement to the reality of a geographical area poorly known within the WSF.

2) IC has not changed or changed very little over the last 15 years. New members cannot easily find the spaces and dynamics they might fit into.

It is not possible to make an exhaustive synthesis of all the reflections and proposals made during this period, from the beginning to 2015. Documents with particularly rich content can be found on the website. (www.openfsm.net right hand menu FSM/WSF) The following is a summary of the most important points still to be discussed.

The Monastir IC (July 2012)

In the paper written by Gina and Wilhelmina, there is a fairly obvious criticism of the structures of the WSF (CI, commissions, working groups, liaison group). Critics were mainly oriented towards the liaison group: it was not working as it should, it was seen more as a representation group than as a facilitating group. In addition, it was pointed out that the lessons of the past should be learned and see when it was not done in order to better direct efforts in the future. It is also acknowledged that there have been shortcomings in the past with regard to democracy and transparency in decision-making. It is important to recognize that we have not developed a new political culture to address these shortcomings. That remains a challenge. On the basis of these reflections, certain suggestions were made, notably concerning the expansion of the IC, its democratization, discussions on its precise role and clarification of its mandate to facilitate the WSF and the connections between social movements and their struggles, as well as facilitating political debates and revising the rules of functioning with particular attention to the plenary meeting and the work of the commissions and working groups.

Casablanca/Rabat CI (November 2012)

The document was based essentially on a series of interviews made by Giuseppe and a questionnaire elaborated by Francine. The consensus emerging from this work was that the discussion of the future of the IC cannot be separated from an exhaustive evaluation of the WSF as a whole..

The political culture of the IC appears  to be rather weak, together with a separation between its vision and values, on the one hand, and social practices on the other. The result is a lack of confidence that makes progress in the construction of non-hierarchical structures difficult.

Consistently, it is necessary to imagine democratic practices requiring collective decisions, with clear responsibilities and increased confidence. There is a need for better transparency and accountability mechanisms.

Among the democratic practices proposed are the expansion of the IC, revision of criteria of representativeness, search for members among the local actors, always in compliance with the criteria of parity. The progress made so far has resulted from a work of self-reflection with specific proposals: technological tools should be used in order to strengthen and expand the IC (on-line conferences, for example); we could work in groups during and between plenary meetings; open to other spaces areas and forms of global activism; invite other movements, not to take part in what already exists, more to discuss contents and strategies for a shared future.

Tunis IC (March 2013)

On the occasion of the IC of Tunis in 2013, it was stressed that IC cannot continue without becoming aware of the changes in the world. It must re-examine its objectives and strategies. The future of the integration of new organizations and new movements should have a voice within the IC. There was no consensus on the chronological question: reform first to integrate the new ones later, or vice versa in making them participate in the process.

Tunis IC (March 2015)

At the WSF in Tunis in 2015, the working group to refocus and deepen the reflections on the changes to be made at the level of IC was activated. A new questionnaire was sent but  few more responses were obtained, although those received were very significant. The discussions resulted in a working group to reflect on the organization of IC (internal facilitation, transparency and democracy), on its expansion (members, dialogue with movements, reactivation of former members and deepening of regional and thematic forum processes).

2. En route to the IC of Salvador (October 2015)

The group presenting this report prepared the new questionnaire of March 2015, with a view to specifying the changes to be made to the requirements and requirements of the IC. It is important, for the purpose of a process of debate and decision-making, to base not only on the last questionnaire but above all on cumulative reflection up to the present. Several issues were raised that will be discussed below.


a. Quasi-convergences

Existence and composition of the IC. There is consensus on the need for the IC and a lot of suggestions on how it could improve its operation. New voices could be integrated, giving oxygen and a new dynamic to the IC. Its role and functions should be clarified; the actors (organizations / movements and not people) must be representative of the diversity of themes and the sturggles, respecting gender equity. It was suggested that the IC could introduce different categories of members: actors, associates and observers, based on capacity and not on established categories. IC candidates could choose the commission they want to work in.

Questions :

- Do we agree to integrate new members / movements?

- Do we agree to introduce different categories of members?


Operation. Horizontality is the most mentioned and accepted characteristic and should be extended. But there is no precise definition of what this means, except that it excludes the hierarchy. For some, this does not exclude a flexible structure, with some strategic but operational bodies. It is stressed that these structures must have the capacity to be transparent and accountable.

Question: Do we agree to maintain the principle of horizontality with an emphasis on the need for transparency and accountability?


There is a consensus to request an executive secretariat, supported in general by IC members. Its functions would be to coordinate the regular meetings of the IC, update the WSF website, contribute to the memory of the process, provide detailed and transparent accounts, and develop projects to boost IC participation.

Question: Do we agree to maintain a strong executive secretariat?


IC meetings should be organized with at least half a day on the reality of the country of the meeting and possibly of the overall political situation, a half-day plenary session for the secretariat's report on the candidatures and activities to be developed, as well as the proposals of the participants; half-day discussion (and possibly decision-making) in plenary on the following WSF (prepared by the working group referred to); half-day for working groups and commissions.

Question: Do we agree to try to respect such a (flexible) structure for IC meetings, with the point of political debate reserved for further discussion (see point 3)


For the commissions, the work concerns methodology, expansion, finance, communication, strategy and may be other topics. Some believe that commissions should be maintained, others believe that specific groups can be formed as soon as a problem arises or a decision has to be made. Commissions report to the IC.

Question: Do we agree to maintain the commissions or will we decide on the basis of the needs of the moment?

In order to ensure the sustainability of the IC and the Executive Secretariat, some suggested that IC members pay a contribution. The amount could be defined on the basis of a minimum budget for the functioning of the IC and the Executive Secretariat.

Question: Do we agree to ask the (effective) IC membership for an annual financial contribution?


It is proposed to continue to make decisions by consensus, but the meaning of this should be further explored. There is a proposal to accept majority decisions, provided there is a consensus to do so.

Question: Do we agree to continue the rule of consensus with a possible exception (with consensus)


The Charter of Principles. Its change today is seen as a deviation from the more pressing problems. Some believe that the Charter should be modified to take account of change in the world and at the level of social movements, but this may be done by means of additional texts (as was done, for example, in Abuja / Nairobi/ Copenhaguen with the document on Principles of organization of the WSF).

Question: Do we agree not to change for the moment the Charter of Principles of the WSF?


As for the Solidarity Fund, it must be maintained to support those movements without resources who want to attend IC meetings. The fund should be established at each IC meeting. The executive secretariat is responsible for its administration. Some think that it must remain voluntary. For others, money must come from members and participants. Priority should be given to the transparency of the mechanism.

Question: Do we agree to continue the Solidarity Fund mechanism, by IC meeting, with transparency and accountability?


It is stressed that reflection is needed on the problems of Internet connections and remote participation by means of video conferences.

Question: Do we agree to try to multiply the video conferences at meetings of the IC and others?


b. The nodes to solve

Nodes for which there are no clear or incomplete suggestions will need to be discussed further.

The role and tasks of the IC.

A majority of members believe that the IC has to be repoliticized with new members and better horizontality. For some, this is quite possible by maintaining the non-directive character. The IC's responsibilities for the Forum process and event need to be better organized with an in-depth debate on the global situation. As important as such work can be, the risk of losing the focal point of the IC should be avoided when we spend too much time on such discussions. There is a need to help decentralize debates in countries and territories. With a good methodology one can strengthen the potential, the interest and the political impact. Some think that the WSF must take positions in global struggles. Others, however, insist that it is the movements that take a stand.


For some, the main objectives of the IC are to facilitate the organization of forums and ensure the continuity of the process. In this sense, if the WSF is seen as a process of creating spaces for encounters and articulation, there is no need to discuss the objectives, strategies or actions of the WSF and of the IC. It is thus an helping organ, an instrument for the expansion of the WSF, for the support and mobilization of the WSF, together with the local organizing committees. Its tasks are then to define the dates and place of the next WSF, evaluate events, deepen the methodological debates on events and the process of control over financial resources, and create a website for the WSF.

Others, however, believe that IC should be able to stimulate reflection in a non-directive and non-decision-making way with IC members on global political, economic and social issues. It is stressed that this can contribute to the learning process of the WSF as an accumulative process by avoiding having to discuss the same points each time and forgetting what has been said and done in the past. The IC should facilitate an opportunity for its members to listen to different perspectives on global news and listen to the solutions and actions proposed by political and social actors in different parts of the world. The IC could be responsible for collecting and analyzing the various messages coming from the WSF and integrating these messages into future work.

Question: How to repolitize the IC? Are we going to introduce political debates on the global situation? How to better define and realize the objectives of the IC?


Transparency and Accountability

There is a consensus that clear tasks and responsibilities are required with mechanisms that facilitate transparency and accountability. Facilitation and horizontality do not preclude a more structured form of decision-making and accountability. The most appropriate form of decision-making may vary according to the meetings, which implies a diversity of methodologies. Nevertheless, the 'non-directive' form is not always taken into account, which leads to groups making decisions and others feeling they have not had the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion and collective decision-making. Some believe that this issue of transparency and accountability is intimately linked to lack of confidence and decision-making without consultation.

Among the suggestions made were the introduction of a structure, as minimal as possible, with collective responsibilities, with follow-up and information to the IC. Have a self-regulated authority with authority to enforce agreements and commitments made. To have a good methodology, with a good translation, transparency and synthesis of the arguments.

Questions: how to improve the decision-making, transparency and accountability of the IC, while respecting the principle of horizontality?


The commitment

What is being asked of the people integrating the IC as a contribution to a more effective functioning? For some, the lack of commitment is due to the lack of objective and strategy, which means that IC participants do not know much about what is expected from them. To the extent that there are no clear mechanisms for transparency and accountability, the impression is that they are not taken into account. Would it not be useful to ask the current members for a new 'commitment', a sort of confirmation of their integration. Some organizations may opt to no longer integrate the IC, or may come back from the moment a structure is introduced in which they can work with a new confidence in a transparent and accountable organization.

Question: How to strengthen members' commitment to IC and WSF?