World Social Forum (WSF) is the brainchild of Oded Grajew, a toy manufacturer in Brazil. He has always been against globalization in its current form. He wanted to show to people that another type of globalization is possible. As a socially responsible
businessman, he had tried in vain earlier to introduce social responsibility in the World Economic Forum. Since he had been a supporter of the Workers Party in Brazil, he strived to establish a good rapport between the party and the business sector. Later, he founded the Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility. He has been a personal friend of Luis Ignacio da Silva (presently
the President of Brazil) for more than two decades. Providing a space for people who can share experiences and think in terms of alternatives was the need of the hour, Oded Grajew strongly believed. He discussed the idea with Chico (Francisco) Whitaker, a Brazilian social leader who had been exiled during the time of dictatorship, and with Bernard Cassen, founder president of the Association for
the Taxation of Financial Transaction for the Aid of Citizens (ATTAC) in France. Three others too from the social movements, the NGO movement and the Landless Workers Movement joined them in the process. As a result of the discussions held in Brazil and France, the WSF was launched as an international movement in 2001 in Geneva.
The first WSF was convened in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The town of Porto Alegre is said to have had Mayors who introduced policies different from the usual ones, changed priorities for social aims, and prepared budgets with popular participation. The Porto Alegre
government, which was led by the Brazilian Workers Party, came forward to sponsor the WSF partially. The forum was held from 25 January to 30 January 2001. Approximately, 20,000 people, including delegates of 2000 organizations from 117 countries, participated in about 800 workshops and conferences organized at the forum. It brought together from all over the world, anti-globalization forces
and social movements struggling against class, racial, ethnic, religious, gender and other kinds of oppression at all levels of human existence. The forum became an international platform of cultural resistance and celebrations. A wide range of organisations and movements, opposed to neo-liberal globalization espoused by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and to imperialism in all its forms, from all
over the world got represented at the WSF. Activists belonging to various movements and networks, progressive thinkers and forces converged in Porto Alegre for 5 days to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, to formulate proposals, to share experiences freely and to network for further effective action. The clarion call of the WSF happened to be social justice, international
solidarity, gender equality, peace and defence of the environment. Panel discussions, seminars, symposiums, workshops, processions, cultural events and film screening on various social themes formed part of the events. The Forum highlighted the negative effects of globalization and discussed alternatives. It gave voice to the have-nots. It offered an opportunity for the people’s
movements to forge unity and to establish ties of solidarity for effective acts of opposition to globalization. No specific spokesperson spoke on behalf of the WSF. No resolutions were passed by the WSF as a whole. The WSF is just building up a web of networks and coalitions of people’s movements gradually. In 2002, and 2003 the WSF was organized in Porto Alegre. However, the
venue of the subsequent WSF was changed to Mumbai, India, in 2004. It returned to Porto Alegre in 2003. The forum got convened in Porto Alegre once again in 2005. The next year it went polycentric, and was organized in different regions all over the world. All these forums have contributed substantially to the globalization of solidarity among the various social movements and people’s
organizations. The catch cry of the WSF is, “Another World is Possible” – i.e., another world without hunger, poverty, and greed is possible.
The 7th World Social Forum was held recently in Nairobi, Kenya, from 20 January to 25 January 2007. It was the first of its kind to be held on the African continent. 10 delegates who are part of the SINFPAD Network and 3 delegates from other Networks (LEISA,
TNEC & TAFSC) attended the forum as a group. The theme of the WSF 2007 was, “People’s Struggles, People’s Alternatives”. Nairobi is a city of contrasts, where affluence and abject poverty coexist. The local people say that Nairobi has at least 200 slums, where almost half its population lives. The inaugural and the valedictory functions of the WSF were held in Uhuru Park (Freedom
Park), a lush green place at the centre of Nairobi (the Green City), on 20th and 25th January respectively. However, the main venue of the WSF 2007 was the Moi International Sports Centre, situated in Kasarani, about 10 kms away from central Nairobi. The workshops and other conference events took place here in the massive sports complex, located near the slum of Korogocho,
where thousands of Kenyans are dwelling.
The registration of WSF participants was done at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), a posh, round tower situated near Uhuru Park on the morning of 20th January. There was a lot of confusion with regard to the cumbersome process of registration and
the issuing of the (174-page) printed calendar of programme events. It was also reported that originally it was planned to hold the events at the KICC premises. There was no satisfactory explanation as to why the venue got changed. The forum was inaugurated in the afternoon at Uhuru Park. Marches to Uhuru Park from various points of Nairobi, including Kibera, the largest slum (700,000
inhabitants) in Africa, marked the occasion.
The inaugural event started with a public concert in the park. Brazil’s Maritinho da Vila, well-known composer and singer, performed at the park and captivated the participants in a big way. Between music and dance performances from Africa, Caribbean and Brazil,
several speakers celebrated the forum’s main themes. Palestinian resistance leader Lelia Khaled called for an international struggle against oppression and colonialism. He wanted international sanctions against Israel, and the closure of Guantanamo prison. The irrepressible activist icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu asked for debt relief to African nations. Alluding to the WSF, he stated :
“Maybe there are no tangible achievements, but surely the most important is to be able to have placed certain items on the agenda and say to the world, you are not going to get away and pretend that there is no poverty, pretend that the economic order is a just one, pretend the debts that so many countries are carrying are equitable debts.” Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai
chided the African governments for their failure to fulfil the promise to spend at least 15 percent of their national budget on health care, one of the causes of 40 million deaths in Africa in recent years. Juana Ferrer affirmed the resolve of Via Campesina to fight for food sovereignty. Former Zambian President, Kenneth Kaunda, urged the forum to be a platform and a network in the struggle against
AIDS. The U.S. policies and imperialism came in for severe criticism at the inaugural ceremony. Kenyan Forum organizer Oduor Ongwen thundered : “One American life should be no more valuable than one Iraqi life. One life of a corporate chief should be equal to the life of one slum dweller in Kibera”. Referring to the bombing of Ethiopia, another Social Forum organizer, Professor Edward
Oyugi said, “The war next door is an American war by proxy.” Other speakers opined that the fact of holding the forum in Nairobi itself meant that it was a success. Kenyan organizer Njoki Njoroge acknowledged the problems at the WSF with regard to translation, signage, security, and traffic and apologized for them.
The attendance at the forum was estimated at anything between 40,000 to 50,000. Mass mobilization of international civil society is what was witnessed at the WSF. Activists of various social movements, representatives of trade unions, NGO delegates and concerned
intellectuals participated in the forum. Even religious groups like Caritas Ecumenical Platform, and Franciscan Centre for Missionary Animation took part in the deliberations. The Secretary General of Caritas Ecumenical Platform stated : “It is important for us to be involved in this process to contribute to the globalisation of solidarity rather than the globalisation of inequality”.
The four-day conference at Moi International Sports Centre began each morning at 8.30 a.m. and continued till late evening. The stadium has 24 gates and there were kiosks and tents all around outside. A tiered conference room setting had been created in the upper
and lower sections of the stadium by sectioning off one area from the other at the building complex for holding the workshops. 1800 self-organized panels, seminars and conferences took place at this vast complex of tents and buildings. Luiz Dulci (Brazilian Minister of the Presidency), Patrizia Sentinelli (Italian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs), Hollywood star Danny Glover, Danielle Mitterrand
(Social activist and wife of the late French President), Federico Mayor (former UNESCO head), Salim Vally (South Africa), Walden Bello (the Philippines), Femi Aborasade (Nigeria), Trevor Ngwane (South Africa), and Samir Amin (social scientist and academician) are some of the renowned panelists at the WSF. Stalls, set up by various organizations and movements, lined up the road around the stadium.
Protest marches of networks and movements of different hues could be seen frequently on this ring road every day. A lot of drumming, singing and sloganeering went with the protests. Everywhere at the venue one could see a lot of banners (“Men of Quality are not afraid of Equality”, “Make Poverty History”, “Become the Media”) and posters on various themes. One thing that never escaped the
attention of anyone was a crucifix erected near a tent by a Danish artist (Jens Galschiot) signifying the opposition to Christian fundamentalists’ tirade against contraception and sexual education.
The ‘thematic terrains’ of the WSF were defined as peace and justice, anti-globalization, natural resources, knowledge and information, diversity and equality, human rights, self-determination, sustainable economy, real democracy. According to the organizers, the
significance of WSF 2007 is “participating, congregating, conversing, marching, singing, laughing, dancing, dreaming, networking and strategizing with sisters and brothers, friends and neighbours, comrades and colleagues from five continents, across oceans, mountains, deserts and rivers.” We had the opportunity to attend several workshops and panel discussions at the WSF and we were enriched by the
sessions very much. There were confrontations, disagreements, dissent, and consensus as well at the sessions. But they contributed to the development of respect for diversity and plurality. We enjoyed the singing, dancing, and interactions with other participants. We report here about only a few workshops.
One of the workshops held on 21 January 2007 challenged the prescription of a New Green Revolution for Africa – a technology led attempt to increase agricultural output - as a solution to the continent’s food problems. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation jointly launched a $150 million project last September for a Green Revolution in Africa. Dr. Vandhana Shiva, an Indian activist cum researcher, who has been consistently protesting against green revolution, addressed a fully packed auditorium on the issue. The participants were from all over the world. Dr. Shiva reviewed the experiences of the green revolution India and
other Central American countries underwent earlier and the impacts. She narrated how the chemical-dependent, costly monocultures resulted in the loss of bio-diversity and ecological degradation, and left the Indian farmers in immense debt. The crop grown with the genetically modified cottonseeds of Monsanto failed and cotton prices plummeted. Also, 10 per cent of the once fertile state of
Punjab has turned infertile over the years. The Indian farmers who have survived floods and droughts for centuries have not been able to withstand this. Thousands of them were forced to commit suicide over the last decade. She asked, “Is that how Africa wants to go? Shiva added, “What we have slogged for 20 years, you can do in two months. You have the knowledge of alternatives
gathered all over the world.” Dr.Shiva believes firmly that Africa need not repeat the mistakes of India. She described the green revolution project components for Africa as “strategies of dispossessing Africa of food sovereignty and biodiversity”. Since women play a pivotal role in African agriculture, Dr.Shiva felt they should lead the fight against harmful models.
In another workshop, the Via Campesina peasant movement projected its vision of food sovereignty, promising food for all and a secure livelihood for the cultivators. Rafael Alegria, a former leader of the movement, `pointed an accusing finger at the international
economic system of being the root cause of poverty that exists among the direct producers and for the exploitation of consumers. Via Campesina has been struggling against the World Trade Organization ever since its inception. The movement has also been a protagonist of agrarian reform and food sovereignty.
On 22nd January, leaders of the Global Campaign Against Poverty (GCAP) pinpointed the glaring deficiencies in meeting the targets of Millennium Development Goals. Though 189 leaders of various countries agreed in 2000 to fulfil by 2015 the targets set in
relation to the 8 goals, the progress has been very slow and tardy. Hellen Tombo, a Kenyan Youth Movement Leader, representing the GCAP, accused the western governments of letting down developing nations in this regard. The reports brought out by civil society organizations on this have not bothered the governments in the developing world either. The GCAP campaigners told the audience that
the civil society should exert more pressure to get the governments comply with the targets fixed. The GCAP announced a number of forthcoming activities for increasing the pressure on the governments in this connection. This will begin on the International Women’s Day (8 March, 2007) and culminate on the United Nations
Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October, 2008).
The SINFPAD Network, TNEC and TAFSC co-organized a workshop at the WSF 22nd January 2007. The TNEC presented a paper on the environment situation of Tamilnadu and the actions necessary to safeguard it. Mr. Victor of Tamilnadu Environment Council spoke
at the WSF about the Tamilnadu environment situation. First he listed the ecological systems the state is endowed with. Then he outlined the ecological setting of Tamilnadu, going into details regarding agricultural resources, water resources, forest resources, fishing resources and mineral resources. He dwelt at length about the industrialization that has taken place in Tamilnadu and about
the impact of globalization with regard to that. Victor sketched the resultant unemployment and poverty in this connection. He spoke about the degradation of environment due to sucking out ground water mindlessly, sand mining, shrimp forming, improper treatment of effluents, letting sewage into the sea and letting chemicals and other hazardous things into the rivers. He listed out damages
caused to land, water, and air on account of the above. He spelt out the hazards of unplanned urbanization. Also, he put before the audience the environmental damages done by the development projects of the government as well as the private sector. Mr. Victor gave an analysis of the situation, describing how the policies and plans of the government and quasi-government establishments have
been working in the interest of multinationals and capitalists. Calling for sound environment policies, he asked the government to take necessary steps to protect natural resources and give up and ban all activities and projects that cause damage to the environment.
The TAFSC spelt out the problems of the tribal population in India and called for policies and legislations to protect the rights of the tribal people. Mr. A. Renganathan of TAFSC presented his views on the impact of globalisation on tribal livelihoods at the WSF
workshop. There are more than 84 million tribal people in India according to 2001 census. Tribal people, who are totally dependent on forest lands for their livelihood, have been alienated from their lands since the days of the British. Now, in the name of globalisation, commercial plantation, mines, and horticulture are coming up in a big way. Multinationals and big private companies
are exploiting the forest resources for their own profit, fencing out the tribal population. Mega projects of mining, wild life sanctuaries, are forcing out the tribal people from the forests, which they had possessed and enjoyed for several centuries. The Forest Policy and the Forest Act, its rules and regulations alienate local tribal communities from the forest and let in big companies to have a
free hand for business purposes. The traditional rights of local tribal communities to collect minor forest produce, to graze cattle, to live in traditional habitats, to cultivate lands are being curtailed. Thus the tribal population is getting evicted from the forest and being deprived of livelihood options. Employment opportunities are also shrinking due to the effects of
globalisation. Mr. Renganathan called for the restoration of the rights of the tribals over the forest.
Calling for South-South Cooperation, the SINFPAD Network, on behalf of which we participated in the forum, presented a paper on the issue of the Bourgeois Ordering of Public Spaces in the name of coastal zone regulation. Mr. N.Rajendra Prasad, Convenor, SINFPAD,
introduced the topic to the participants and welcomed them all to the workshop. The Zoning of India’s Coasts has been placing heavy restrictions on the fisher-folk whose livelihood is totally dependent on the ocean. Prof. S. Rengasamy (of the Madurai Institute of Social Sciences) presented at the workshop the paper, prepared by him and Mr.N. Rajendra Prasad (Executive Director of People’s
Action for Development), on the issue.
The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 1991 (CRZ 1991) is the most significant and specialized legislation guiding developmental activities along the coast and in islands. The coastal zone includes the open coast as well as the bays and estuaries found in coastal
indentations. Legislatively, coastal zone includes both land and water area with a landward boundary of 500 metres from the high water point, and a seaward boundary limit defined by law. Prof. S.Rengasamy stated that it was not so very clear as to how much areas came under the jurisdiction of the Coastal Regulation Act. The fish processing units are not to be allowed in predominantly fishing
villages of undeveloped areas. The CRZ 1991 talks about the line of vulnerability (500 metres) beyond which the dwelling units are to be shifted. Prof. Rengasamy posed the question, “Who defines vulnerability?”.
Fishing communities in India have inalienable rights on coastal areas and resources based on generational customary use which include :
The right to housing in coastal areas and existing fishing villages.
The right to use of coastal lands for occupational purposes.
Right of free access to sea and marine resources.
These rights have been continuously eroded by development policies that privilege industrial and commercial activities such as mechanized trawling, sand mining, foreign trawler fishing, and establishment of nuclear facilities, unplanned industrialization, urbanization, tourism, and biosphere erosion. New
economic liberalization policies are an attack on the existing rights of fishing communities and expose coastal areas to unregulated exploitation by market forces. Globalization and economic liberalization affect fisher women most adversely through increased:
a. Unemployment / underemployment, leading to the predominance of women-headed households, and consequent burden on women who have to perform roles of both the primary earner and domestic caregiver
b. Domestic and social violence as a result of the disintegration of fishing communities leading to alcoholism, gambling and other problems among men
c. Burden of domestic work due to depletion and salinity of ground water
d. Livelihood struggles in the context of takeover of traditional occupations, livelihood resources and spaces by market forces.
The MS.Swaminathan Committee report recommendations to the government released in February 2005 to “manage” rather than regulate coastal areas represent further erosion of both fishing communities’ rights and the integrity of the coastal ecosystem. These recommendations, which are likely to form the basis for
new coastal legislation,
a. Propose to dismantle the regulatory aspects of the existing Costal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification of 1991.
b. Ignore the livelihood rights of fishing communities.
c. Propose to include and make available for commercial exploitation territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles.
Therefore, fisher-folk of India demand :
That the right to land and means of livelihood of fishing communities be recognized and formalized with immediate effect.
That no move be undertaken to dismantle the existing CRZ 1991 notification.
That no policy level or legal changes be undertaken without the direct participation of fishing communities and their representatives, including trade unions, in the decision-making process.
The Stringent implementation of the CRZ 1991 notification and punitive action against past and present violations.
Talking about the Sri Lankan situation, Prof. Rengasamy said the Transnationals and Multinationals were sidelining the people. The issue between the people of Sri Lanka and India is the bullying of the Indian fishermen by Sri Lankans. It is necessary to explore ways and means of coexistence. The
Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen had been friendly towards each other some 30 years ago. But the situation has changed over the years. He said it was possible to initiate discussions between fishermen on both sides by arranging bilateral visits.
The delegate from Zambia opined that it was useless to point an accusing finger at anybody. The hatred between the two nations should be eliminated. The Sri Lankan participants brought out the issue of Sethusamudram project and stated a mass propaganda against
it was necessary. They wanted the propaganda material to be circulated on both sides. Mr. Rajendra Prasad stressed the need for cooperation and collaboration on the issue. He also pinpointed the need for changing the Coastal Regulation Act in favour of the fishermen. Mr. Peterson of Kenya said in such a situation compromise was necessary. Moving people from their places of
stay without a proper rehabilitation plan is wrong, he stated. An Indian participant vehemently opposed the idea of moving fishermen from their areas of livelihood on any pretext. He said that since the government was pro-rich, it was bent upon favouring the multinationals. Even if the government banned deep-sea fishing and prawn culture in coastal areas, violations took place due to the
impact of rapid industrialization, averred one lady from Africa.
Ms. Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International said protective zones should be established to protect fishermen and their livelihood. Mr. Rajendra Prasad stated that South-South collaboration was necessary on this issue of fishermen and their livelihood and invited
suggestions from the forum to this effect. One suggestion that came up was that an e-group could be formed for sharing information and discussing issues. It was also suggested that inter-country exchanges could be facilitated for a better understanding of the issues involved and their implications. The African lady called for cooperation at the global level, making fishermen partners in the
effort. The Sri Lankan delegate wondered whether a case could not be filed to highlight the issue of trawlers and to bring about a regulation to control outsiders. It was pointed out to him that trawlers had been banned already for 40 days during the breeding season.
Ms. Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International shared with the participants how such regulations were enforced in Nordic countries. The European Union has been given the necessary powers to negotiate in this regard. The Environment Ministry is not involved in
this since the Marine Eco System is not integrated into it. The European Union has a scientific body which offers advice to all the member states on the basis of how much they wanted to fish and how much they needed to fish. This notion is catching up. That is why illegal fishing by the coastal community is getting less and less now. The big fishing industry has become the most
powerful one. 800 fishermen of Norway have been forced to give up fishing due to foreign trawlers and fishing fleets. If it is important to control unauthorized fishing, then, a proper monitoring system should be in place. The world has come to realize more and more that we have seriously mismanaged the ocean and its resources. The Pacific Ocean has been established as a trawler free
zone, which has contributed to the sustainability of fishing in the region. When one participant expressed the need to study deep sea fishing to find out how much of the catch is discarded, Sari Tolvanen replied that a study had been carried out already and that the finding was that 80% of the catch got discarded. The government of Kenya, someone reported, was also trying to control deep-sea
fishing, which would become a success in the coming years. While expressing her reservations over the Sethusamudram project, Sari Tolvanen stated that Green Peace International was involved in actions against the project. She said we could not afford going about destroying the planet in which we lived. She reported that there was an office of Green Peace International in Bangalore, which
would know the details better. The Sri Lankan participant stressed the need to push the agenda of a fresh study on the Sethusamudram project. Stating that a workshop with officers and activists of countries concerned had been planned already in this connection, Sari Tolvanen said delegates of organizations represented at the WSF workshop could be invited to that workshop.
Three things were agreed upon :
It was resolved to initiate a dialogue between fishermen on both sides of India and Sri Lanka.
It was decided to form an e-forum to share and discuss issues of mutual concern. Mr. Newton Francis of Sri Lanka would coordinate the forum.
It was agreed to collaborate with Green Peace International in the coming days in this regard.
With Mr. Rajendra Prasad proposing a vote of thanks, the workshop came to a close.
On the fourth day (23rd January 2007), near Gate 1 of the stadium, around 200 slum dwellers gathered and protested against not being allowed inside the campus. They were not let in on the first day at the sports complex for initially, the WSF organizers had fixed an entrance fee of 500 Kenyan
Shillings for a Kenyan. The poor people of Kenya, considered to be more than half the population, cannot afford to pay that much. At the opening ceremony of the form in Uhuru Park, a man displayed a placard asking, “Who decided to punish Kenya’s poor with a 500/= registration fee? Are there capitalists in the World Social Forum ???” The cost of food and water available at the WSF was
also very high. The registration fee charged at earlier WSFs was nominal. On 21st January, the organizers relented and decided to charge a token fee of only 50 Shillings from Kenyans. But, the Kenyans asked for free entrance, cheaper food and water. The gates were closed once again to the unregistered locals on 22nd January 2007. This led to a protest by the
slum dwellers on 23rd. A young lady activist named Wangui Mbatia, who was very articulate and vocal, led them. She said that asking them to pay 7 dollars to talk about their poverty was criminal. The organizers claimed that they had already scrapped the entrance fee. The forum organizer directed the metal gates to be opened. Entry to the WSF became free for all Kenyans.
Oyugi, one of the organizers, is reported to have said that it would have been ideal to have a special fund to enable the poor to have access to cheap water and food.
The Via Campesina organized a discussion on the issue of agrarian reform with representatives from several countries. Strengthening the peasant struggle is one of the objectives of Via Campesina. The Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform developed on the Latin American soil in 1996. The
campaign has made a lot of progress in Latin America. Reclaiming natural resources like water, land, and seeds is necessary to combat poverty. Via Campesina is planning to establish a strong relationship with many other organizations and movements so that a powerful people’s movement could be built in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in this regard. The African campaign was launched on 23rd
January 2007 at the workshop in the WSF. This is to be followed up with an Asian campaign.
On 23rd January 2007, calls were made at the WSF to restructure and reform the international institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. The World Campaign for In-depth Reform of the System of International Institutions was initiated in 2006. The
campaign calls for direct representation and participation to civil society organizations in the global decision making bodies. Danielle Mitterrand, Federico Mayor, Samir Amin, Kumi Naidoo, Sara Longwe, Hassen Lorgat, Noam Chomsky, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mary Robinson, Mario Soares, and Boutros Ghali are some of the worldwide supporters of the campaign. The campaign group wants the multilateral
institutions to be integrated into the United Nations. The campaigners stress democratization of the United Nations to end social and economic imbalances. Sara Longwe told the gathering at the workshop that the “corporate fundamentalists” were running the UN system. She called it a male dominated system. Hassen Lorgat criticized the manner in which the heads of key institutions like the
World Bank were chosen by established powers like the US. Kumi Naidoo, South African Global Justice activist, denounced “the system of global economic apartheid” and called for an end to it.
On 24th January 2007, there was again a protest by the group that fought for free entry to the forum the previous day, demanding free food for slum children at Windsor Sideshow restaurant, one of the food stalls at the forum premises. The restaurant, owned by Kenya’s Internal Security Minister John
Michuku, was one of the very few eateries set up inside the complex. It was also the costliest. A half-a-litre bottle of water priced 22 Kenyan shillings at the super market was sold at a price of 100 shillings at Windsor Sideshow restaurant. A meal at the restaurant cost 400 shillings. The minister is very much known within Kenya for his high-handedness in dealing with dissenting
voices. That is why the slum dwellers targeted only Windsor Sideshow restaurant, of all the 50 and odd food stalls at the WSF. The staff at the Windsor Sideshow restaurant was forced to offer food to the slum children. When this happened, the adults too laid their hands on any food item they could catch hold of and forced the restaurant to close shop.
Networking and strategizing were the activities that took place on the fourth day (24th January 2007). Different coalitions came together to report on their proceedings at the WSF and to plan new collective actions and campaigns. This is the first time that such an initiative has been taken
to ward off the criticism that the WSF has become little more than a talk shop. Different groups and networks met and decided what kind of joint actions they could initiate in their own names under the umbrella of the WSF. Collective proposals were developed on the basis of the strategizing that took place. The campaign on Violence against Women, the global mobilization to coincide with G8
summit in June and the launch of African Water Network were some of them. The Africa Water Network of civil society groups against water privatization was launched on this day at the WSF with 250 activists from more than 40 African countries participating in it. Water privatization has been going on in Africa in a big way. One activist called it a theft. Water privatization made water
very expensive. The governments abdicated their responsibility in this respect. Because of this, many communities were accessing less water. The grassroots movements had been lobbying for greater networking on the issue. The network has been formed to counteract the misguided push for privatization and to struggle for access to clean water for the poor. Africa Water Network wants
justice in the way water is being distributed as of now. The network wants government financing of water supply, fair water bills, and no disconnections. That Africans will resist privatization has been made clear to the water privateers, governments and international financial institutions by the launching of the network. The activists of the network considered water as a human right and
wanted it to be provided through efficient public delivery. The network outlined in its statement the following five non-negotiable principles : the fight against water privatization in all its form, participatory public control and management of water resources, opposition to all forms of prepaid water meters, enshrinement of water as a human right in national constitutions, and provision of water in
the public domain.
Terraviva, an independent newspaper of the 7th World Social Forum, reported that the women’s movements had a stronger voice at Nairobi WSF. It was also reported that the African Women’s Voice was especially strong and clear at the forum. Women delegates felt they were able to link their
issues into other processes like land, water and health and, more importantly, with other groups that did not traditionally have a gender component in their work. According to Terraviva, a Tanzanian activist was certain that all movements and groups would leave Nairobi with an action plan. Women’s movements made a strong appeal to the international community to protect women and children
residing in conflict areas so that they could be saved from rape and other brutalities associated with war. The movements demanded proper legislation to protect women’s access to land, especially, in cultures where women were denied ownership of land or property.
The WSF came to a close on 25th January 2007 with the valedictory function held at Uhuru Park in Nairobi. It was a very warm, sunny day. A marathon through slums (starting from Korogocho slum) to Uhuru Park took place before the closing ceremony. There was a lot of music at the
park. The crowd at the park on this last day was very thin. There were only very few speakers. Danny Glover (American film star), Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Laureate), and Patrizia Sentinelli (Italy’s Deputy Foreign Minister) were among them. Stating that “peace is not just the absence of war”, Danny Glover stressed, “It is the presence of justice”. He wanted local institutions
to be strengthened and youth to be involved in decision-making. Wangari Maathai said that a forum like the WSF gave encouragement to the powerless where they were provided with an opportunity to meet with others from other parts of the world. Patrizia Sentinelli asked the participants to take advantage of the forum and tell the governments to be serious in tackling the problems of mankind – water,
food and land.
The WSF aims to create and strengthen national, regional and international alliances between various social organizations and movements. Delegates from all the 53 countries of the continent attended the WSF. It is acknowledged that the WSF 2007 has invigorated the grassroots organizations of Kenya to a
certain extent. Lourdes Cervantes (Chief of the Political Department of the Organization for Solidarity of African, Asia and Latin American People) seems to consider Nairobi WSF as the most significant one because it displayed Africa’s perspective to activists from other continents. It could be true, for WSF 2007 was the first initiative in unifying Africans civil society. Women were present in
most of the events and their participation was one of the most significant aspects of WSF 2007. The forum was important from the perspective of convergence and strategizing among networks and movements.
However, there are some critical comments too on the WSF 2007 :
There is a criticism that the WSF 2007 programme showed the dominance of NGOs. It is also reported that the journalists who attended the WSF were not taken care of properly. Therefore, the international press seems to have ignored the WSF 2007 almost totally. Local newspapers too provided almost
no coverage to the WSF. A successful strategy to involve the press and get the message across to the world is essential. An Indian delegate regretted the poor representation of the poor communities at the WSF. A cell phone company was allowed to sponsor an event on the opening day of the WSF, which appears to be ridiculous considering the WSF denouncement of multinationals and their
activities. Also, the organizers announced their partnership with Kenya Airways, which too betrayed the corporate sponsorship of the WSF. Some people expressed the opinion that men were not interested in attending feminist workshops. Times, venues, even workshops kept changing at the forum. In Mumbai, facilities like crèche are ‘child camp’ were made available whereas in Nairobi they
were missing. An Argentine law student, who attended the WSF 2007 in the company of a radical Venezuela youth organization, complained that the forum was too commercial and that it was not the spirit of the WSF. The forum regulations do not allow the sale of multinational corporate products at the WSF premises. However, Coca-cola was sold by a lot of vendors at the place.
Simultaneous interpretations and public address systems were planned for, but, there was a failure of both these in several events at the workshop. Of course, this did not affect the tone and tenor of the discussions.
Firoze Manji (Director of Fahamu and Editor of Pambazuka News) says, “This event had all the features of a trade fair- those with greater wealth had more events in the calendar, larger (and more comfortable) spaces, more propaganda – and therefore a larger voice.” “ The white North, with it hegemonic
parochialism, was over represented. Social movements from the South were conspicuous by their numerically small presence at the forum.” “The set-up of the meetings was of a traditional platform of speakers with the audience being talked at rather than being engaged in discussion. While we heard the experience of both survivors of human rights abuses and human rights defenders, there was
little political analysis.”
As Sylvia Borren, Executive Director of Oxfam, The Netherlands says : It will go on. It is vital as a platform to increase mobilization, to meet and exchange ideas. The workshops are interesting. It’s a pity it doesn’t get enough media coverage. Do we need to bring in celebrities to
gain media attention?
We need a platform for ‘We the People’. The UN is a platform for ‘We the Governments’. Davos (the site of the World Economic Forum) is for ‘We the Business’ and elite. ‘We the people’, needs a platform. This is the one.
Let us end this report with the words of Patrick Bond (Director, Centre for Civil Society) : “The WSF’s greatest potential – so far unrealized – is the possibility of linking dozens of radical movements in various sectors.”
Director : Gnana Surabhi Mani
( Gnana. Surabhi Mani is the Director of the Resource Centre for People’s Education and Development (RCPED), Madurai, which is a partner NGO of SINFPAD
(Sara Longwe : “The World Social Forum (WSF) is about grabbing power from the center to the periphery”.)