The transcripts (pdf) of the latest meeting of the International Council (the overarching body of the WSF) in March include an interesting discussion between IC members on the learnings from the polycentric forums in Bamako and Caracas. Most importantly on the relation between government, funders, and Forums (Caracas) and the confusion about the Bamako Appeal being the statement of one meeting and not the entire Forum. It’s very long, but for your convenience, I’ve pasted the discussion below. It’s a massively complicated process and quite interesting to eavesdrop on the conversation.
P.K.Murthy: Well done Bamako – with the succesful organisation of the Forum there one can say noe that
preparations for WSF 2007 in Nairobi has started. The Idea of PC Forums was ambitious and challenging.
Africa has seen waves of anti-imperialist struggles. Africa has been looted and plundered. There is a
perception that no movements of significance exist in the region. This was proved entirely wrong as we saw
in Bamako representation of movements from the entire African continent — from all regions and sectors.
Challenges and difficulties were of a higher order than faced in Porto Alegre or Mumbai. But Bamako took up
the challenge. The event has inspired Kenyan and other African comrades – who went back ready to take up
the challenge of organising WSF 2007.
Taofik: The solidarity of the IC in preparation for Bamako was missing – we should remmeber this as we
prepare for Nairobi.Link with Bamako and Caracas was not adequate, unlike what was forseen. Some forces
tried to capture and monopolise the final political message from Bamako. This is not good for the process
and affects the diversity of messages that should come from the WSF. There is a perception that the African
WSF process is vulnerable and can be manipulated – the IC should take note of this and guard against such a
One major lesson for Nairobi is that the proposal for seeking support and solidarity should be ready
as soon as possible, or we shall be face with a last minute rush, as happened in Bamako. Mobilisation should
continue and improve from Bamako. Have initiated a process that involves national, sub-regional, and
regional networks. Their involved helped focus on major issues in Bamako, viz. on the issue of migration. It
is necessary that in the African process sectoral coalitions are involved in a larger way.
It must be understood that the Bamako Forum was not a Forum for charity or a Forum for Africa – it
was a WSF event in Bamako. In other words it was not a Forum where International Agencies were asked to
come and solve the problems of Africa. This should be kept in mind for Nairobi.
There is a necessity for the IC to partocipate in the organising of the Forum in Nairobi. We propose a
body for this purpose that comprises of the IC, the Brazilian and Indian Committees, the Africa Social Forum,
and the PC Forum organsing committees.
Gina: Agree that the Forum in Caracas was a success. The evaluation of the Forum needs to take in different
perceptions. While it was not a Forum dominated by Chavez or his party, their presence was very visible.
Also need to note that Chavez had strong opinions about the Forum that he articulated. This intereferes with
autonomy of the WSF. We need to make a distinction between Govt. (even if supportive of the Forum) and
the Social Forum. If we do not do this the activities in the Forum would not reflect a diversity of views – it is
important to maintain this diversity.
Happy about the positive report from Bamako, but worried about the “Bamako appeal” Should be
made clear that it was an appeal from a specific meeting and not a document of the Bamako Forum. Cannot
reduce Bamako Forum to one document.
Moema: Have been to both Bamako and Caracas and the evaluation here is based on personal perceptions.
PCs had imortant role in the regions. The Bamako Forum helped deepen connection between African and
European movements – addressed as issues of common concern and not in any spirit of charity. Significant
among such issues was the issue of migration. It is a pity that participation from L.America and Asia was
very poor in Bamako.
The Caracas Forum marked some important advances for the process in the regions, viz. the
participation of grassroot groups from the US. But this too remained a regional event and not a WSF PC
event as was visualised.
There are crucial problems that should not be pushed them under the carpet. Two that need to be
a) We need to learn from earlier mistakes and discuss specific protocols for relationship between the
Social Forum, Governments, and funders. We have been ambiguous about this till now. For example
while it may be true that heads of state like Chavez or Lula have not been present in Social Forums
in their official capacity, that is not the way most people see it. We need to develop – like the Charter
of Principles – principles to deal with such relationships.
b) We also need clarity on what is the role of the IC and what are the expectations from it in the
organising of WSF events. Not fair to just say that IC hasn’t played a role until we undersatnd its
limitations. For example, it is crucial we make clear what the organising committee for the Nairobi
WSF 2007 can expect from the Resources Commission.
Gustavo: The Bamako Forum was a very important process, most important part being the opportunity it
provided for the African Social forum process to be visible. Some of the significant advances included the
major role of women in mobilisation (same was true in Carcas) and the highlighting of the issue of migration.
Of the participants, 50-60% participation were local, 20% were from the region, and the rest from other
countries. It is obvious that the type of participation also determines the kind of debates that are conducted
– focusing more on local and regional issues.
While agreeing with the earlier evaluation of Caracas, also important to take note of the success of
the Forum on in providing visiblity of L.American movements – to a greater extent even if compared to Porto
Alegre. The Forum saw concrete debates about LA movements and their future course.
The Social Forum process is entering a new stage, even if we do not realise this fully. We can
certainly see progress in the form of debates being more concretely rooted in local situations. The challenge
for us is to bring in other regions, viz. China.
Candido: Need to concretely evaluate the experience of PC events. There was a certain lack of harmony in
the vents and the impact was local rather than global. Both the Caracas and the Bamako Forums had their
specific needs and these were not easy to address as far as the Social Forum process is concerned.
Have proposed since the Barcelona IC that there is a need to involve in the different debates
regarding the responses to globalisation, as well as a need to debate with political actors. We need, by this
process, to bring out a transformation in different actors, failing which we will stagnate.
The inadequate Press coverage that we are reciving shows that we are now losing space in the
media. This is happening not just because of the PC character of the Social Forum process this year. We
need to work on the media so that they carry the complex messages that come out of the Social Forums.
We also need to take note that the problems related to translation are not technical but political
problems. We need to constitute a separate working group to work on the problems related to translation.
Perez: We would like to evaluate the PC Forums from our experience in working in the area of . Human
Rights. We have been trying to ensure ownership of the issue of human rights by the social forum process.
We are able to work with the process to establish a network on the issue, though we observe that progress
has taken place in a similar endeavour on the issue of fair trade. Need to address the role of MNCs and their
role in creating misery, and how to develop a network on this.
The Forum process needs to bring in new players and not just talk to the convinced.
An evaluation of the PC experience needs to ask if we need to say that we shouldn’t disperse our resources
but rather concentrate on a single event in a year.
Intervention: A composite evaluation of the PC Forums will alow us decide if we should proceed with this
innovation or plan to not take it any further. A final evaluation will have to wait for the Karachi Forum to take
Social Forums should be designed to have impact on peoples’ daily lives. The process need better
representation from different sectors, viz. peasants. The Bamako Forum came as a pleasant surprise –
especially the diversity, and the innovations on view. The movement for Another World needs to be vigilant
that some forces do not subvert it.
Carola: The proposals being made here should be compiled to allow us to plan around them.
The Bamako and Caracas Forums were succesful far beyond expectations. The PC Forum process, in
order to be dynamic, needs to redefine how common elements are to be highlighted and what structures can
IC procedures need to be stramlined so that reports on WSF events have a written format – this
allows building of a consensus around proposals and in evaluation. Such formats should have a common
structure – viz. success, outreach, strengths, weaknesses.
The absence of representatives from the OCs from Venezuela and Pakistan in this meeting is
worrying.. Pakistan one can understand as the event is to take place soon, but why is there no
representation from Venezuela?
Many have commented on the lack of support to PC events – viz. there was very little support
provided to the Forum in Karachi. We need to redefine the role of the IC. One proposal would be to develop a
protocol that defines the support that the IC would provides to Social Forums.
We also need to discuss how to incraese participate in meetings through solidarity support, and if
there are problems in raisng such support they should be discussed.
The WSF has taken a political strategic decision to take the Forum to Africa. It will have strong
regional dimenisions and the challenge would be to harmonise regional and global issues and concerns.
It was sad to have IC members signing the Bamako Declaration. The intention was good, but it took
away the strength of the voiceless instead of giving them voice. This shouldn’t happen again – not from
platform of events.
Beverly: Caracas Forum was a success. We need to evaluate organisational problems related to the PC
Forums, especially related to whether the Forums have been global or local in character. We should work out
how to ensure a balance in such Forums where a global flavour goes hand in hand with local and regional
characteristics. We also should invent dynamics that are more effective in mobilising and methodology to
organise debates so that they are more meaningful and effective.
Amit: It is clear that there is a mismatch between the expectations of the IC and its ability to provide
support in the organisation of Social Forums. The IC lacks a mechanism to co-ordinate and implement
decisions it takes, in between two IC meetings. The Secratariat in Brazil that supports the process is
comprised of just 3-4 people – and to expect that to service all the expectations is unrealistic.
This was particularly apparent after the IC meeting in Barcelona when we were unable to decide
upon a mechanism to co-ordinate and take forward the PC Forum processes. We need to ensure that we
have such a mechanism after this meeting that leads up to the WSF 2007 in Nairobi.
Jose Correa: IC is only a co-ordinating body and has limitations in the support it can provide. OCs of Social
Forums are autonomous – most aspects of organising social forums must be taken care of by the OCs. Need
to discuss what help the IC can provide.
After 2003 it became clear that we, on our own, cannot change the balance of power. With incraesed
offensive from neoliberal forces – movements are not in a position to counter effectively. It may appear to us
as a dead end and raises the question regarding how the WSF should react.
We need to question whether initaitives such as the Bamako declaration, or even positions of Left
L.American Govts. can they change the balance. We need to integrate in the methodology ways face this
challenge – cannot return to earlier ways of working
Some initiatives that we may take forward can include:
a) Emphasis on actions;
b) Learn from PC experience and overcome fragmentation;
c) Find way in which relation with political actors can be more integrated in Forum, address expectation
of political synthesis;
d) The process of accumulating experience and knowledge in the forum process needs tobe maintained
so that there is a continuity and we do not start from the beginning every year. Today we do not
have even the minimum structure to do this and we need to work on this.
Camila: Happy to hear about success of Bamako Forum. If we evaluate the process, politics, logistics – on
balance — Caracas was a success. The issue of impact of Chavez on the Forum needs to be evaluated. The
principal success of the Caracas Forum lay in the wide mobilisation of movements from Latin America.
The expirement with PC Forums has been a failure as the basic understanding was not represented in
Bamako or Caracas. They have been local or regional events without a global flavour.
Need to concentrate on specific issues, viz. WTO, militarisation and from this would emerge the foci
of our struggles. We should consider setting up dynamic groups of movements, globally, on such issues.
Vinod: IC is paralysed by schizophrenia – while on one hand it wants to open more and more spaces, on the
other hand it doesn’t have a way of handling these new spaces. IC has been expanding the WSF space – for
example, through PC Forums, but at the same time the IC feels that it shouldn’t intervene too much. While
co-ordinating mechanisms may help, they do not solve this problem.
The IC wasn’t capable of handling space opened by PC forums. Can IC intervene when the new
spaces that are opened up do not conform to the spirit of an “open space”? It is possible time to think about
a role for the IC in intervening on such occassions. In India, for example, there are a number of provincial
Forums being organised. With the WSF having attained a “Brand image” there is the danger that some of the
Forums may not conform to the spirit of “open space” and may be narrow initiatives aimed at cashing in on
the goodwill that the WSF has accumulated. While gaurding agaisnt the tendency to become hererchical, it is
necessary to have a set of rules – possibly also think of this as the function of one of the existing
We also need collective asessment of the last 5 years of the WSF, for us to plan the way forward.
Hassan: We have the experience in Africa of moving towards collective functioning, thereby adressing an
earlier concern that the process is controlled by a few. Similarly in the global process, need to introduce
collective functioning and the WSF Sectt. in Brazil can be guided by opinions from other regions.
An evaluation of the WSF process in the last five years is needed, with a view to understanding what
can be done better to transform the conditions of living. The deliberations in Davos are used to chart the
course of neoliberal policies across the globe. We are being too modest by declaring that we cannot take
positions. Our opposition or positions need courage of conviction and should be pronounced clearly. If we
want to change, we have to have courage to act on behalf of the majority — or else we would become
Oded: It is time for us to reflect on our organisation and its ability to face new challenges. The WSF process
is something that people should enjoy being part of, and at the same time should be easy for people to
If we want to Another World, WSF should highlight what is our approach and give credit when we
perform. If we are united they cannot fight us. No single organisation is more important than others, we
need to bring down the walls that divide us.
When we evaluate, we should asess the different contributions, while keeping in mind that the WSF is a
One proposal could be to conduct a survey of perceptions about the WSF, among people who
participate. Such an evaluation by ordinary participants will provide a real view, allow for better feedback and
also validate our own views.
JJ: Need to clarify a misunderstanding about the Bamako declaration. The declaration did not emerge from
deliberations in the Forum, but from a meeting held before the Forum.
We had not visualised the Bamako the Bamako Forum as a regional event, but as an intercontinental
forum. Our evaluation shows that we were able to achieve this.
We were also careful to avoid any political interference. No political figures from Mali were invited
and the interaction with the Government was limited to facilitating logistics, viz. visa on arrival for
Paul: The Bamako Forum was participatory and carried the spirit of PA. It also showed that it is possible to
organise Social Forums with limited resources.
The International character of the Forum was visible through debates on global issues such as
migration, WTO, farmers’ struggles, etc.
Evaluation of Forums should not be limited to bureacratic surveys but should try to give us an
understanding of the character of the Forum. Such an evaluation should also include perceptions of those
who were not present at the Forum. The reporting by the alternate media can provide us help in evaluating
perceptions and impact.
We should clarify the relation between political forces and Social Forums. Social Forums are meant to
provide space for diverse views and opinions. While we could think of a parallel space to engage with political
players, we should remember that the space for diversity is contradictory to increasing presence of political
figures. This may hamper the legitimacy of the WSF process.
Chris: The US movements are thanful to the organisers in Caracas and Mali for providing them space to
participate. It is heartening to note that people distinguish correctly between the American Governmenmt
and the people in America.
The US Social Forum is scheduled to be held on June 14-17, 2007, in Atlanta. The process includes
regional initiatives, and 30 organisations. 8 Working Groups are planning different aspects of the Forum.
Funding remains a major constraint as funding parners are reluctant to support activities in the US.