Social movements all over the world once more united in the observance of the World Social Forum (WSF), which culminated on 26, January 2008. This convergence was designed to strengthen the link between grassroots and national experience, on the one hand and regional and international advocacies and campaigns, on the other hand. Individuals, organisations, and networks organised fora, seminars, rallies and other actions in their respective countries.
Most of these actions focused on the struggle of farmers, fisherfolks and labourers brought about by neoliberal economic frameworks; calls to an end fundamentalism and militarisation including United States intervention especially in volatile places such as Pakistan and southern Philippines; as well as climate change and the urgency of addressing environment issues, among many others. Some calendars of activities also began as early as December, with the observance of International Human Rights Day.
The significant change in the format of WSF was the subject of discussions, according to Lidy Nacpil of Jubilee South and the Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development. “There is a need to review the enormous amount of resources spent in organising and attending WSF events; a need to extend workshops and seminars into “processes which promote mass actions” and grassroots participation”, stated Nacpil.
The last WSF indeed saw broader participation especially among local non-government organisations and grassroots organisations. “A lot of the feedback was positive and it allowed us to link global processes to local realities,” Nacpil shared.
The recent WSF demonstrated simultaneous actions within the third week of January. One major highlight was the live video streaming of press conferences in different countries on 26 January. But the simultaneity of activities posed a challenge in terms of monitoring. “We were not able to gather as much information as we expected,” Nacpil said, pointing to the dearth of onsite reports of the fora, seminars and other activities on the website, http://wsf2008.net.
Women in WSF
The women’s movements joined other social movements particularly those working around agriculture, fisheries, and peace-building while some of them organised their own activities. In India, women flew kites which carried messages like “End Violence against Women” and “We will confidently forge ahead.”
In Sri Lanka, a People’s Assembly was organised by networks such as Peoplespace and the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR). The People’s Assembly included spaces for the discussion of experiences of mothers and daughters working for peace; mechanisms which could respond to violence against women undergone by rural women in post-conflict situations; and the struggle of families of victims of involuntary disappearances.
The Pakistan Social Forum likewise provided a space for the discussion of the relationships among rural women’s rights and access to natural resources such as land and water. Some women also participated in the series of seminars organised by the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF). BLLF produced a statement which invoked the Pakistan government to abide by the conventions of the International Labour Organisation; increase its vigilance against bogus cases which push labourers into debt, exploitation and abuses including the extraction of kidneys as debt payment; and provide adequate housing and social services for bonded labourers.
Meanwhile South Korea focused on the impact of free trade agreements, war and discrimination among its farmers, labourers, and foreign workers. It highlighted among others the seven-month strike of a multinational retail chain, whose workers consisted largely of women.
In line with the Southern orientation of the WSF, Japan purposely observed WSF in Arakawa instead of Tokyo. The WSF Arakawa 1/26 Global Action included a workshop on the impact of neoliberalism and fundamentalism on sexual and reproductive rights.
The WSF is an annual process that began in 2001, which aims to amplify Southern perspectives on various issues, among them trade, peace, environment and social justice. It is positioned as a counterpoint to the World Ecomic Forum where officials of state, international financial institutions, and processes like the World Trade Organisation meet every January.
Ali, Mahar Safdar. “Bondage in the Global Economy” (January 8, 2008) Retrieved from World Social Forum 2008
Abbas. “Women Rights Forum” (January 22, 2008) Retrieved from World Social Forum 2008
Agora76. “Act together for Another World: A World without FTA, Poverty, War & Discrimination!” (December 20, 2007) Retrieved from World Social Forum 2008
Susana. “And Women Also Fly Kites!” (January 24, 2008) Retrieved from World Social Forum 2008 < http://wsf2008.net/eng/node/5392>
Peoplespace. “Act Together for Another World: A Better Sri Lanka is Possible!” (January 7, 2008) Retrieved from World Social Forum 2008