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The future of the World Social Forum, the epicenter of the debate in Kenya

The future of the World Social Forum, the epicenter of the debate in Kenya

By Sergio Ferrari

“There are historical processes that cannot be accelerated, regardless of whether we would like to do so,” emphasizes Hugo Yaski, secretary general of the Central de Trabajadores de Argentina, a combative platform that brings together 1.2 million members and has been present from the beginning. same in the process of birth of the WSF.

Nairobi: a mirror to look at yourself

Concluded the 7th edition of the World Social Forum (WSF) in Nairobi, several are the novel-daring themes that were walked for five days through the labyrinths of the Kasarani National Stadium. One of them, of particular importance for the anti-globalization movement, is related to the present and future state of the WSF itself. Nairobi was a giant prism from which the WSF observed the planet. And a large mirror where he looked at himself.


"The World Social Forum has played an important role but it is a formula that is beginning to run out," launches the renowned Egyptian-Senegalese intellectual Samir Amin, one of the leaders of the World Forum of Alternatives, almost as a provocation.

FSM exhausted

After reflection, several cumulative and logically constructed arguments. For Amin, the WSF is not today "a place for deep debate but for exhibitions and rapid exchanges."

A dynamic that does not favor the building of alliances between organizations capable of becoming a movement, which increases the risk of limiting itself to "a club of charlatans or a closed circle of NGO leaders"

And that is why he proposes, in parallel to the WSF, to imagine how to really create an organized framework of alliances, at the national, regional and world levels, “of mass movements”.

Amin vindicates the content of the Bamako Document, signed in the framework of the decentralized forum of 2006 in Mali, which with its eight points tries to outline a kind of conceptual charter-program of what the new planet to be built should be.

At the base of his proposals, an in-depth reflection set forth in a document-article published in Rome in October last year - and partially taken up in the last Le Monde Diplomatique-, called "In defense of Humanity".

This text, distributed in some of the debate spaces in Nairobi, confirms that "capitalism is an obsolete system and an enemy of humanity", which must be confronted from "the necessary radicalization of popular struggles." For Amin - as he repeated to this correspondent in an interview conducted in the Kenyan capital - globalization is not an "objective" fact, but rather the strategy of the dominant powers. And in that sense, you cannot propose “another globalization” without destroying the existing one. And for this it is necessary to "restore the dignity of nations and the sovereignty of peoples and states."

For this reading of the current stage that humanity is going through, the concept of * consensus * promoted by other alter-globalist leaders such as the Brazilian Francisco “Chico” Whitaker, is “at least naive… and lacking in a class analysis”.

The value of diversity

Faced with the vision of the Egyptian intellectual, there are several theorists-social activists who defend the idea of ​​the forum as a wide space, and expression of a new way of conceiving politics, away from the conceptions of the traditional left.


The book recently edited by the Brazilian Whitaker, one of the eight co-founders of the WSF, is perhaps the most systematic expression of this thought that aims to innovate on content and forms.

"The Forum is a hybrid between these two great conceptions, apparently incompatible but which in practice have coexisted since the very foundation of the WSF", emphasizes in an exclusive dialogue Boaventura Sousa Santos, a prestigious Portuguese intellectual.

There are new ways of understanding politics and political concepts, Sousa explains. Indicating that, for example, many indigenous peoples and other social actors consider "socialism as a western definition", with which they do not feel comfortable, and therefore prefer to speak of liberation, emancipation and another possible world.

This apparent clash of positions, "I interpret it as an expression of strength, rather than weakness," emphasizes the Lusitanian intellectual with conviction. "I see in the current diversity and relative * chaos * of the Forum a sign of strength," he insists.

Remembering that the differences of thought, in essence, are not new and "go back to the first WSF of Porto Alegre", among those who considered it as a space for meeting and exchange and those who proposed to reach unique common positions and sign documents end.

Despite these internal tensions, the contribution of the WSF is an undeniable fact, underlines Sousa. Who indicates by way of example, that "although it does not mean a revolution", international institutions and other spheres of power have had to incorporate in recent years certain proposals and demands that were expressed in the WSF ".

It is essential not to be afraid of the “complexity of what we live” and to continue building from this ongoing process, he insists.

The social actors take the floor

“There are historical processes that cannot be accelerated, regardless of whether we would like to do so,” emphasizes Hugo Yaski, secretary general of the Central de Trabajadores de Argentina, a combative platform that brings together 1.2 million members and has been present from the beginning. same in the process of birth of the WSF.

It is not possible to "risk the construction of the forum on the basis of current diversity to provide it with more precise definitions," indicates the union leader from Consure. “And this interpretation is consistent with the experience that reality dictates to us, also in our daily work in our countries. Many times, when we want to advance faster and clarify positions, we lose in amplitude ”.

And his conclusion is blunt: "at this precise moment, the current WSF formula as an open space of confluence is the most correct, the most suitable for us and has a reason for being."

A position shared by the Honduran Rafael Alegría, one of the leaders of Via Campesina, a global coordination of indigenous and rural movements that brings together more than 100 million members.

"For us, the WSF, which we have supported since its birth and of which we are one of the main pillars, is a space for exchange, for building alliances, for strengthening our own initiatives and activities."

Just moments after the interview with Alegría, in one of the premises of the International Sports Stadium, venue of the forum, Vía Campesina launched its “Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform” for the African region. New priority on the agenda of this movement that underlines at this stage the need to recover and defend "the land, water, seeds, forests and natural resources in general."

Does the lack of a political program of the WSF affect Via Campesina? We asked. “It is not the objective nor does it correspond to the WSF to define the strategies. Each social movement, at the local, national, regional and world level is the one who must promote their struggles and demands. It is not to the forum to make the changes, but to the movements that we integrate it ”.

And the reality, according to Alegría, shows the viability of this formula. "The new Latin American political situation is also in part the result of the WSF and its struggle for another possible world," concludes the Honduran militant.

* Sergio Ferrari, from Nairobi, Kenya
E-CHANGER collaboration and
Le Courrier newspaper (Switzerland)


Video: BBC World Debate - Powering Development in the 21st century (July 2021).