PROPOSAL ON THE EUROPEAN WORKING GROUP METHODOLOGY AND ORGANIZATION
At the Brussels meeting, on the 9th and 10th of March, we defined an open and participative preparatory process for the ESF.
We didn’t define an "International Committee", but we chose to form a European Working Group, where any interested social movement or network can take part simply by participating in it.
A working group which today holds its second general meeting. Two or three other general meetings will be necessary. For the next one there is a proposal of Thessalonica, in Greece.
We also formed three specific working groups on specific tasks ; also those ones had to work in an open and inclusive way :
Programme and structure of the ESF
Building and enlarging the net.
We finally decided that national working groups had to be created in every country.
After two months we will evaluate what has been achieved and the problems encountered in order to refine our methodology and our organisation.
We now know the city where the ESF will be held, as Bruno Paladini will explain after me, and we have to be even more active.
I want to make a proposal, based on the Italian experience and the discussion of the Italian working group, which met on the 22nd of March and on the 21st of April, but also considering the discussion of the International Council of the WSF which met in Barcelona at the end of April. This should allow the specialised working groups to become more active and to finalize the process in the 6 months we have left :
We propose to form a specific working group that works on the task of the Charter of Social Rights and Citizenship, which is part of the political framework we defined in Brussels. The question is not to build up a group which is going to write a Charter, but a group that organizes the debate, the process of debate, and which collects and communicates the proposals that already exist. This group could be formed by the Programme group and become autonomous in the future
We think we need another group, which could become autonomous, on Communications, because this is not simply an organisational problem. So the Organisation group could discuss the solution.
The Organisation working group will also be in charge of concrete matters such as logistics, travelling and visas, registration, administration and fund rising. These are very concrete matters and we have to be fully operational for the next continental meeting.
The Programme group has, at this meeting, to finalize the structure of the ESF programme. As we decided in Brussels, we start the discussion with an Italian proposal, which the Italian working group sent you some days ago.
The Enlarging the Network group needs to speed up.
We have to contact urgently the European "signatories" of the Charter of Principles of Porto Alegre.
And we have to invite the International Council of the WSF to inform all the "signatories" about the ESF preparatory process.
We have to add more social subjects (workers, youth, women, students, migrants etc.), with particular attention to the subjects of social exclusion (the homeless, the unemployed, those without papers or permits etc.).
This group should also prepare, for the next continental meeting, a specific space of discussion with the movements and networks of the other side of the Mediterranean and with the people without land, such as the Palestinian and the Kurdish people. Just as here in Vienna we made a step to open our process to Eastern Europe.
At this stage, we have to resolve the following operational and political problem :
The specialised working groups will become increasingly complex every day. And they will require coordination which cannot be carried out in an informal manner.
We have to be open and transparent which raises the question of allocating responsibility. There is also the question of overall coordination between the specialised groups because the preparatory process is complex but needs to stay united.
In Italy we started by designating a certain number of coordinators who made up a network mandated to call on all who wished to participate. We think that each specialised group should have 3 to 5 coordinators, but the question of the precise number is still open and will be settled later.
Obviously there would be no sense in defining a methodology in Italy and another one at the European level ! Decisions are taken at the European level and we need to be very careful about that : the ESF is not an Italian matter, but a European matter ; it belongs to all of us who are Europeans.
We need to integrate national and continental issues and our proposal is to use the same methodology throughout Europe. There will be Italian coordinators and coordinators from the other European countries, making up a group of 30 to 60 people who would form a European network ; but the precise number is not a problem, it is just a guide to the overall scale of things.
The network of coordinators would guarantee coordination, either through meetings or through electronic communications, between general meetings, which are the places where the political decisions are taken and the guide-lines are decided on.
That would be an open solution to the operational and political problems. We need to be transparent ! Everybody should know that the ESF process is part of the WSF process, as Raffaella Bolini reminded us.
The International Council of the WSF discussed the structures of the continental forum preparatory processes and proposes that Continental Organizing Committees should be given this task, each of these should form "Executive Secretariats".
The decisions taken in Brussels, based on the reality and the plurality of the European movements and networks, have led us to choose a more open structure, combining experience, operational skills and a lot of involvement.
So we think that a structure based on general meetings of the European Working Group and a network of coordinators would be a good solution for the European preparatory process, in harmony with the global WSF process.
We propose this methodology and organizational structure for the group discussions and for the plenary at the Vienna meeting.
Finally, we cannot over emphasise the need for everyone, every movement and network, to guarantee his presence in all the working groups, because we need to push for the overall achievement of this whole process.
We took the first successful step in Brussels. Here in Vienna we have to take the second step. It will be more difficult, because we have to define in detail our methodology and our organisation. But we have to do it here and now.
by Luciano Muhlbauer
Italian ESF working group