Report on the Meeting of the Regional and Thematic Social Forum Organizing Committees with the WSF Secretariat
São Paulo, 3-5 June, 2002.
A new meeting of the Thematic and Regional SF Organizing Committees with the WSF Secretariat will take place in Florence immediately after the European SF, at a date to be announced.
Persons Present :
Fernando Buendia, Manuel Mesaquiza (Ecuador-America), Andrés Larisgoitia, Francisco dos Reis (Argentina), Prabir Purkasaystha, Meena Menon (India-Asia), Leo Gabriel, Luciano Mulhlbauer, Bruno Palandi, Maurizio Gabbiotti (Europe), Monica Sabata (Mediterranean), Bruce Douglas Dyer (New Zealand), Luis Antonio de Araújo Costa, Pep Valenzuela (Pan-Amazon), Gustavo Codas, Sérgio Haddad, Marcos Silva, Chico Whitaker, Cândido Gryzbowski, Átila Roque, José Correa Leite, Neuri, Gerardo Fontes (WSF Secretariat), Carolina Gil, Verena Glass, Adriana Guimarães, Luana Vilutis (WSF office - rapporteurs).
Members of ENDA in Senegal and AIDC in South Africa were invited from the WSF Africa process. Rabia Abdelkrim-Chikh from Senegal was unable to attend due to health reasons. Dr. T Moyo from South Africa could not get a flight in time, as all flights from Johannesburg to São Paulo were already booked.
Agenda addressed :
1) Charter of Principles as basis for review of WSF process in each region 2) 3) Organization of Regional and Thematic Forums 4) 5) WSF common agenda and methodology 6) 7) Proposals 8) 1) Charter of Principles as basis for review of WSF process in each region
The Charter of Principles was presented in detail by the WSF secretariat, highlighting following points : that the WSF is an open forum, that the Charter must be the common basis for all of the Regional and Thematic SFs, that political parties and military groups are not members of the WSF, and that WSF events are not non-deliberative in the way the WSF is.
Each regional and thematic SF then gave its report in the light of these points raised from the Charter of Principles, as described below.
Representatives of the Asia SF Organizing Committee raised questions regarding the WSF as an open forum. How open should the forum be ? The question was posed in view of the fact that in India there are anti-globalization movements whose organizations are exclusionary. It was then suggested that such movements should not be part of the Asia SF organizing process.
The representative of the Mediterranean SF Organizing Committee mentioned the difficulty of including movements from the Arab world, as many are involved with political parties.
Representatives from the WSF Americas Organizing Committee mentioned that members of political parties caused a certain discomfort, because of their way of participating. It was then clarified that people belonging to political parties are not prohibited from participating, not even in the organizing. Nonetheless, such individuals cannot participate as party representatives.
Representatives of the Europe SF Organizing Committee reported on the discussions they had held on the issue of political parties and the registration arrangements established at the Vienna preparatory meeting, where it was decided that registration would be individual and not by organizations. Moreover, it was stated that although the Charter of Principles is clear on the issue of neoliberalism, it does not say enough on the issue of war. The ESF organizers felt there was a need to bring into evidence the issue of war as an instrument utilized by capitalism and global domination. Also mentioned was the need to pursue discussion of the relation between civil society and political parties.
Representatives of the Argentina SF Organizing Committee stated that militants had not completely absorbed the idea of the open forum and that the current state of Argentina made the organizational process difficult.
Representatives of the Pan Amazon SF Organizing Committee reported on the preparatory meeting in Benjamin Constant. There, a Working Group was set up to organize the event and the Charter of Principles was discussed.
Summarizing the discussions, the meeting participants concluded that each SF may express certain points of the Charter of Principles more explicitly, thereby addressing the most problematic regional issues. This does not mean that each SF would draw up its own Charter of Principles, but would address these issues in statements made by each Working Group or Organizing Committee. The Charter of Principles should be the common foundation for the process as a whole worldwide. New issues may be incorporated into the Charter once discussed in the International Council.
2) Organization of Regional and Social Forums
Asia Social Forum : This will take place in Hyderabad (central-southern region of India) from January 2-7, 2003. Although the Forum is intended to be Asian, for the time being the Organizing Committee is Indian. The committee is striving to mobilize and incorporate social movements and organizations from other countries in the South Asian region in order to broaden the initiative. A Working Group was also set up for this purpose that will begin mobilization throughout India on June 15. There is also a smaller working group of 12 organizations to carry out and organize the work.
The thematic areas for the discussions have already been drawn :
Globalization, Development and Trade
Globalization, Nation, Democracy and Exclusions
Peace and Disarmament
A new vision of another world
It was also decided how the meeting will be organized methodologically. It will include : conferences, seminars and workshops. The organizers also proposed a quota system for registration : 1/3 would be reserved for networks, 1/3 for smaller NGOs and 1/3 for artists, intellectuals, etc.
European Social Forum : This will take place in Florence, Italy from November 2-7, 2002.
An open Working Group was set up to organize the event. There are two levels of organization : one Italian level and one European. Three WGs will be set up on these two levels :
1) Organization (including logistics and communication) 2) 3) Expansion 4) 5) Programme and Methodology 6) The programme commission is responsible for the nine themes that will develop the three areas : 1) Opposing Neoliberalism ; 2) War and Peace ; 3) Democracy and Citizenship. These areas will be cut across by five discussion points :
Relationship of Europe with the world
Democracy and sovereignty
The event is organized into morning conferences, afternoon workshops, and afternoon and evening forums for debate and dialogue.
So as to include all of Europe, to make the point that the ESF is not only for the European Union, the organizers are seeking forms of making it feasible for delegates from Eastern Europe to participate.
Pan-American Social Forum : This was scheduled to take place parallel to the FTAA Ministerial Meeting in Quito, Ecuador (October 27 to November 1), but was postponed to October 2003. The intense involvement of movements in mobilizations against the FTAA would leave the Pan-American SF addressing one single theme, and the Ecuador Organizing Committee opted to postpone the meeting.
It was proposed that International Council delegates participate on the Pan-American SF Organizing Committee. A meeting will be held in October to receive new members into the organization. It was also suggested that a secretariat be set up in Quito to facilitate the process.
In the discussion, the issue was raised that the level of North American participation in the Pan-American SF process, and even in the WSF, is low. In reply it was pointed out that one possible path to greater involvement by North Americans would be through contacts already established by networks that are active throughout the American continent.
Pan-Amazon Social Forum : This is scheduled to be held in mid-January 2003. The organizers are having border meetings to publicize the process and incorporate other countries of the Amazon region.
The central theme will be the struggle against the FTAA and discussions will cover three areas :
National sovereignty : constructing a people’s sovereignty
Waters and land to sustain the people
Neocolonialism, multiculturalism and national cultures
Argentina Thematic Social Forum - Building another country through the sovereignty and integration of peoples. The Thematic Forum is under construction. It is intended to set up four working groups : 1) Organization ; 2) Thematic areas ; 3) Communication ; and 4) Press.
Two major lines are initially proposed :
Argentina as an example that the dominant neoliberal model is unworkable ; and
The need to construct alternative forms of society and State, leveraged by regional integration of the peoples of the South of the continent.
The meeting should last three days with the date yet to be set. Proposed dates are July or September. The methodology should be similar to that of the World Social Forum, with conferences, seminars, workshops and cultural events taking place and a large street demonstration on the last day.
The International Council’s support was requested with invitations and financing.
New Zealand Social Forum : The New Zealand comrade brought the proposal to hold a SF that would include all of Oceania. The New Zealand Organizing Committee would be able to finance participation by the other islands. In principle the date proposed for the Oceania SF is April 25 to 28.
The issue was raised that there is a need for the WSF to be publicized more in New Zealand. In this connection, it was suggested that it would be useful for WSF secretariat members to go there as a way of supporting the event.
Palestinian WSF : although a preparatory meeting will be held in Cyprus, but major difficulties remain before a process can be established.
3) Common agenda and methodology of the WSF
The WSF Secretariat examined the report on methodology, paying particular attention to the proposed five major themes :
1) What is democratic, sustainable development and how can it be achieved ? 2) 3) How can rights be made universal, reinforcing solidarity and respecting diversity ? 4) 5) How can the media and cultural endeavours be encouraged to contribute to constructing a counter-hegemony ? 6) 7) How can public forums be reinforced and democratic political power constructed ? 8) 9) How can unilateralism, imperialism and militarization be combated and a democratic world order constructed ? 10) The common agenda will be discussed by the International Council’s Working Group on Methodology and Themes and the equivalent Working Groups set up by the Regional and Thematic Forums. The Brazilian Committee is also reported to have set up a Working Group on Methodology which will be engaging in a dialogue with the WSF III process in Porto Alegre.
The principal issues discussed were as follows :
Relationship among the WSFs :
It is politically significant that the WSF process first emerged at a global level and the process is now repeating itself at regional level. A dialectic between the global and the regional has been established without there being any hierarchical relationship between the global WSF and the regional WSFs. The regional WSFs are the regional dimension of a world process. It is easier to engage in a discussion of strategies at the regional level, with regard for example to the struggle against the FTAA, the Europe of Capital, etc. Hence the need to identify the means to dialogue with that level and to establish points of contact.
It was also noted that the regional and thematic WSFs are not preparatory bodies for the central WSF in 2003 but have a dynamic of their own. Nevertheless they should still be coordinated as part of the same process. The International Council’s role should be to facilitate convergence and support the process.
The following ways of linking regional and thematic processes to the central process were suggested :
Wide circulation of information on the preparatory processes ;
Links at the WSF website to the homepages of all the WSFs participating in the process ;
Circulation of information provided by the various WSFs ;
Support to enable representatives of the various WSFs to participate in the discussions of each of the other WSFs ;
Examination of (general) themes from different (regional) perspectives ;
Ensure that the output from each of the WSFs flows to the other WSFs and to Porto Alegre ;
Support for the discussion of cross-cutting topics ; that is, discussion of issues of particular concern to some WSFs by other WSFs.
The need to "make room" for the regional and thematic WSFs was emphasised. Specific proposals as to how this should occur in practice were offered, as follows :
the WSF 2003 programme should include presentations describing initiatives taken by the various WSFs ;
opportunities should be created at Porto Alegre for dialogue between members of the WSFs ;
support for collective bodies emerging from the process to participate at Porto Alegre and in the regional WSFs.
How to internationalize the WSFs
One of the key elements in the process of internationalization will be to publicize the WSFs internationally. The call must go out as widely as possible and seek to ensure the means for people from as many different places as possible to participate. One way will be to allow people to view the registration forms for the various WSFs by making them clearly and easily accessible at the website.
On this point, questions were asked as to what would make an initiative global. The answer was that this depended on what approach is taken to the themes and what treatment is given to the global dimension of a theme emerging at regional level. Contributors also need to be chosen with a view to ensuring international diversity in order to guarantee the wide-ranging scope of the discussion.
With a view to internationalisation, the need was stressed for a strategy for relations with the mass media. The example of the European WSF was mentioned, which is to be broadcast live on television and over the Internet. Another suggestion was to publish an Electronic Review of the Forums (Revista eletrônica dos Fóruns) that would carry a summarised account of the proceedings.
Attention was drawn to the need to draw on the common heritage of WSFs 2001 and 2002. It was clear that there is no thematic structure in place for 2003 and it is too early to bring the discussion of thematic issues to a close. Nonetheless, we need to work towards agreement on thematic issues. The reference point for this must be the discussions in the International Council’s Working Group on Methodology and Themes.
In order to enable this work to be carried forward a dialogue needs to be established between the International Council’s Working Group on Methodology and Themes and the WSFs’ Working Groups, with a view to coordinating themes. How that thematic correlation is to be presented at Porto Alegre also needs to be decided.
It was also discussed how to approach the themes in order to ensure the inclusion of a critical perspective, as in 2001, and the search for alternatives, as in 2002, while at the same time incorporating the dynamic of strategies in 2003. Transverse issues such as work, gender, ethnicity and disability must also be taken into consideration across the whole specturm of the discussions. The movements and oppositions are other issues that must inform the entire WSF agenda.
The point was also made that diversity and convergence are not mutually exclusive. There is a form of convergence in diversity, but we must not be afraid to make our differences public. What is essential is to valorize diversity and plurality.
Relationship between the Local Authorities’ Forum, the World Parliamentary Forum and the World Social Forum
The point was made that it is important to maintain as a focus the challenge to neoliberalism in institutional contexts. This is an issue that needs to be considered by the International Council.
The WSF Organizing Committee / Secretariat will be holding meetings with :
the São Paulo Forum, which is proposing to organize a Political Parties’ Forum at WSF 2003 ;
the coordinating body of the World Parliamentary Network, which is responsible for organizing the World Parliamentary Forum ; and
the organizers of the Local Authorities’ Forum.
WSF Europe is proposing that the institutional forums and political parties should not function as separate entities but should provide opportunities for dialogue and encounter within the regional WSF between networks and organizations of civil society and parliamentarians and local authorities (those who subscribe to the Charter Of Principles).
As decided by the International Council, initiatives of this kind must be organised within the framework of the WSF’s Charter of Principles and stem from the agenda of the WSF participants.
Funding for the WSF has come from government assistance, support from cooperation agencies and delegates’ registration fees. At no time has WSF received funding from the private sector.
The WSF Secretariat will seek funding for the third WSF in Porto Alegre, the WSF office and the globalization process.
The Organizing Committee of each Regional / Thematic WSF must submit applications for financial assistance directly to the funding bodies while at the same sending a copy of their outline proposals to the WSF Secretariat. This will help to provide the Secretariat with a general overview of activities, requirements and negotiations in progress.
Along with their proposals for obtaining financial support each Committee must also submit its proposed funding strategy showing for example, how it plans to secure funds and in what amounts from different sources (agencies, governments, participants, etc.). Consideration must also be given to the question of non-monetary support.
For the regional and thematic WSFs, we need to make an effort to obtain support from funding agencies’ regional offices.
English text by volunteer translators Robert Finnegan and OwenBeith
Reviewed by Peter Lenny