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NEWS: Challenges and future directions for the World Social Forum

The Independent European Daily Express reports, “When participants at the 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal, received word that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down, swept away by a wave of popular resistance that brought millions of Egyptians into the streets, few could contain their joy. But euphoria was quickly replaced by doubts: What is the purpose of the World Social Forum? Is it even relevant anymore? How does it connect with people struggling to survive and facing the guns on the ground?”

“Although the event was held (last month) in Tunis to honour the revolutionaries who toppled Tunisia’s former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali — and set in motion a chain of similar uprisings that came to be dubbed the Arab Spring — participants continue to wonder where the Forum will go, and what it is capable of achieving.”

“This year drew a clear majority of non-Westerners: of the roughly 60,000 visitors, only 8,000 came from Europe, while up to 20,000 were from Tunisia alone.” And yet Northern organizations still remain in a better position than those in the South to send major delegations to the World Social Forum. And some place the responsibility to change this with the International Council, the organizing body for the World Social Forum of roughly 140 members. “The workshop series ‘Decolonising the Forum’ brought into focus the discrepancies of representation and accessibility.”

The article adds, “Now, organisers are beginning to lay the groundwork for future meetings. The IC’s plans to hold its next planning meeting in the Maghreb region has given a boost to the Maghreb Social Forum, while a decision regarding an upcoming Maghreb/Mashreq Social Forum is expected in May. …Formal proposals for the next World Social Forum are also anticipated in the near future, while currently the ideas floating around range from India to Mexico, Canada, Brazil, or even Tunisia.” It has also been noted that Gaza is a possibility.

Michel Lambert, the executive director of Montreal-based Alternatives, has written, “For many March 2013 also represented a first step, an awareness of what has to be done at home. The majority of us who were in Tunis are also involved in the project to organize in Canada in 2014 the first Peoples Social Forum to bring together communities in Quebec, Canada and First Nations who must now learn to work together if we hope to one day reverse the anti-environmental trend, anti-civil society, anti-social law currently in force in Ottawa.”

To watch a video of the ‘Decolonising the WSF’ workshop, which includes National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement national organizer Madhuresh Kumar, please go here. The full Daily Express news article can be read here. Michel Lambert’s commentary about the World Social Forum can be read (in French) at http://focusweb.org/node/2012. A campaign blog about a workshop I participated in at the World Social Forum that highlighted the need for a Peoples Social Forum in this country can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=20277.