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UPDATE: The Blue Planet Project lands in Tunisia

Tunis, 6 pm local time

We’ve just arrived in Tunis along with many others from around the world who are gathering here for the World Social Forum.

‘Dignity’ is the theme of this WSF. The revolution that took place in this north African country – just two years ago – was spurred by Mohamd Bouaziz who demanded dignity. The 26-year-old man set himself on fire in protest of the humiliation he had suffered by a municipal official. Protests grew from there and by January 14, 2011 President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled Tunisia for 23 years, had been forced to step down. This helped to spark the Arab Spring which quickly spread throughout the region, including to neighbouring Libya.

And it is that spirit of revolution and the fundamental right to dignity that brings the WSF to Tunisia.

The WSF itself is set to start with a major march on March 26 at 4 pm. Ansamed reports 70,000 people are expected to participate in the march that will start at the January 14 Square and proceed to the El Menzah sports complex. “The parade will then cross some of the main streets and squares of the capital including avenue Mohamed V and place Pasteur. The march will end with a ceremony opening the event and a concert (starting at 7 pm) by Brazilian singer and composer Gilberto Gil, also a former culture minister.”

The estimated attendance at the WSF has ranged from 30,000 to 70,000 people. The participants will be coming from 125 countries, 4,500 organizations will be represented, and the overall forum will be supported by some 1,000 volunteer workers. There are 970 workshops and activities now listed in the official program.

The WSF will close on March 30 with a march in support of Palestine. TunisiaLive has reported, “Prominent participants (at the World Social Forum) include Fadwa Barjhouthi and Alba Sa’adet, both wives of well-known Palestinian activists confined in Israeli jails. The forum has a strong focus on the Palestinian issue and endorses Palestinian statehood, said Aymen Talbi, one of the organizers.”

The Council of Canadians and the Blue Planet Project will be at the WSF to strategize with allies (notably at a Water Justice Day event tomorrow), offer a number of water justice workshops (on March 27), and to participate in numerous other workshops and activities throughout the week.

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