[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Cosatu crits WSF for Morocco venue
p.waterman at inter.nl.net
Sun Mar 22 11:18:44 GMT 2009
All good questions, D, which I will try to answer.
Alternatively, you could put them to the companyeros from NIGD in
Helsinki, to whom I am forwarding this (NIGD being a collective member
of the IC). I am also forwarding to Teivo T, who has, additional to
attending IC meetings, written a book about the WSF.
Let me give you an opinion on these matters, or my impression, as
someone in the large outer circle of the WSF (I have been at one IC
meeting, have attended numerous WSF events, have written extensively
about labour and the WSF, and co-edited a couple of compilations about
and around the WSF).
1. Lines of accountability and responsibility are vague and variable.
Thus COSATU is a member of the IC, but I do not know whether its
representative reports back to COSATU or South African civil society
more generally. The IC was self-created back around 2001, mostly on the
initiative of Brazilians, including the CUT union confederation, and
certain West European individuals/networks. It has expanded itself since
then. It includes some active and some inactive members. It has created
a number of sub-committees, and these either function well or are
problematic. The same is true for individual sub-committee members who
take on responsibilities. There have been complaints from beyond this
inner circle about the functioning of the IC. At the Belem WSF, Jan-Feb
this year, I think two prominent activist-intellectual supporters,
Boaventura de Sousa Santos and Walden Bello, called for a transformation
of this ad hoc IC, for - actually - something with more accountability
2. Formally, there is no leader and the leadership rests with the IC.
However, no one speaks 'for the WSF' and IC members may have - for
example - quite different relations with the state or inter-state bodies
outside the IC. In practice there are maybe 10-20 prominent activists,
known and respected internationally because of their organisational
qualities and/or writings. My impression is that the core activists have
been Brazilians, with a background in struggles against the military
regime, members of or sympathetic to the now-governing PT (Workers'
Party). Some come from major organisations, like the CUT, others from
such NGOs as IBASE.
3. I don't think anyone would recognise or call themselves an 'office
bearer' of the WSF or IC. But there are numerous people who carry out
tasks, and numerous sub-committees (or networks) that address themselves
to, for example, expansion of the WSF or communication (a continuing
problem within and for the IC). There are also regional structures by
continent, and there is an Organisation Committee for each 'edition' of
the WSF, largely consisting of nationals of the country concerned.
4. I am not aware of any legal status of the WSF anywhere.
5. Well the IC and OC do decide on the programme and functioning of each
WSF 'edition'. Increasingly, and under pressure from participants and
commentators, they have tended to provide a framework within which
'self-organised' activities predominate. There is no official WSF or IC
publication. Until Belem, I believe, there has been a daily forum
newspaper in several languages, 'Terra Viva', but this service was
provided by the Rome-based IPS news agency. I believe that, in Belem, it
produced only one, fat, issue.
6. The WSF has experimented with various websites over the years. There
is always one for registration and the consequent planning/programming
of the WSF event in question. There are, further, numerous websites that
relate to the WSF but that are independent of the IC. I believe the
Communications Committee is still struggling with this problem.
7. There is always a large media presence - from the dominant and
alternative media - and increasing media facilities, at the WSF. I
assume that there is someone in charge of any such facility. I am not
aware of there being a permanent liaison office. And there is no
official spokesperson. The WSF IC is, shy of any such authority being
vested in one person.
8. Most WSF funding comes from the Oxfams and other such friendly -
mostly development-oriented - foundations. At one time the Ford
Foundation was a prominent funder. Funding is no secret and there was a
report on the funding problem around 2005, available online. Other
funding has come, for example, from the Government of Brazil, from
state-owned corporations, and I assume that much funding or support
in-kind was provided this year by the State of Para. There is also an
accounting procedure, I believe, after each event. And debits have been
announced, to my recollection, after both the Nairobi WSF 2007 and the
Malmo ESF 2008. I myself await, however, a serious political-economic
study/report on the WSF (most such reports - and they are legion - are
political/institutional/cultural in nature).
9. If it is the case that a decision has been taken on siting the next
WSF in Morocco, this must have been done by an IC of which COSATU has
been a prominent member and, I believe, a regular participant. So the
question of whether the IC or COSATU (or some sub-committee) screwed up
here remains, for me, to be established. Whether, again, the decision
(if taken) is an 'affront to the whole continent of Africa' remains
likewise problematic. Certainly it has not been imposed from outside the
continent. The desire to hold the next WSF in Africa has, I believe,
been urged on the IC by its African members and, I assume, its regional
sub-committee. So, once again, the question should be addressed here
also. I actually agree with COSATU that Morocco should be ruled out.
Even if it can be claimed that the Moroccan partners of the WSF are not
the state but civil society, it would seem unlikely that the state would
allow open solidarity actions there with the people of Western Sahara.
As for your last question: no one within the WSF or its outer circle of
support wants to split the WSF. Someone or maybe some parties have
screwed up big time. (I think they also screwed up in holding the last
WSF in Nairobi. Here a whole series of contradictions came to a head.
But it is not easy to find a suitable site in Africa right now).
10. (Not an answer but a statement). The whole structure, procedures,
contents and history of the WSF is open to continual question and
challenge. This is, in fact, invited, and welcomed. Indeed it is
considered normal and necessary. Born under the sign of the new social
movements and socially-committed NGOs, the achievements and survival of
the WSF is something of a miracle. It has been a miracle of organisation
and improvisation, operating with a considerable horizontality,
participation, innovation and inspiration. The innovation, compared with
the Communist-organised, state-controlled, World Youth Festivals (still
frozen into Cold War discourse), or those of the Catholic Church,
demonstrates today significant outlines of that other world called for
in the brilliant slogan, 'Another World is Possible'. This slogan
implies also, of course, that 'Another World Social Forum' or 'Another
Type of World Social Forum' is also possible. Me, I think the WSF idea
has to sharpen its anti-capitalist profile (it could decline into an
instrument of global neo-Keynesianism), to go more local and to go more
Hoping that better-qualified others will better respond to your questions,
PS. I have a forthcoming report, concentrating on labour at Belem, but
which deals with some of the more general questions surrounding the WSF.
Maybe next week. It will be posted on or linked to the Debate site (it
Dominic Tweedie wrote:
> Please, comrades, answer some questions about the World Social Forum
> (WSF), and help me respond to these kinds of questions.
> What are the lines of accountability and responsibility in the WSF?
> Who are the leaders? Who are the equivalent people to "office-bearers"
> in the ANC, COSATU or the SACP?
> Does it have any legal corporate existence in any country or countires?
> Is executive power confined to the arrangement of meetings? Or are
> there publications? What publications are there?
> Does the WSF have a web site?
> Does the WSF have a media liaison officer or a spokesperson? If so, who is it?
> Assuming the WSF gets money from donors, who are they? How much money
> does each one give? Through what entities it is held and spent?
> Morocco's current status is that it is expelled from the AU. Meeting
> in Morocco is an affront to the entire continent of Africa. Anybody
> who takes part is compromised. Those who as a consequence do not go
> will not have a voice. If somebody had wished to contrive a
> cold-war-style split in this body, this would have been an obvious way
> to do it. Who wants to split the WSF and why?
> With thanks and best wishes,
> Domza, VC
> DEBATE mailing list
> DEBATE at debate.kabissa.org
* 'Needed: A Global Labour Charter Movement', ESF Malmo Update: http://www.netzwerkit.de/projekte/waterman/gc
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