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WSF International Council meeting, January 26, 2007

Teivo: for the first time, the plenary session of the International Council will be recorded and placed on the official WSF website. Need for transparency

Long delay to set up translation (somewhat ironic, since that emerged as one main complaints of the forum’s shortcomings).

Morning session: Evaluation of WSF 2007 in Nairobi

Njoki Njoroge (OC): like blind men and elephant, we all have different perspectives on what happened in Nairobi.  Important for WSF to come to Africa, because it will change Africa and Africa will change WSF.  I believe that has happened.  But what kind of change?  It has been an important experience.  Problems?  Of course.  OC takes responsibility for problems.  Translation, signage, security, traffic–we apologize for all those problems.  But you must realize that in Kenya we deal with those problems every single day.  When you come here, you have to deal with that.  Wish we could have done better.  Need to learn from successes, mistakes, and challenges.  It is not a perfect space, but one of struggle and a dynamic one.  We have seen that in last week.  The experience has been everything we expected it to be and more.  I want to thank volunteers who worked long and hard to make the WSF in Nairobi possible.

Edward Oyugi (OC): too early to analyze event.  We need to sit back before evaluating event.  In any case, Nairobi 2007 was a success because it happened.  You don’t have the experience of organizing a WSF until you really organize it.  For the OC, it was a learning experience all the way.  I want to thank everyone for their help, because without this we would not have even gotten half way.  A lot of international support and encouragement.  Also a lot of unsolicited advice, some of it very destructive but we also took it as part of the learning experience.  Issue of finances was a real challenge.  Minimum we needed $5M USD, but try as we might we did not meet target.  Look for other options.  We came down to $3.6M USD as budget, but we did not come up with that.  Only got .5M USD–missed minimum needed by $1.1M USD.  If we do not get financial support, we will end up with a $550,000 USD deficit.  We tried to innovate.  Big challenge to mobilize support.  Set up a solidarity fund for social movements to participate.  Only one organization did contribute.  Tried to assure participation of most marginalized groups.  For example, mobilized 4,000 slum dwellers but could not paid 500 KSH.  Arranged for some to come in free.  Problem of romanticizing poverty.  People who have been dehumanized.  We need to organize them, rather than glorify them.  Problem of water.  One company agreed to distribute 5000 litres for free.  (I’m not understanding–the water was then sold??)  Took a lot to conscienticize people as to what the forum is.  Many Kenyans began to ask themselves what the WSF is.  (He said something more important, but I didn’t catch it.)

Taoufik Ben Abdallah (OC): We had more than 40 forums in process.  Challenges, because social movement in Africa is still fragmented and dominated.  Political aspects.  Bring people in touch with each other.  Allocated a big part of resources for that.  Also tried to mobilize key activists before the forum.  We tried to support different processes: trade, debt, women, youth, etc. were here and presented their actions.  In terms of resources, we only realized 67% of needed, but only got 69% of that and are still waiting for 30% to come in yet.  Costs of culture, transportation, etc.  But we’ve never had such broad participation from Africa in a SF.  We should wait to analyze broader impact.  Potential to build and go forward with African unity.  Most important meeting in history of Africa, and people who were here were some of the most important leaders.  Major achievement.  Thank friends for supporting process.

Moema Miranda (Brazil WSF): largest IC meeting ever (many observers–but poor acoustics and a lot of background noises means that I miss some of what people said)

Many people want to speak:

logistical problems, particularly with translation. Without translation, can’t achieve objective of open space.

In Karachi, we had massive participation with a single cop and we did not have problems with theft.  We did not allow a single multi-national corporation.  Need to mobilize social movements to take care of these issues.

Majority not happy with outcome of SF.  Stadium not good venue.  Very high registration prices, and food prices.

The complaints are a challenge to all of us to solve these problems.  Thanks to Africa OC because you have changed our movements in Italy.

We met the challenge of having a successful forum in Nairobi–very high levels of discussions.  Better to have one centralized cite, rather than dispersed throughout city.  Need charter to address issues of sponsorship, fees, funding.

All of the problems we’re hearing about are inevitable and inherent in social movements.  It’s not what movements can do for us, but what we can do for the forum.

Much harder to construct than destroy.  This was a success, and we are leaving very satisified with the solidification of the process we have seen here.  Some problems repeat themselves in every forum, and we need to solve them–like with translation, financial problems.  We need to bring our own resources.  We need to take advantage of the help of experts.  Can’t forget that we are meeting in area that is meeting some of the world’s greatest problems: Darfur, Somalia, etc.

Nairobi is not only historic event for Africa, but also for Europe–esp. given its history of colonialism.

Should not be surprise that we cannot not change world in 7 yrs.  WSF is an island that takes place within the context of a capitalist reality, and we have to understand and recognize that.  Shouldn’t diminish important Christian contributions to forum, esp. those with a preferential option for the forum.

Forum doesn’t need huge infrastructure, but we need spaces to institute changes.  Need spaces for open, creative methodology.  More experimentation.

Lack of debate among ourselves about process, where forum is going.  We have to be sure that feminist analysis is part of everything that we are doing.  We can’t marginalize that–it puts us back.  Question presence of churches.  Anti-abortion groups are not welcome at the WSF.

Kenyan woman complains about high registration fee.  When fees were reduced, information was not distributed well.  Registration process was too cubersome.  Too difficult to travel to Kasarani.  We are told that it was moved here because it would be safer.  But how is it possible to enclose people during the day, and then release delegates into city at nite.  Cost to register events was too high.  Although venue was selected for security, there were a lot of theft even with a lot of presence of police.  Price of food and water was untenable.  WSF presented option to make money to vendors–3-4x normal price.  Not open to competition.  Only those who paid for stall could sell food.  WSF needs to do more to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.  Also need better explanation of what WSF is.  We apologize for any convenience we caused, but we just wanted to be included.  Translation: translators paid $100/day, but equipment failed completely.  Saw first translation radio on last day at general assembly, and that is not good enough.

Man who coordinated Caritas tent says that the participation of the churches and “moral community” has been unprecedented.  We had more than 4000 churches mobilized.  We brought in Archbishop Desmund Tutu, and other churches to talk about human rights and culture.  This was the most successful social forum for the ecumenical community.  We thank OC for collaboration.  We have published 2 books, one by Chico Whitaker and Edward Oyugi, and we are going to distribute free to some of you.

IFAT member: spaces for solidarity economy and fair trade, and for first time opened up spaces for Africans.  Pickpockets: also happens in space, global phenomenon.  Don’t just pin this on Africa.  We are not outreaching sufficiently.

We need to pay for space, water, coffee.  Please contribute to solidarity fund.  Also, want concrete proposals written down.

Lunch, which cost 450 KSH, leading people to comment on irony of exorbitant cost.
Afternoon session (I came in late, so I’m missing some comments, but comments become increasingly redundant)

It was unethical to charge press to enter forum.  Also a shame that there were so many plastic water bottles–environmental impact.

Not African Social Forum, but a SF in Africa.  Many debates in which Europe & Africa finally came together.  Centralized workshops in slums were important.  Added an important dimension.

Need a code of conduct for organizers of WSFs.

Low point of this forum was the extent of commercialization.  Reversal of advances we’ve made.  Forum has been running deficits since Mumbai; we almost scraped by there but dramatically increased since then.  Need to look at how we raise and spend money.  This marks the end of the first phase.  Time to take hard look at charter.

Have one member of IC responsible for implementation of charter or code of conduct.

Africa OC (Edward Oyugi?) responds to criticisms of comercialization.  99% of food groups were non-corporate. Water: org told us that they would provide free water, so delayed plans until last minute.  When it didn’t come thru, at last minute looked for ordinary Kenyans to sell it.  Afraid that if you drank from tap water you’d end up in hospital.  Maybe that is what you wanted.  In terms of fees, original plans was for close to 200 Euros for northerners, and 1100 KSH for africans.  So, brought down from there (50KSH/day).  And worked with groups to let people come in for free.  Opened gates, and some IC members had the audacity to go and mobilize people to storm gates that were already open.  Secretariat went out of the way to set up tent that was then taken over.  Women who spoke earlier was speaking in name of movement that does not exist.  If I go to France or Brazil and look for poor black people to protest against IC, you’ll be first to complain.  We’ve accepted that mistakes were done.  If we let people in for free, more of you would have gone home w/o wallets.  Register as participants, not as delegates.  What does it mean to pay to enter to participate?  Integration of poor people into this process has been a challenge for everyone.  This is a political and organizational challenge for everyone.  We offered 4K & brought in 3K for free from slums.  We did say we would support those who came in as groups.  People are complaining about things decided in IC.  Venue was not organizer’s choice.  When IC met 4 months ago choice was Nairobi.  Members of IC interrogated possibilities of holding forum in Nairobi, and they decided to move here.  Some mistakes are result of over consolation.  Deep-seated challenges we face.  Don’t hide behind paternalizing attitude.  It’s not fair.

Break, and then complaint about woman being depicted as not representing her social movement.  Woman responds: Peoples Parliament is movement of the people, it does not allow people to determine who will represent.  Not in order simply because people cannot respond to issues.  But these are the same old tactics (of excluding voices).

Question of how IC should respond to crises.  IC will collect all suggestions and incorporate them.  Tomorrow evening will present those, and take next step.

Next discussion point: 2008 forums

WSF no longer event, but process and includes local & regional events.  Question of how to organize events, just one day or multiple days?  Call to everyone to make something visible.  You can do what you want.  How to do global visible day of action?

Looking for concrete proposals.  Question of meeting opposite Davos.  If we don’t occupy that space, someone else will do it.  Important to make interconnections.

Is this something we need to do just to survive, like muslims do something every day to survive?  Or do we do this to reach common goals?  Do we look where process is going?

Antonio: not issue of survival, but need to take step ahead.  If we unify, we could take great step ahead.  Possibility to join movements.

Are we changing organizing strategy of WSF?  We need to be transparent in how we do this?  One day or several weeks?  Slogan: another world is possible.

Moema: proposals are going to be put on website.  Will list many different options and activities.

Forum has its own identity, and we don’t just need to act in same week as Davos.

Chico: forum is process, and as such it can have different forums.  WSF is only one; polycentric is another.  Next year will be different–different forms and contexts.  Symbolic importance of meeting at same time as Davos–to show alternatives, and will help attract media attention.  Have diverse actions.  Need to prepare during 2007 for these events.  Use wsfprocess.net for this.

Chrisophe: argument for different date, cuz is end of Jan is not that convenient for us.  Will make it easier to select different date in 2009 (did I understand that right?  I’m getting tired...)

If we want to succeed, we need to enlarge process.  Need symbolic date.

Need clearer and simpler message than 'polycentric' because that was not very clear.

(I needed to leave before the end to catch my plane–issues not resolved, but others can fill us in.)

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