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WSF 2007 Nairobi Press Briefing January 23

(This morning’s briefing started late after a Kenya protest demanding free access to the forum. Here are my notes.)

Philip Thingo, youth Camp Coodinator (Kenya) Njoki Njoroge (Kenya) José Chacon, Registration and programme coordinator (Salvador)

Philip : we are learning as we go along. If food is too expensive, what do we do about it? We need to look at these problems and try to come up with solutions rather than just holding up a protest sign. (Also report on activities under way in camp.) I just wanted to invite you to the youth camp. (Cultural events).

Njoki: WSF is a open space, and I hope people understand the process and changes. The most important thing is what comes next with strategizing and networking. People come because of the spaces to talk about their issues and to network. After the 25th, the work continues. I have been telling Kenyans that they should be at the forum, because in my lifetime I do not expect the forum to return to Kenya. There are 52 other countries, and others should have an opportunity to host the forum. Before people complained that Brazil and India were too far away, but we

There are 2 gates where people can come in without payment. Gate 5 and 12. You don’t have to pay. We hope you pay to support the forum, because it is our forum. It is free for people to come in. People should exercise their right to eat good, healthy, inexpensive food. I can take you to where you can get good food for 20 KSH. I work on food sovereignty. We have wide range of people here, from 5-star hotels to sleeping on floor. People should be able to exercise their right to this range. Protesting restaurant does not help. Forum position is NO coke products, but when you have an open space anything can happen. People bring in Coke and sell it. We have to watch out for ourselves, otherwise our bags will talk off.

(Woman comes in from outside and says that a vendor had just been arrested, that press should come because forum says that this is not happening but it is.)

Jose: Costs about $50 to come in (for room, chairs, etc.). We’ve been asking for a year for people to own this process. We do not want to rely on donations, becuase that puts us in a compromised position. We need to own it. The only thing we could agree on is a North-South division, with people in North subsidizing people in South, and people from South subsidizing people from Africa. Fees cover about 35% of expenses; rest comes from other sources. We have discussions with missionaries and other groups who say they can not afford that, and with groups here who cannot afford 50 KSH. If you own and feel part of this process, one way is to do that. We decided not to charge 50 KSH at gate because it causes logistical problems. I have given away 2000 name tags to people who could not afford fee. Anyone who comes and says that they cannot not afford we give them a tag, because we want everyone to be identified. I’m tagged as staff. 500 volunteers, 150 translators. We are asking you to own the process, and one way to do that is to share the cost. Some people think we can own it, we can pay for it ourselves and do not have to rely on government.

Q: Yesterday Western Sahara workshop broken up by Moroccan agents. This happens at every forum–attend from embassy just to disrupt. Forum should protect from this. Also, we should have connections between forums. Philip: memory stick project, how do we remember and build forum?

Q: # of participants, and total deficit. Any support from local govt? We would ask govt to regulate prices, because they see the forum as a business and they double prices for attendees. Jose: I don’t have the number on the badges. Cost is $3M USD, but I don’t have a breakdown. We have registered 46,000 people. But there is another number, for example 2,000 people came in just in the morning but we don’t have details on them. I suspect about that number will come in every day. Philip: government support. We’ve had a lot of discussions. They could not give us a monetary contribution. But they give us other support. Logistics at airport, fixed roads, security. The dialogue has been there. Also knowledge sharing session. Kenya hosts a lot of conferences, and we needed a history–how to organize a forum. Tourism secretariat has helped us in terms of arranging home stays.

(Man: police arrests a man from peoples parliament.

Q: armed robbery of Indimedia radio station. More armed robbers around. Have you found anything to do. People are uncomfortable with armed soldies. Njoki: On security committee. Kenyans live with this every day. We had to balance between security and militarizing social forum. Overcharging in hotels happens in every forum, they see it as an opportunity. I don’t know what to do about it. Secretariat tried to centralized hotel reservations, but people make some on their own. Don’t know what to do about it. As for robberies, police take reports and have been very cooperative. But people do not want to report. As for arms, it is part of their trade. We can’t tell them not to have arms. We don’t know what to do about it.

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