• The Dakar-WSF in the Wake of the Revolutions: The Maturing of the African Process

  • By Walter Baier | 14 Feb 11 | Posted under: Social Forums
  • Evaluating an event of events such as the World Social Forum is one, proves difficult at times. Therefore the conclusions drawn by the International Council on 12-13 February at its meeting in Dakar can only be ones for the time being.

    Among the participants of the meeting the unanimous opinion was that the historical dimension of the second World Social Forum on African soil is determined by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Thus the second day of the session was introduced by a report given by Abdeljelil Bédoui, university professor, advisor to Tunisian trade unions and participant in the movement against Ben Ali. Samir Amin and Mamdouh Habashi provided reports about the current developments in Egypt. 

    A first review of the Social Forum itself was given by Taoufik Ben Abdallah and Demba Moussa Dembele on behalf of the Senegalese Organisational Committee. Up to 30,000 people took part in the impressive and colourful opening march of the Forum, in the course of which Bolivian President Evo Morales spoke to the participants. The strong national and regional mobilisation before the Forum was emphasised. Thus, caravans from Mali, Cameroon, Guinea, Eastern Africa, Niger and Nigeria gathered thousands of participants on their way to Dakar and informed hundred thousands of people about the Forum. An important innovation was “WSF Extended”, which opened up a new space to the process with more than 200 activities being linked up electronically (please refer to: http://openfsm.net/projects/wsf-extended/project-home). This mobilisation eventually contributed to a strong presence of the Forum in Western African media. And indeed, the Forum was very visible in a number of ways in the megacity of Dakar itself.

    Serenity, Improvisation, Solidarity

    On the other hand the local organisers had to report a de facto breakdown of the Forum’s infrastructure on the very first day. The reason for this was the withdrawal, politically motivated and announced at short notice, of the Cheik Anta Diop University from its commitment to serve as a venue for the event. With African equanimity, extraordinary improvisations and the solidarity of the participants this crisis could be successfully managed and the majority of the scheduled 700 events could take place, partly in tents that were swiftly put up. This also concerned the majority of the seminars, workshops and convergence assemblies prepared by transform! europe.

    Therefore Taoufik Ben Abdallah could in the speech he held in the final assembly (“Assembly of Assemblies”) before thousands of participants recapitulate that the World Social Forum gave expression to the maturing process of the African process.

    A maturing of the process on a general scale was also the point talked about in the report of the strategic commission during the International Council. So, in the period since the last WSF in Belem (Pará, Brazil) in 2009, more than 55 national, regional and thematic forums have taken place, which identified themselves as part of the WSF-process, thus contributing to its global dimension. Politically speaking, it was remarkable that there was a significant increase of forums in the Maghreb/Mashriq area.

    Roadmap until 2013

    In the end, the International Council defined the road map for the further development of the WSF-process. The next major mobilisation of the alter-globalisation movement will take place in Paris in May at the occasion of the G-8-Summit. For the same temporal context the next meeting of the IC will be prepared.

    In January 2012, the Earth Summit (Rio+20) will take place in Rio de Janeiro, parallel to which the Brazilian social movements will be mobilising for a Summit of the Peoples, in which also the WSF will take part.

    Finally, in Dakar, also the debate about the venue of the next World Social Forum which is to take place in 2013 was a point of discussion. The government of Rio Grande do Sul and the municipality of Porto Alegre announced their invitation to host the Forum. At the same time, representatives of the Brazilian movements suggested the next World Social Forum to take place in Europe. However, the suggestion meets with currently unconquerable obstacles due to the visa-regime prevailing in Europe. Moreover, also political objections were uttered to moving the Forum to the North.

    In the weeks to come the debate will be summarised, to be continued at the Paris meeting of the International Council.

    For further information, please refer to: http://fsm2011.org/ and www.forumsocialmundial.org.br/

    Activities at the WSF hosted, co-organised or supported by transform! europe

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