Home » Uncategorized » 2004 World Social Forum

Start DateWednesday, January 14, 2004
End DateWednesday, January 21, 2004
LocationMumbai (Bombay), India
DescriptionBackgroundThe World Social Forum began as a gathering of progressive activists, academics, socially-responsible business leaders and non-governmental organizations from around the world, a space in which they could meet each other, learn from sharing experiences, reflect on their own connection to the multiple dimensions of globalization, and explore new strategies for designing compassionate, sustainable and just social systems.

Since its launch in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001 as an alternative to the annual meeting of corporate leaders and government officials at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the WSF has emerged as one of the more interesting and important civil society experiments on the planet.

As Lisa Jordan, Program Officer for Global Civil Society with the Ford Foundation and member of FNTG’s Steering Committee noted:

“The World Social Forum has been one of the most significant global civil society events to occur in the last decade. [It] is the only global event organized by and for civil society… a unique international space for civil society organizations to work on a variety of issues to build alliances, and to develop social and economic alternatives to current patterns of globalization.”

Democracy and pluralism are the WSF watchwords. To achieve the highest levels of diverse participation and discussion, organizers have been committed to keeping the WSF as an open reflective space, without the burdens of having to create a global action plan or a single comprehensive document.

The WSF has attracted increasing large numbers of delegates and other participants over the last three years. The first forum in 2001 drew 16,000 people; in 2003 over 100,000 people attended from over 160 countries. The event has also provided a model for dozens of local, national and regional “social forums,” which have been organized throughout Europe, and in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.

World Social Forum India 2004

The next WSF will take place in Mumbai, India from January 16-21 2004. The India Organizing Committee will offer a space to organizations and individuals from around the world, and the process of organizing and holding the forum at the same time helps to consolidate and advance the analysis and networking of social justice groups and movements in India. WSF organizers recognize the importance of Asia and Africa to civil society efforts to influence globalization, and it is expected that holding the Forum in Asia in 2004 will enable greater participation from those continents.

The World Social Forum will return to Brazil in early 2005.

WSF 2004 has adopted as its principle focus: · Imperialism and globalisation · Patriarchy · Militarism and peace · Communalism (religious sectarianism and fundamentalism) · Casteism & racism (oppression, exclusion and discrimination based on descent and work).

The events planned for the 6 days are:

· Opening session on 16th January and Closing session on 21st January (Total 2) · 3 panels each day (total 15) · 1 dialogue / debate each day (total 5) · 1 conference/Public Meeting each day (total 4) · About 200 self-organised activities each day (total 800) · Testimonials, and open “spaces” for mass movements · Cultural expressions

Mumbai was a logical choice for the WSF 2004. On the country’s western coast, the city has a long relationship with colonialism and more recently with neo-liberal market principles, which has given birth to vibrant movements in trade unionism, Dalit (“untouchable”) rights, and feminism among others. It is also a cosmopolitan city geographically and culturally situated to handle the influx of the 75,000 Indian activists and 10,000 international activists expected to attend.

U.S. participation in the World Social Forum

Different types of organizations from the United States have participated in the WSF: U.S.-based organizations that work internationally on issues ranging from development to the environment; domestic organizations whose economic justice work implicates cross-border policies, especially in the arena of trade and labor rights; labor organizations; and grassroots community organizations that focus on economic or environmental justice.

In addition, nearly 100 U.S.-based funders have participated in the WSF since 2002, under the auspices of the Funders Network on Trade and Globalization.

Groups gain three things primarily – a deeper analysis, a stronger network, and a chance to develop new strategies.

The WSF functions as a “huge teach-in” where U.S.-based groups, especially ones with some existing exposure to global issues and campaigns, can connect the analytical dots.

“Whenever our member groups get exposed to grassroots organizing in other countries, relates Lisa Hoyos, who directs the California Coalition for Fair Trade and Human Rights, “trade policies and practices of multinational companies become more real and tangible because they are about basic survival issues for poor communities around the world.”

Environmental organizations have participated consistently in the WSF. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, for example, have treated the WSF as an “excellent space for reflection and strengthening of positions on environmental questions…The WSF… represents an important opportunity to discuss and develop solutions for environmental problems together with organized civil society and social movements from around the world.” (“Greenpeace participates in the World Social forum 2003”).

For key trade policy reform organizations and networks such as the Citizens Trade Campaign, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, or the Our World is Not for Sale coalition, the WSF provides an important opportunity for coordinating with global allies to push for more humane international trade policies.

Another grouping that uses the WSF as a venue for international work is labor. Domestic federations like the AFL-CIO and their international counterparts have a prominent presence in the WSF advocating for workers’ rights and solidarity. International development and advocacy organizations such as Oxfam and Action Aid support and are deeply involved in the WSF as well.

For U.S. constituencies focused on local domestic issues, the international arena is a logical extension of their work; they use it for example to inform and recruit allies on campaigns against international targets.

For membership-based organizations of low to moderate-income constituencies, however, venturing into the international domain is less issue-or policy-driven than constituency-centered.

A key network deeply involved in the WSF from the US is the Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) network, formed out of the participation of its core members in the 2002 WSF to “articulate the connections between local and global struggles, and to change the face of the global justice movement in the U.S. to better reflect the communities most affected by globalization: low-income workers, people of color, and young people.”

GGJ is composed of over 40 organizations that work with local communities, trade unions, faith-based institutions and student groups and is anchored by a Coordinating Committee of that includes the SouthWest Organizing Project, Jobs with Justice (JwJ), SCOPE/AGENDA, the Southwest Workers Union, the Tennessee Industrial Renewal Network, JustAct, 50 Years is Enough, the Environmental Health Coalition, the Southwest Network for Economic and Environmental Justice, and the United Electrical Workers.

For grassroots groups who are generally less-resourced and whose approach to international work is based on realities of poor U.S. communities, international settings like the WSF provide both strategic opportunity and historic challenge.

As a funder on the FNTG delegation observed: “The WSF succeeded in making that elusive local-global connection. The discussions were rooted around local problems but causes and solutions were framed in a global context. Furthermore, the process at the Forum was both orderly but allowed for maximum diversity. In comparison to United Nations meetings, the Forum was more democratic in allowing for multiple voices to be heard.”

But grassroots participants remember far more than their exposure to the human context of globalization. U.S.-based leaders and organizers gain transformative inspiration from hearing the strategies and understanding the organizing frameworks that seem more expansive, creative and militant than their own.

Mark Ritchie, President of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, explains. “One of the most important outcomes is the renewal and strengthening of many global networks of activists and leaders. With handshakes, hugs, and face-to-face meetings it was possible to reinforce the crucial relationships and connections that make these networks as powerful as many governments.”

Groups using the WSF to advance their understanding of global systems and possibilities need to do more than simply attend. To gain the most from the event itself, activists need to know enough before they go to determine their primary goals and prepare to pursue those; after the WSF, it helps to be able to debrief with others who were there, and with their own membership and allies base at home. Ongoing visits to new friends and allies, as well as engaging in ongoing strategy meetings have constituted successful follow up activities by past U.S. participants in the WSF.

Strong preparation helps U.S.-based groups enter the Forum with clear, specific outcomes in mind—i.e. specific groups to meet with and network or conducting joint activities or workshops—they are more likely to engender lasting and deep relationships. Though activists warn about being “too prescriptive” about specific outcomes which can inhibit the experience of such an expansive gathering, they suggest that participants come with one or two key goals that they can measure at the end, with opportunities for daily collective evaluations while at the Forum. Whether through report backs, or other ways to collective and popularize intersections of local work in a global context, these methods of reflection are critical for WSF participants from the U.S.

Funders Participation in the World Social Forum

Foundation officers, donors and other funders participate in the WSF for a variety of different reasons. Some see it as an opportunity to explore new ideas, maximize opportunities for social change, or scan their field (if one’s particular interest is in human rights, social economies, community empowerment or models of global governance and accountability, one can be sure that many of the most creative thinkers in the world in each of those areas will be at the WSF).

Other funders attend to see how the rest of the world feels about a particular issue, whether that issue pertains to peace and security or to attempts to move beyond hydrocarbon economies. For yet others, it may be because they want to discuss ways in which problems in Buffalo or Modesto are similar to those in Harare or Columbo, and to see if solutions that have been brought to bear in one part of the planet might not be appropriate and useful in another.

Many funders go to forge deeper links with their own grantees, and to help them generate new alliances across disciplines and geography.

In summary, WSF participation can be meaningful to different kinds of funders for different kinds of reasons:

* For international and domestic community development funders who want to understand better the role of social movements and cross-border/global organizing in designing development programs that address underlying causes of poverty;

* For grassroots or locally-focused environmental or social change funders who see, along with at least some portion of their grantees, the global dimensions of their issue areas and links to organizations working on similar problems in other countries;

* For funders of all kinds whose who see the gathering as a networking opportunity to observe and meet with grantees and their allies who organize sessions in the WSF.

“… this was a new spin for me — one I don’t hear in the heartland. It has caused me to reorient my thinking as well as to rethink my funding priorities. Also, it enabled me to meet — one stop shopping — individuals and organizations that will help me (and which I can help) in the future…”. (Member of FNTG’s delegation to WSF 2002).

Their participation has allowed funders to build a common analysis, in partnership with their grantees, of the underlying structural causes of community problems: the institutions involved, the flow of money, the constraints on democracy and other factors.

In short, participating in the WSF exposes funders to those who are developing new alternatives to current policies and practices that govern peoples’ lives.

“This experience has rekindled hope and energy in the possibility of interlocking regional and global processes that have the promise for a new politics of cooperation and vision for global democracy.”

Funders wishing to attend the WSF can do so on their own, or they can join FNTG’s delegation in Mumbai, from January 14-21. FNTG arranges official WSF delegate accreditation, hotel reservations and local transport, and background information and orientation materials prior to departure. In Mumbai, pre-Forum orientation sessions and local site visits are organized, and daily morning briefings are arranged to help in choosing workshop and plenary sessions to attend.

Funding the World Social Forum

The costs of organizing an undertaking as massive as the WSF are high. The World Social Forum is supported by a large number of institutions and individuals, including state and municipal governments and agencies, the private sector, unions, non-governmental organizations, solidarity groups and local, national and international foundations. By far the largest part of the overall costs of the forum are provided by participants, who raise and then cover the costs of their own airfares, lodging, food and local transport.

The approximate cash amount needed each year is in the range of $2.8 million. Of this, a little over one-third is expected to come in 2004 from participant registration fees and related services. European foundations, church organizations, NGO networks and other social donor organizations are expected to raise $1.2 million, while funding sources in India will provide $100,000 or more. WSF organizers hope to raise approximately $500,000 in North America.

If past years provide a reference, approximately two-thirds of this amount will need to come from one or two larger U.S. foundations, with the rest coming from smaller grants and donors, in increments as low as $3,000 or $5,000. Even such relatively small contributions have helped enormously, as each dollar contributed to the organizing process behind the WSF helps to ensure a deeper experience for participating organizations. Having enough money eases the logistics of setting up workshops, assuring translation, transportation and housing, supporting the disabled, and producing adequate materials.

If you would like to consider providing support to the World Social Forum, a comprehensive grant proposal is available from the WSF, and can be obtained from FNTG as well. Financial contributions can be made directly to the India Organizing Committee, by contacting Anannya Bhattacharjee at anannya48@yahoo.com, or the WSF India office at wsfindia@vsnl.net.

Grants or check contributions can also be provided through Tides Foundation: World Social Forum/Tides Foundation P.O. Box 29903 San Francisco, CA 94129-0903 For questions regarding payment logistics, you can contact Tanya Diaz at Tides at tdiaz@tides.org.

Funders are also often interested in supporting the participation of grantees or of other civil society organizations in the Forum. Travel and related costs for the tens of thousands of delegates and participants from the U.S. and around the world is decentralized, and funders can support grantees or groups of grantees directly.

For more information about supporting the World Social Forum or about joining the funder delegation to the India WSF from January 14-21, 2003, please contact:

Mark Rand Funders Network on Trade and Globalization Tel: 415-642-6022 Email: mark@fntg.org www.fntg.org.