Alliance Presence at the World Social Forum
Many Workshop facilitators of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World have participated in the World Social Forum since its first opening in 2001 in Porto Alegre. Insofar as the central idea of the WSF is to open places for dialogue, the elaboration of proposals, debates, and for the reinforcement of alliances and strategies, but as there is no attempt to draw up a common position for the entire assembly, the Alliance Workshops have in the WSF a privileged field to disseminate their proposals and expand their networks.
In addition, several Alliance facilitators have taken part in the organization of a number of continental and regional Social Forums (Europe, Palestine, Africa, Amazonia, Argentina, etc.). In particular, we initiated the organization of the Indian Committee of the World Social Forum, which will be held in India in January 2004.
The dynamics generated by the World and Regional Social Forums are obviously strong, but they are also still somewhat fragile. The diversity of the groups, networks, organizations, and movements present at the WSF is increasingly important, but the presence of Asians, Africans and Arabs, among others, is still too limited. Intentions and desires are not matched by the necessary financial means. The socioprofessional diversity is also increasingly diverse, but some sectors are still completely or practically absent (the military, company executives, religious leaders, etc.). The WSF themes (for the conferences and seminars) coincided extensively with those of the Proposal papers. The WSF organizers have announced their determination to encourage and open up more space for comparing ideas, for further discussion of the proposals and the means for their implementation, and for a solid integration of the cultural dimension in the Forum’s activities. There is still a way to go before the objectives become reality, however, and in this effort the Allies can play a very positive role.
Nonetheless, the Forums constitute one of the most important global meetings where an emerging civil society can seek its route. It is also a place for young people to rally (the Youth Forum brought nearly 30,000 persons together in 2003). And in addition to the Continental and World Forums, many local and national forums materialize on a regular basis.
The contribution of the Alliance to this dynamics can be very meaningful:
The Proposal Papers and the Charter of Human Responsibilities can be widely circulated with an significant magnifying effect due to the presence at such Forums of thousands of people and journalists.
The Alliance contributes methodological know-how, which has become essential for the Forums to improve the quality of the debates and proposals. In particular, the tools that we have developed—electronic forums of public debate, mapping tools, record and experience management, etc.—are all valuable contributions.
The participation of Thematic Workshop and Workgroup facilitators can afford a unique quality to the debates.
The Alliance methods highlight innovative visions and practices, with special attention to respecting diversity, which get the best out of a true cross-cultural debate. This contribution, which may seem rather obvious, is actually crucial because one of the major dangers of this kind of dynamics is to be hindered by intolerant and exclusive visions and practices. We are convinced that our presence and our participation contribute substantially to encouraging a democratic and respectful debate. This constitutes, in our eyes, a major challenge.
We encourage the development of an open and multiple forum of the world civil society, where ideas, proposals, projects, and alliances are born and are strengthened. This aspect, as others, remains fragile. In the present period, marked by the increasing danger of war, armed confrontation, and economic globalization that aggravates inequalities, we feel that it is important to avoid processes of simplification and of closure with no perspective. The WSF contributes to keeping perspectives open.