The World Social Forum is probably the biggest annual gathering of social movements and grassroots activists on the planet. People from all over the globe who are fighting for social and environmental justice come together, once a year, to support each others’ struggles and to try to build a vision of an different kind of world. The WSF seems to be all about recognising that many of the problems we are currently facing on this planet – climate change, mass poverty, the unsustainable use of natural resources, human rights abuses, a million different issues in two hundred different countries – are the product of, or are being made worse by, the current global economic system. One particular, rampant brand of the-market-must-rule-all-and-trample-over-everything-except-for-when-we-bend-the-rules-for-our-
rich-and-powerful-mates capitalism (otherwise known as “neoliberalism”) has, thanks to various twists of history over the last thirty years, become the “accepted” way to run the global economy, with increasingly disastrous results.
This is the point where lots of people often cry, “but what’s the alternative?”, and where the World Social Forum might reply (if it could speak with a single voice, which isn’t really very likely, but go with me on this one) “well, there are lots of alternatives, we just need to give them a try; in fact a lot of us are trying them already but it would be a lot easier if governments didn’t keep flogging off all our vital public services to unaccountable multinationals and using international trade and finance mechanisms to screw over our economies in order to make a small number of people very, very rich”.
At least, this is my interpretation of it all, based on everything I’ve read and seen and studied on the subject (which has been a fair amount over the last ten years), BUT I’ve never actually been to a World Social Forum event, and am very much looking forward to getting a deeper insight into its role, and a better understanding of what this kind of international networking may or may not be able to achieve. I also want to make my trip as useful as possible for any activists/campaigners/writers/researchers in the UK who aren’t able to make it to Nairobi but wish that they were.
So The Plan is:
1) I tell as many people as possible that I’m going to the WSF, and try to find out what useful things I could find out / contacts I could make for people while I’m there.
2) You all give me suggestions for people to speak to or events to go to on your behalf in Nairobi. Obviously, if I get too many I won’t be able to do them all, but I’ll do my best to help out as many people involved in as wide a range of issues as possible. Stick a comment on the blog, or email me on dannychivers(at)wildmail.com.
3) If you could also send me an email saying that you’ll read my blog while I’m at the WSF, so that I know the whole thing’s worthwhile and I’m not just typing away to myself, it’d be much appreciated! I’m trying to get 100 people signed up. So far I have four. This needs to improve. You can help.
4) I go to Kenya and run around at the WSF trying to see everything, get a feel for what’s going on, chase up the issues I’m interested in, do some work for People and Planet, follow up any missions that anyone else gives me, and immerse myself in the unimaginable mega-multi-cultural festivities that will be going on every night. Whilst writing all about it in my blog. In five days. Wicked.
5) With help from comments, suggestions and discussion on this blog, I pull together a general assessment of the whole WSF process – can it live up to its ideals? Can such an enormous and diverse collection of groups, movements and individuals really pull together a coherent alternative global vision to challenge rampant free-market capitalism? Alternatively, I let Jess (who’s a proper journalist) do that bit in her blog whilst I go out on the town in Nairobi with all of the weird and wonderful people I’ll have met during the week, and try to figure out some good rhymes for Kenya. Other than Enya.
6) Elephants. They have them in Kenya. Lions, too.
You can read more about the WSF at www.wsf2007.org, and can see the extraordinary list of international groups who’ll be attending and the events that have been arranged so far at http://www.wsfprocess.net/.
Let me know what you think, and if there’s any way my trip can help you; please also let other people know about my blog if you think they’d be at all interested.
Thanks for reading,
More ramblings to come soon,
P.S. If anyone has any good suggestions for a name for this blog, I’d be interested in hearing them. “Danny’s Unnecessarily Long Ramblings About His Possibly Doomed Jaunt To East Africa, Along With Whatever Other Random Stuff Happens To Catch His Attention At The Time” doesn’t quite have the right ring to it.