With 90.000 participants, the World Social Forum was one of the biggests meetings in the history of western Africa. The Forum was marked by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Kontext TV has collected voices from North African activists and talked with Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International and winner of the Right Livelihood Award, about the inspiring effects of the revolutions.
Wangui Mbatia: You actually come to the World Social Forum and you actually find you’re not crazy and the others are even more crazy than you are.
Mamdouh Habashi: Long live the Egyptian Revolution!
Susan George: Ten years in historical terms are nothing. This is something that has never been tried before.
Nicola Bullard: It has created the only global space which is ours. So I think it is something that we have to defend very strongly.
Fabian Scheidler: Welcome to Kontext TV. Our broadcast today is dedicated to the World sSocial Forum which took place in Dakar, Senegal, from 6th to the 11 of february. 90.000 people participated in the event according to the organizers. Kontext TV was in dakar, to ask participants, activists, intellectuals and organizers, for what cause they are fighting and what the biggest meeting of social movements in the world means to them.
David Goeßmann: The first Forum took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 10 years ago, with the slogan „Another world is possible“. It was meant as an alternative to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, where business leaders, politicians and military leaders are gathering every year in an elitist circle. Since then, the World Social Forum has become for many people around the globe a symbol of hope for a more equitable world. We are taking this tenth anniversary as an opportunity, to look back to the origins of the forum, to draw a critical balance and and to look forward to the future of the forum.
Fabian Scheidler: The Forum in Dakar was marked by an impressing participation of African organizations and activists. But also thousands of participants from Latin America, Europe, Asia and North Amercia joined the forum. The opening demonstration with 80.000 particpants was the biggest in Senegal for decades. We asked some participants, why they came to the forum and what they expect from it.
WSF Participant: We are here to defend humanity. Because the world, as it is, is inequitable. The rich are taking from the poor. What should belong to everybody, is possessed by a minority. That’s why we are here: to have our voices heard, in order to make something move in the head of those in government, so they realize that things have to change. People watching television and others should understand that we CAN live in a different way, that another world IS possible. But now, our world is governed by a small group of people. The large population is left outside, the world is reduced to presidents, minsters and the like.
WSF Participant: I have attended the forums in Nairobi and Brazil. People get more and more interested. And this makes our governments think. They cannot ignore social movements anymore. They can’t.
WSF Participant: I'm working with the rain forest movement which is an international network that tries to secure the livlihood of forest peoples and all the populations that are threatened by big projects like mining, big dams, tree monoculture plantations, that threaten their livlihood. So we have been very active in Latin America with supporting local struggles especially against tree plantations. There is a lot of tree monoculture plantations in Latin America that have expelled people from their lands. Continuous expelling. And we have little contact in Africa until the moment. But there were many big problems in Africa like oil-palm plantations are expanding a lot. Especially promoted by European companies in the last few years because in the need of European countries to have agrofuels to mix it with the gasoline and the diesel. I think the forum is always an event - it's the third time I participate - where you get a lot of energy from many many people who want to transform this world to struggle against the system. And that's very important that we are motivated to continue this struggle. And on the other hand we want to use the forum to strengthen contact networks to make new contacts. So besides these activities we have a lot of other meetings of networks. There were several organisations that we always wanted to meet in Africa and they are here. So we tried to make contact then after the forum being able to do more things together.
David Goeßmann: The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia had a significant impact on the forum. At a demonstration in front of the Egyptian embassy in Dakar, people demanded Mubarak to step down and affirmed their solidarity with the struggle for liberty of the Egyptian people.
David Goeßmann: Minutes before the final event, the news of Mubarak’s resignation spread.
Mamdouh Habashi: I'm now very proud to announce to you the victory of the brave Egyptian people in the battle for democracy. Nevertheless this only one but big step on the long way to achieve the demands of the revolution. Because we just started. The main aim of this revolution is to bring down the regime and not only Mubarak. It's not a colored revolution. It's not a green one or orange one or whatever. This is very clear a anti imperalist revolution. That is the way why the Americans and the administrations and all the states of the European Community have reacted at that way. In the beginning they were supporting the regime and after a while it was clear that they have made a double standard policy with Egypt for more than thirty years alone. Long live the Egyptian Revolution!
Fabian Scheidler: A Tunisian delegation was present as well. Aside from celebrating the resignation of Ben Ali and searching for political alternatives, there was also a discussion about the economic background of poverty in Tunisia, which was one of the root causes for the revolution. In the countryside, unemployment amongst young people reaches up to 60 per cent. Especially the responsability of western governments supporting Ben Ali for decades and of the International Monetary Fund which had pressured Tunisia into severe structural adjustment programmes since 1986, were debated.
Nicola Bullard: I think what happened in Tunisia an Egypt in the last months has really made a big impact. There is a sense that everything is possible. Right. If this can happen then there is still possibilities for all of us.
Nnimmo Bassey: I think for me what is most significant is what happened in Tunisia. Because how did it all happen? People did not sit down to plan, to applaud, have long debates on what to do. A young man was jobless, unemployed. And he decided to do an honest job to earn a living. And he was selling fruits. And then the government said you can't carry out this trade except you have a special registration and permit. It was a guy struggling to survive and he wanted to have a permit. And perhaps this guy was not able to obtain a permit and so he sacrificed himself by burning himself to death unfurtunately. And then this spontaneous uprising happened because of this sacrifice of one life. To show that people can respond to defend the dignity of human life by standing in solidarity with a guy who was struggling for survival and killing himself in this process is very instructive. To show that people value life. They value their liberty. They value dignity. There is dignity in labor. People don't want to be beggers. They want to work. they want to produce. And to earn a living. So if you make it impossible for them and they have no employment, you don't allow them to earn a living by employing themselves then of course a lot of people are pushed to the wall. So Tunesia is so emblematic. And I'm happy that they got so rapid resolve.
Tunesian Activist: Long live the revolution in Egypt, Tunisia, in all the Arab countries, and in the whole world. We, as Tunisians, are very proud that we were able to contribute within the World Social Forum to unmask the hipocritical discourse of the International organizations, who have supported and praised the dictatorship in Tunisia for its pretended economic achievements. Inspite of these pretended economic achievements, the Tunisian people has said No to the neoliberal agenda unmasked the hipocracy that is responslible, for poverty and unemployment and for the pillage and impoversihment of a whole region. We will continue our fight to pressure the international organizations to draw conclusions from these lessons.