Press Release: Opening Up a New Chapter – South Africa and the World Social Forum.

by May 27, 2010All Articles

27 May 2010 – Yesterday, the 25th May, a gathering of trade unions, faith-based organisations, political and social movements and NGO’s gathered to discuss the possibility of establishing a South African Chapter of the World Social Forum. The discussion was frank and informative, and above all, constructive.

It was noted that in the past, seemingly insurmountable differences between our organisations had made the prospect of united activity appear almost impossible, despite the severity of the challenges that were unfolding. How was it possible, some comrades asked, that in many other countries, despite all manner of differences, chapters of the WSF had been established, and had successfully worked together? And what is more had led to important campaigns and united struggles.

What was shared by the meeting were the beginnings of an analysis of the current situation and the challenges we face as a whole, including the savage impact of the recession, continuing environmental degradation, the ever present threat of xenophobic and more recently homophobic attacks that weaken and divide our communities, the chronic levels of unemployment and poverty and the shocking and widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Internationally the challenges are equally pressing not least because of dictatorial government in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, but also elsewhere. The  increasing presence of the US military on the continent, and the ruthless scouring of Africa for natural resources by oil companies and others to serve the interests of imperialism. All of these challenges should make us all stop and think carefully about what needs to be done, and perhaps more importantly, how we can work together to combat these and work for an alternative agenda.

All of these issues and many more have persuaded us that building a South African Chapter of the World Social Forum is a project worth supporting and is urgent.

We appreciate that there will be differences between all of those we are hoping to persuade to become involved, and that we must not hide or dilute them. Being open about our differences, and being ready to listen and learn from them is not a romantic notion at times like this, but an absolute necessity. The crucial issue is, can we work together for change?

We have to acknowledge that all of our constituencies, social movements, unions, faith based organisations are not as strong as they once were. There has been a long period of considerable demobilisation, but there is a new critical space opening up. How we analyse this space, and what meaning it has for us requires much more discussion, but we are certain that it exists, and that we must grasp it!

Those in communities who have launched campaigns against the absence of service delivery have found part of that space, unions too, are beginning to use their collective muscle again to defend their members interests in that same space. Other organisations on equality issues, and HIV/AIDS are re-equipping themselves to make room in that space.  We are therefore issuing a call to all organisations that make up the constituency of the WSF to seriously consider your involvement.

The Crisis in (Western) Civilisation is the theme of the next global WSF in 2011. A South African Chapter could make a rich contribution to such a gathering and lay the basis for more consistent work here in our own country and continent. Business as usual is not an option. Doing nothing could be a catastrophe.

We have therefore committed ourselves to work towards a major preparatory event that will take place in late July with the purpose of providing an opportunity to discuss the establishment of a South African chapter of the WSF. We are hoping this will be followed by a South African Social Forum event later in the year, in readiness for the next global WSF that will be taking place in February 2011 in Dakar, Senegal.  In all of this work we have committed ourselves to an open and inclusive process, and one that maximises our interaction

This is not going to be easy, but we hope that you will join us and share the load. Another world must be possible.

For more details contact the following:

Mercia Andrews                           082 3683429

Sipho Theys                                    0825000811

Stephen Faulkner            0828175455

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