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The 2013 World Social Forum will take place in Tunis, March 23rd to 28th

The International Council (IC) of the World Social Forum (WSF) met from 15 to 17 July in Monastir, Tunisia, to discuss the new global social and political dynamics in the emergence of resistance movements in different parts of the world, organization of the next edition of the WSF and the future of the IC and the Forum process. On the occasion, announced the time, date and place of the next edition of the World Social Forum, which will take place from 23 to 28 March 2013 in Tunis, the Tunisian capital.

The International Council (IC) of  the World Social Forum (WSF) met from 15 to 17 July in Monastir, Tunisia, to discuss the new global social and political dynamics in the emergence of resistance movements in different parts of the world, the organization of the next edition of the WSF and the future of the IC and the Forum process. On the occasion, announced the time, date and place of the next edition of the World Social Forum, which will take place from 23 to 28 March 2013 in Tunis, the Tunisian capital.

Last year, Northern Africa was chosen with the purpose of strengthening the relationship between the WSF process and the new world social actors, as well the dynamics of the Arab world and its revolutions, which started at the end of 2010. For its next edition, the first choices were Egypt and Tunisia (first country to overthrow its dictator, Ben Ali), but the IC evaluated that the “evolution of the political situation and the result of the elections in both countries indicated that the situation was much calmer and under control in Tunisia, even though not yet fully stable”, explains Damien Hazard, member of the Abong executive board who participated in the meeting. “The election did not meet the expectations of the people who encouraged the change of regime, since it was won by the Islamists, and resulted in the formation of a three-party coalition government, which seeks support from the international cooperation and demonstrates to be open and willing to collaborate with the organization of events, including civil society events.”

He points out that the country aims at encouraging tourism to support its economy. Now, the political expectation revolves around next year’s local elections, in which civil society is involved. These elections were to be held in March 2013, but the government seems to not be fully prepared, “and the WSF being held in Tunis will probably influence on the postponement of the elections, as stated by the Tunisian Prime-Minister during a meeting with an IC commission.”

The events

The participation of new actors mobilized against neoliberalism made the IC meeting more dynamic and strengthened the relationship between the WSF process and these movements. There was a wide variety of participants and many of them were representatives of the Maghreb and Mashreq regions.

Representatives from other African, Asian, Latin American, European and North-American countries were also present. The voices of several movements were heard, such as Québec movements; Occupy Wall Street USA; Y´en a marre! from Senegal (which means That’s Enough); the Sahraouian people from the sub-Saharan region of Morocco; Tunisian youth; local artists; local women’s groups (and, notably, members of the World March of Women). Brazilian groups participating were Grupo de Articulação Política (Grap), CUT, Ciranda, União Brasileira de Mulheres, WSF office and Abong.

The debate on the organization of the WSF resulted in the creation of several work groups, formed by people from Tunisia and region, and by “international” representatives. Besides, two commissions were created: one to organize the next IC meeting and the other to analyze the process of the WSF, of the IC and its several bodies.

Preparatory Assembly

Besides the IC meeting, Monastir hosted the Maghreb-Mashreq region preparatory assembly from July 12th to 14th.  The Maghreb region includes Northern African countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and part of Mauritania and of Western Sahara (which is not yet recognized as a country). The Mashreq is the continuation of the Maghreb to the East, in other words, to part of the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. It includes the following countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine (not recognized as a country yet), Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Arab Emirates.

The Assembly started at the Fort Ribat, which was built in the 9th Century by the Arab people and is a symbol of the city. “The opening ceremony included speeches made by several local movements, presentation of young Tunisian graffiti artists, as well as musical presentations”, says Hazard. On the 13th and 14th, thematic workshops were held: “one of them focused on women’s rights, which allowed participants to address several issues related to the position of women in the region, their situation in view of the more radical Islamic movements (which are called ‘salafism’)”; the use of the burka (veil that covers the whole body, including the face); several violent acts against women; and the political role of women in the region.

A workshop on environmental rights and Rio+20 was held and included a round table in which Hazard participated. “I did a presentation on the political process and gave a summarized account of the People’s Summit. There was a debate on the access to natural resources and water, on the environmental issue in view of the current development model in the region and in the world, and on solidarity economy in the Summit’s process”, he explains.

After the workshops, debates and plenary sessions were held. In these events, the most debated issues were the current situation after the people’s uprising in the region; existing conflicts in countries such as Syria and Yemen; the political Islam; the situation in Palestine and of the Sahraouian people in the sub-Saharan region; the extractivist model; the peoples’ access to resources; violence and torture against human rights activists; and migration (mainly between Africa and Europe).

Hazard also points out that in the late afternoon of July 13th participants welcomed boats that arrived from Italy. These boats had taken the course contrary to that of Northern-African migrants. The event, which is called ‘Boat 4 People’, was a reminder of this problem, which is common in the Mediterranean region: “there are many, many migrants who try to get to Europe in small boats, which end up by wrecking. On the day before the event, a boat with over 50 people wrecked. Only two survivors were found.”

Simultaneously to the IC meeting, there was a preparatory meeting for the Free Palestine World Social Forum, which is scheduled to take place in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, from November 29th to December 1st, 2012.