The World Social Forum opened with a collective march the 26th of March 2013, the march brought together thousands of locals and internationals crowding the Tunisian streets. The WSF is taking place for the first time in an Arab country: Tunis, activities are organized in Al Manar University.
The slogan of the Tunis world social forum but together Dignity (KARAMA) one of the main slogans of the Tunisian revolution and the traditional slogan of the WSF: “Another World is Possible.”
The World Social Forum is “… an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neoliberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among Mankind and between it and the Earth…
This year the WSF was full of life with activists from all over the world including many Tunisians. Activists marched with colorful banners and energetic slogans through the Tunisian capital. According to the organizers, approximately 30,000 individuals from 4,500 organizations participated in the five-days event, which discussed topics ranging from women rights, indigenous people’s rights, the Arab world after the revolution to climate change and the environment.
I myself was part of an Iraqi delegation organized by the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI). The Iraqi delegation joined the forum and plans to launch the process of an Iraqi Social Forum in Baghdad later this year. Around 35 Iraqis from all over Iraq including Iraqi Kurdistan’s region and the rest of the country are part of the delegation. Getting all Iraqis to participate in the opening march as one group proved challenging. Which slogans should they call for? Is it about Kurds rights, or is it about condemning both the occupation and the years of dictatorship in Iraq, or shouting against the sectarian government in the Green Zone in Baghdad! It took a few steps before all of them started shouting for free and civil state in Iraq that respects Kurdish and Arab and other minorities rights. Iraqis went until the end dancing and calling for the rights of all Iraqis, shouting against the sectarian division imposed by political Islam in Iraq.
After 10 years of the US led invasion and all the destruction that Iraqi had in his recent history f, Iraqis are not yet ready to give up this dream of a civil democratic and anti sectarian state.
Being part of today’s march felt like walking through the world on foot. You could walk through delegations from Nigeria, then move to Brazil, within meters, to Palestine, Libya to Egypt, France and USA, young women were at the center of the march, chanting and calling for democracy, the end to dictatorships and solidarity with the people’s revolutions. From trade union to Palestinian freedom, to access to water as a public good and rights of indigenous people, it was a preview of the week ahead of us.
You could feel the energy and enthusiasm since the beginning of the forum. As you walk you could hear people’s conversations ranging from discussions about climate change to challenging existing economic structures and rethinking the financial system. Others talked about the way we relate to water and the environment, challenging occupation in Palestine and the extractivist models that see nature as a commodity, displacing indigenous populations and killing nature and forest for the sake of development. The forum is an alternative to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The Social Forum “is held by members of the global justice movement who come together to coordinate global campaigns, share and refine organizing strategies, and inform each other about movements from around the world and their particular issues.”
The rest of the week consist of self organized sessions by organizations and activists working on social justice issues all over the globe. There are cultural events; concerts and people also use the space for networking and connecting with other movements working on the same issues.
This is a show of solidarity with the Tunisian people, in the wake of a new struggle to stand against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that has also been knocking on doors in both Tunisia and Egypt, “assisting” the governments in both countries to introduce their standard set of “structural reforms”.
Mabrouka Mbarek, a member of Tunisia’s constituent assembly, told Al Jazeera: “We need to have economic reforms that work for the people, not for the global economy”. “It seems they have forgotten our history.” In addition to its existing public debt, Tunisia is currently negotiating a $1.78 bn loan from the IMF to help keep its economy afloat, and the newly formed government may sign the agreement this month. Yet the reforms the IMF is pushing the government to accept would, according to some economists, make life even harder for a population that so recently rose up in revolt over economic misery.
I hope that this forum will raise the spirit of the Tunisian women and men to stand against the global and corporate invasions that are masked under the name of of development and private sector investment implemented without public consent, and undermining democracy.