- WSF 2011
1) What is the World Social Forum?
The World Social Forum is an open meeting place where social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, for formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action. Since the first world encounter in 2001, it has taken the form of a permanent world process seeking and building alternatives to neo-liberal policies. This definition is in its Charter of Principles, the WSF’s guiding document.
2) The Charter of Principles
The committee of Brazilian organizations that conceived of, and organized, the first World Social Forum, held in Porto Alegre from January 25th to 30th, 2001, after evaluating the results of that Forum and the expectations it raised, consider it necessary and legitimate to draw up a Charter of Principles to guide the continued pursuit of that initiative. While the principles contained in this Charter - to be respected by all those who wish to take part in the process and to organize new editions of the World Social Forum - are a consolidation of the decisions that presided over the holding of the Porto Alegre Forum and ensured its success, they extend the reach of those decisions and define orientations that flow from their logic.
1. 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 Humankind and between it and the Earth.
2. The World Social Forum at Porto Alegre was an event localized in time and place. From now on, in the certainty proclaimed at Porto Alegre that "another world is possible", it becomes a permanent process of seeking and building alternatives, which cannot be reduced to the events supporting it.
3. The World Social Forum is a world process. All the meetings that are held as part of this process have an international dimension.
4. The alternatives proposed at the World Social Forum stand in opposition to a process of globalization commanded by the large multinational corporations and by the governments and international institutions at the service of those corporations interests, with the complicity of national governments. They are designed to ensure that globalization in solidarity will prevail as a new stage in world history. This will respect universal human rights, and those of all citizens - men and women - of all nations and the environment and will rest on democratic international systems and institutions at the service of social justice, equality and the sovereignty of peoples.
5. The World Social Forum brings together and interlinks only organizations and movements of civil society from all the countries in the world, but it does not intend to be a body representing world civil society.
6. The meetings of the World Social Forum do not deliberate on behalf of the World Social Forum as a body. No-one, therefore, will be authorized, on behalf of any of the editions of the Forum, to express positions claiming to be those of all its participants. The participants in the Forum shall not be called on to take decisions as a body, whether by vote or acclamation, on declarations or proposals for action that would commit all, or the majority, of them and that propose to be taken as establishing positions of the Forum as a body. It thus does not constitute a locus of power to be disputed by the participants in its meetings, nor does it intend to constitute the only option for interrelation and action by the organizations and movements that participate in it.
7. Nonetheless, organizations or groups of organizations that participate in the Forums meetings must be assured the right, during such meetings, to deliberate on declarations or actions they may decide on, whether singly or in coordination with other participants. The World Social Forum undertakes to circulate such decisions widely by the means at its disposal, without directing, hierarchizing, censuring or restricting them, but as deliberations of the organizations or groups of organizations that made the decisions.
8. The World Social Forum is a plural, diversified, non-confessional, non-governmental and non-party context that, in a decentralized fashion, interrelates organizations and movements engaged in concrete action at levels from the local to the international to build another world.
9. The World Social Forum will always be a forum open to pluralism and to the diversity of activities and ways of engaging of the organizations and movements that decide to participate in it, as well as the diversity of genders, ethnicities, cultures, generations and physical capacities, providing they abide by this Charter of Principles. Neither party representations nor military organizations shall participate in the Forum. Government leaders and members of legislatures who accept the commitments of this Charter may be invited to participate in a personal capacity.
10. The World Social Forum is opposed to all totalitarian and reductionist views of economy, development and history and to the use of violence as a means of social control by the State. It upholds respect for Human Rights, the practices of real democracy, participatory democracy, peaceful relations, in equality and solidarity, among people, ethnicities, genders and peoples, and condemns all forms of domination and all subjection of one person by another.
11. As a forum for debate, the World Social Forum is a movement of ideas that prompts reflection, and the transparent circulation of the results of that reflection, on the mechanisms and instruments of domination by capital, on means and actions to resist and overcome that domination, and on the alternatives proposed to solve the problems of exclusion and social inequality that the process of capitalist globalization with its racist, sexist and environmentally destructive dimensions is creating internationally and within countries.
12. As a framework for the exchange of experiences, the World Social Forum encourages understanding and mutual recognition among its participant organizations and movements, and places special value on the exchange among them, particularly on all that society is building to centre economic activity and political action on meeting the needs of people and respecting nature, in the present and for future generations.
13. As a context for interrelations, the World Social Forum seeks to strengthen and create new national and international links among organizations and movements of society, that - in both public and private life - will increase the capacity for non-violent social resistance to the process of dehumanization the world is undergoing and to the violence used by the State, and reinforce the humanizing measures being taken by the action of these movements and organizations.
14. The World Social Forum is a process that encourages its participant organizations and movements to situate their actions, from the local level to the national level and seeking active participation in international contexts, as issues of planetary citizenship, and to introduce onto the global agenda the change-inducing practices that they are experimenting in building a new world in solidarity.
Approved and adopted in São Paulo, on April 9, 2001, by the organizations that make up the World Social Forum Organizing Committee, approved with modifications by the World Social Forum International Council on June 10, 2001.
3) What is the African Social Forum?
The first World Social Forum which took place in Porto Alegre (Brazil) from 25 to January 30, 2001 marked a turning point as well as an evolution in the relationship between those who govern and those who are governed as in the North-South relationships.
The world civil society which appeared with force in Seattle and in all the international events which followed, showed, in the capital of Rio Grande Do Sul, that it constitutes a social and political major force, vigilant, able to be organized and speak with only one and same voice, in spite of its diversity.
“Another world is possible” said this voice which, real clamour, rose towards the sky. It was for the happiness of damned of the ground that we went, we Africans. Overexploited, involved in debt and marginalized, our voices also are choked, our pain banalized, our fights blocked. But of the few fourteen thousand participants in the World Social Forum, Africa, although run hit by the neo-liberal reforms, was represented only by one of every fifty people.
The world social movement prints a new dynamics with the construction of the African civil society which, in its turn, enriches it and reinforces it with lived sound, its hopes and its vision. Under the word “Another Africa is Possible”, several editions of the African Social Forum took place in order to enrich and to reinforce the African social movement, to prepare the participation in the World Social Forum and thus to consolidate the world social movement. Several thousands of African organizations could take part in the dynamics and through more than one national Forum, regional and thematic ones.
The specific objectives of the Forum were:
- To consolidate the capacities of analysis, proposal and mobilization of the organizations of the African social movement so that they can fully play their part in Africa and within the world social movement,
- To build an African space of concerted development of alternatives to néo-liberal globalization, starting from a diagnosis of its social, economic and political effects,
- To define strategies of social, economic and political rebuilding, including a redefinition of the role of the State, market and organizations citizens,
- To define the methods of control citizen so that political alternation supports the expression and the implementation of alternative answers, credible and viable.
4) Charter of principles and values of the African Social Forum
After evaluating the results obtained and hopes aroused by the two editions of the African Social Forum (ASF), (organised in Bamako in January 2002 and Addis Ababa in January 2003), the initiators of the ASF considered it necessary to define a Charter of principles and values which establishes the political and moral bases of this collective space, and provide guidance for the continuation of this initiative.
The Principles contained in this Charter, which shall be observed by all those desiring to participate in the Forum and organise activities within it, are in conformity with the ideals that guided the realisation of the two editions of the African Social Forum and defined the new political and moral orientations.
1. The African Social Forum is an open meeting space aimed at deepening reflections, democratic debate, formulating proposals, experiences and articulation of efficient actions, entities and African social movements which are opposed to neo-liberalism, injustice and the domination of the world by market forces.
2. The Bamako Forum was a high point in the existence of the African social movement during which we agreed and proclaimed that « another Africa is possible. » This creed which is also our hobbyhorse shall guide us in the search for and construction of alternatives to the domination and plundering of the continent.
3. The African Social Forum shall speak as a continental body. Thus all the meetings that contribute to this process shall also have a regional dimension.
4. The alternatives proposed by the African Social Forum shall be focussed on the human person and opposed to the merchandising of Africa and the selling off of its riches within the framework of neo-liberal globalisation. The latter is particularly beneficial to the major multinational firms, rich nations and international institutions at the latter’s service. The Forum thus objects to the programmes and initiatives launched on behalf of the continent which, in fact, establish the domination of the financial, political and cultural hegemonic forces.
5. The Forum shall, more specifically, campaign in favour of an interdependent African integration based, on the one hand, on the respect of the rights of men and women , minority rights, democracy, the principles of a sustainable development, and on the other, on democratic institutions at the service of interests of the continent, social justice, equality and people’s sovereignty.
6. The African Social Forum shall bring together and connect civil society entities and movements from all African countries, but shall not claim to be representative of the African civil society or exclude from its debates political leaders, mandated by the peoples, who accept to make commitments resulting from this Charter.
7. Meetings of the African Social Forum do not have voting powers. No one shall therefore be authorised to speak on behalf of the Forum, no matter in what form, by presenting viewpoints claiming to be those of the ASF. As members of the Forum, participants shall not take decisions by vote or acclamation, nor approve declarations or proposals for action which bind the Forum.
8. Entities partaking in the Forum proceedings should however be able to deliberate freely during these meetings, alone or with other participants, about declarations and actions which they decide to develop . The world social forum shall undertake to widely circulate these decisions, through the means at its disposal, without imposing directions, hierarchies, censures and restrictions, but as proceedings of entities or groups of entities which would have assumed them.
9. The African Social Forum is a pluralist and diversified, non confessional, non governmental and non partisan space, which links, in a decentralised way and in networks, entities and movements engaged in concrete actions, from the local to the international level, for the construction of another Africa and another world. It shall therefore not establish itself as a governing body for participants during its meetings, nor shall it claim to be the only mode of articulation and action for entities and movements that participate in it.
10. As a meeting space, the Forum is open to pluralism and the diverse commitments and actions of participating entities and movements, such as gender, racial, ethnic and cultural diversity .
11. The African Social Forum believes in the power of democracy as the preferred channel for conflict renegotiation and resolution within societies and between States. Participants to the Forum shall undertake to strengthen participation and citizen control.
12. The African Social Forum shall reject any form of totalitarian and reductionist vision of history and the use of violence by States or any other social or political force. It shall put forward the respect of Human Rights, equitable, interdependent and peaceful relations among peoples, sexes and races, and condemn all forms of domination as well as the subjugation of one human being by another.
13. Meetings of the African Social Forum shall always constitute open spaces for all those desiring to participate in them, with the exception of organisations known to have made an attempt on peoples’ lives as a method of political action.
14. As a space for debate, the African Social Forum is a movement of ideas which stimulates reflection and the maximum transparent circulation of the results of this reflection , on mechanisms and tools of economic domination, means and actions to resist this domination, and on the alternatives that can be proposed to resolve the problems of exclusion and inequality which the current globalisation process has strengthened and aggravated both at continental level and in each African country.
15. As a space for the exchange of experiences, the African Social Forum shall stimulate the knowledge and mutual recognition of participating entities and movements, by specifically enhancing the value of what African societies themselves build in order to streamline economic activity and political action on human needs and the respect of the environment.
16. As a space of articulation, the African Social Forum shall seek to strengthen and create new national and international linkages between entities and civil society movements. The capacity to resist the economic and cultural impoverishment and dehumanisation process, within the continent and the globe, is emerging.
17. The African Social Forum is a process that stimulates entities and movements which contribute in defining their actions in the perspective of the creation of an African and global citizen, introducing, in the continental and global agenda, transforming practices which they experiment in order to build another society, another Africa and another world..
18. The African Social Forum is a process connected to other world processes aimed at building another world on the basis of the principles and values that we are adopting today. It is an integral part of the movement created by the World Social Forum. It shall seek to strengthen the solidarity between the movements and the entities working in Africa and those in other parts of the world.
Addis Ababa, January , 2003.