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24 March

At the IC of the WSF in Nairobi (1)

Notes from the 1st day of the meeting of the International Council (IC) of the World Social Forum in Nairobi from 19th to 22nd March
[World Social Forum] 

The meetings of the commissions and the plenary sessions take place at the   Archbishop Desmond Tutu Ecumenical Centre in Nairobi from 19th to 22nd March. It is a huge conference and training centre of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC).  

The ca 100 IC-members and observers from various international organisations and networks begun the day by decising whether to attend the  Methodology Commission or the Expansion Commission. The majority went to the Methodology Commission.  

Ca fifteen persons, I among them,  chose  to attend the Expansion Commission, where I stayed until 5.3. pm (thereafter I participated in the Communications Commission).  


The meeting the Expansion Commission was opened and chaired by Moema Miranda from the Brazilian IBASE Institute. According to her and Roberto Savio (from the Inter Press Service, IPS), the work of Expansion Commission (started a couple of years ago at the IC in Miami)  is about expanding the WSF process in general, while at the same time it should strike a balance between the great variety of the participating organisations and movements. Currently, one of the priorities  is to achieve an  increased participation from the USA, Africa and Asia, while Europe and Latin America are seen as being already relatively well represented.

The Expansion Commision also deals with balancing the representation in the International Council, and , more precisely, it is the body which recommends acceptance of new members to the IC.


  Onyinga Oloo and Oduor Ongwen from the Kenyan organising committee of the Nairobi WSF (2007) reported on the ongoing expansion of the WSF in Africa.  People's Caravans will set out to  the WSF in Nairobi from Capetown in South Africa and  Bamako in West Africa. The idea is to do political mobilization and have new buses join the caravans at each stop.
 Also being planned is a Peace March from Mogadishu (Somalia) to Nairobi.
 Oloo and Oduor also told about the replication of (local) social forums in the slums of Nairobi, such as the Uruma Social Forum, where he security of tenure (of habitation) is a major issue.  
 Human rights, the environment and the historical  issues of land are main areas of concern in Kenya, where an estimated  7 percent of the population are refugees.

 According to Oloo and Oduor, the orgaisers of the Nairobi WSF have succeded in involving the government of Kenya in  the preparations of the event. The (new) minister of planning is informed, and a representative from the ministry participates on the logistics subcommittee. The Mayor of Nairobi is also on board. A formal request for funding has been submitted, and  to the government is expected to grant at least a symblic sum to the WSF when the state budget is decided on in  June.
 An ecumenical gathering here at the AACC   decided one week ago to  support the Nairobi WSF 2007 and the Caravans.
However, fundraising for the WSF in Nairobi is still only starting. There has not yet been much progress with the international agencies, Oduor said.

  Several participants in the discussion noted the failure of the Bamako WSF (Jan 2006) to attract the attention of the media, and, by consequence,  the need to inform widely and effecteively about the WSF in Nairobi from now o.  Especially, the huge African diaspora in Europe should be engaged in spreading news and information of the event. Emigration-immigration is common issue for Africans and Europeans and should be at the centre of concern before and at the WSF in Nairobi.
Obviously, the People's Caravans will provide good media opportunities, but we need  to be sensible about the role of the funders in this mobilisation, Amit Sen Gupta from WSF India said.


 The IC meeting in Utrecht (March 2005) decided to map the composition of the present IC. Moema Miranda presented the results of the survey to the Expansion Commission and circulated a copy of the statistical tables and diagrams, which will later be made available via the internet. Note: The numbers I give below are uncertain, as I do not have the results of the questionnaire at hand.

Until today, only 39  IC-member organisations of ca 129 IC-members all in all  have  filled in their answers and returned  the questionnaire. Among them is NIGD.  9 are based in Latin America, 4 in the USA, 2 in Africa, 4 in Asia, 0 in the Middles East and 14 in Europe. The rest are not based in any particular continent or region.

The participation statistics reveal that 7 IC-members have participated i all the 12  IC meetings which have been held (NIGD is one of these); 9 in 11, 8 in 10, 6 in 9, 9 in 8, 8 in 3,  17 in 2,  and 17 in 1 meetings. 18  IC members have so far not participated in a single meeting of the IC.

The Expansion Commission  decided to :
- send a letter to the IC-members who only have participated in 0-2 meetings, asking them whether they wish to remain members;
- go on with the questionnaire as it (without changing its content) ;
- recommend that IC-members who fail to return the questionnaire  after 1 month would not be able to attend the next IC meeting.


Teivo Teivainen's message (previously circulated on the NIGD list) calling for more openness and transparence of the work of the IC had reached at least some members of the Expansion commission on beforehand. I confirmed my support of it, and I added  some points of view about how we should cooperate with librarians and libraries in order to secure the availability and accessibility of information about the WSF and its IC. It was decided that the commission should return the questions of information and openness in the afternoon, but that did not happen. One is tempted to remark that the commission is totally overwhelmed already by the task of keeping track of itself and its own work. Thus it is simply incapable of informing  others about it. ( By sending you these notes, I for one wish to prove that remark wrong.)

Roberto Savio's constatation that " The IC is objectively responsible for the organisation of the WSF" was not met with any objection. There is, however, much uncertainty about the composition and role of the International Council. How many members do we want it to have, e.g. 100 or 1000 (not even the order of magnitude has been fixed).  To what extent can it function without written rules? Should it applie rules of "qualified consensus" ( e.g. 10 percent of members needed to block a decision)  

The IC and the WSF badly need a  "road map" for its future expansion. However, the Expansion Commission had to constate that more discussions and analyses will be needeed before it can present the precise proposals which would form the essence of such a road map. Once more, a subcommittee was nominated to continue the work until the next IC meeting. I suggested that Teivo Teivainen (NIGD's ordnary representative to the IC meetings)  would probably like to participate in its work. The subcommittee, then, will be  composed of Moema Miranda (IBASE), Roberto Savio(IPS), Olivier Bonfond (CADTM), Neil Coleman and Bheki Ntsthalinsthali (COSATU), Teivo Teivainen (NIGD) and Amit Sen Gupta.


The Expansion Commission then set out to decide about the 19 new IC-membership applications, one after one. 8 were not considered. 11 were considered. The unanimously recommended new IC-members were: Action Aid International, Habitat international, Poor people's Economic Human Rights Campaign (USA-based),  Vashudaiva Kutumbakam (India and Finland based int'l network, supported by NIGD's letter and, at the meeting, by others as well), Grassrot Global Justice Network, Kenya Debt Network, Sodnet (Kenya), PANOS (journalistic, West Africa),  DAWN (Women's organisation, Tanzania) , Forin (immigration issues, France based). Some of the applications were left pending for various reasons (not filled the application form, lacking sufficient support etc.).

Two applications aroused controversy, namely that of Askapena-Herriak Aske, a Basque-Palestianian-Venezolan network, and the World Progressive Forum, which is close to the socialist international. The application of Askapena was opposed by the representative of the international trade union movement ICFTU, who said that their members are of the opinion that Askapena is linked to ETA, and therefore, to violent actions. The application of WPF was opposed by Walter Baier from the network TRANSFORM, on the grounds that actors of the WPF, like Tony Blair, are currently waging war in Iraq.
There was consensus that both of these controversial applicants fill the formal critera for membership. However, it was not possible to overcome the differences in political opinion among the particiapants.

I left the meeting of the Expansion commission before it ended, in order to participate in the meeting of the communications commission.  Afterwards, I heard that  the Expansion commission had finanlly decided to recommend acceptance of Askapena and WPF, while at the same time pointing out that their applications had been opposed.

As for the solidarity fund (to help IC-members from the South to cover the travel expenses for attending IC meetings), it was decided that 3 meetings of the IC should be planned in advance, to allow proper budgeting.


Roberto Savio, the chair of the Communications commission, opened by calling it an exercise for masochists.  The main purpose of this meeting would have been to discuss the media plan of the Nairobi WSF. Funding for the realisation of such a plan are presently  being  raised in Italy. However, the media plan for the  Nairobi WSF could not be much discussed in the absence of the Africans who are, or will be responsible, for that plan and its execution. In addition to Roberto Savio, the participants in the meeting were Norma Fernandez (secretary), Oded Grajew (from Brazil), Esther Obachi (secretary of the Kenya Library Association; observer) and myself.

For Esther Obachi and myself the meeting was, anyway, a good opportunity to present and explain our plans about involving libraries and librarians in the WSF-process. (See  my leaflet  about the WSF and libraries, which I have distributed to several IC-members and observers.)

 Our plans  include, more precisely, the training of East African librarians to participate in the WSF in Nairobi and to produce a documentation thereof in their libraries.
Our plans were well received and supported. Roberto Savio asked Esther Obachi and myself to obtain a list of libraries from IFLA with email addresses. The WSF secretariat in Brazil is ready to provide documentation about the previous WSF:s to the libraries once they know where to send it, he said. He also asked us to go on with our efforts to raise funding for the training courses and the documentation project.

 Greetings from Nairobi!

 - Mikael

Vem stod bakom 9/11 ?| Paradsidan | At the IC of the WSF in Nairobi (2)
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