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Entries : Category [ World Social Forum ]
Since the first WSF in Porto Alegre 2001, this is an open space for the transnational social movements and campaigns for justice and peace

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08 January


[World Social Forum] 

After the 3-day workshop in Dar es Salaam, we decide to pay a visit to Zanzibar. Getrude, one of the Tanzanian librarians, accepts to be our guide. She turns up promptly at six on Saturday morning, and we are off to the port which is crowded with Zanzibaris and tourists waiting to embark on one of the morning ferries.

    Adam's Exchange near the port of Zanzibar.
On our way from the Palace of the Omani Sultans to the Bububu beach, we pass by the library in the Old Zanzibar Stone Town. The library is full of visitors who read the books and the newspapers. Some of them, obviously students, take notes. This is the only point of activity of Zanzibar Library Services, which started 1989 with support from the Japanese Embassy, says Chief librarian Hamid Rajabu Juma. The Zanzibar islands have a population of about one million.

    Mgani Said and Maryam Mohammed at their desk, serving one of the 5700
    registered users of Zanzibar Library Services.
    Behind: head librarian Hamid Rajabu Juma. .
Consulting my own traveller's library, I note that in 1964 "armed African gangs in Zanzibar incited an uprising against the Arab ruling elite, forcing the Sultan to flee in his yacht. Some 5,000 Arabs were killed, thousands more interned, their houses, property and possessions seized at will. A revolutionary council, led by Abeid Karume, appealed for assistance from China, the Soviet Union and East Germany. Hundreds of communist technicians duly arrived, prompting Western fears that the island might become another 'Cuba'. On mainland Tanganyika, Nyerere, worried by the prospect of Zanzibar being drawn directly into the Cold War and anxious to exert a moderating influence, proposed a union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The union was subsequently named Tanzania" (quoted from Meredith, Martin: The State of Africa, Simon & Schuster 2005, p. 176. According to Bob Geldof, "you cannot even begin to understand contemporary African politics if you have not read this fascinating book". Which is an exaggeration, of course.)

    On the ferry back from Zanzibar to the mainland are many elders with
    children who return to school after New Year.


On Sunday, I flew from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi in the company of Rosemary and Esther.

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16 January

Hoperaisers of Korogocho

[World Social Forum] 

The two young men from Korogocho showed up punctually. I gave them the guitar. They played and singed. They are good singers. Real good. Therefore I might as well mention their names so that you can recognize them when you hear them later. Daniel Onyango is 19, Isaiah Kimani 18. There are other members of their band also, whom I have not yet heard singing or playing. "Hoperaisers" is the name of the band. They are about to release a CD, their first, I assume. "These are voices from the South", and "Wake up Kenyans", for instance, are nice new songs they have made. I believe the WSF participants will appreciate. The latter is in Swahili. "Another World is Possible", another of their songs, reminds me of "We shall Overcome". The Hoperaisers in the picture here, with Isaiah (holding guitar) and Daniel (on his left). Hoperaisers

We took off to Korogocho in a taxi. I asked Daniel to enumerate the slums of Nairobi. Here are some names to start with: Kiambio (we pass that on our way), Citycotton (we pass that one, too), Mathare (with perhaps half a million inhabitants), Kibera (the biggest: population ca 1 million; its roofs are seen from the way to the national park), Mukuru, Kawangware, Kangemi, Huruma, Kayole, Soweto (yes, another Soweto, not the same as in S.A.) and Mailisaba. There are also new slums which still lack names, like the one you see here in the photo Slum Without A Name.

There are many stories to be told from Korogocho. In fact, some 150.000 people live there, close to a dump site. The dump site looks like dump sites look, but it is enormous, the biggest of Nairobi. I will not show pictures of it. Between Korogocho and the actual smoking and stinking pile of dump is a nicer looking little valley where "many people have died" (Daniel), sinking into the old quarry (the "valley" has sometimes been a stone quarry). So the dump is, in its own way, dominating the landscape, which, in principle is beautiful. The dump kills people in Korogocho, of course, causing disease and cancer.

Korogocho, by the way, is not very far from the Moi sports stadium of Kasarani, the main venue of the World Social Forum. What do the people in Korogocho think about the WSF? I don't know much about that, but at least there are groups which prepare actively and visibly for it. Hoperaisers is one of these groups, for sure. "Koch-FM", the emerging Community radio station, is another (Koch = Korogocho). Geoffrey K Muriitki tells me all about it in his container, refurbished into radio studio. If all goes well Koth-FM goes live on Sunday. But they have problems with the transmitter.. They have fighted hard with the government officials last year over the license. At one point they had to arrange a demonstration within the government office. Finally they got permission to send on bandwith 99.9. Koch-Fm hopes to reach some 800.000 listeners, and it will not only send radio programs. It will also go out to the various parts of Korogocho (there are 9 "groups", that is, districts) to arrange discussions: fight drugs, educate on HIV, for isntance. a CR station can run only 2 ads per day, so it will not be a commercial radio. The Norwegian church and "Open Society" has assisted with the equipment. Koch FM.

Over the "entrance" to Korogocho, already, hangs a big banderolle which tells about the WSF and the Marathon from Korogocho to the city center (ca 14 km) which will take place on the last, closing, day of the WSF. The aid organisations of the churches are active here, not least the Catholic Church (St. John) which has done social work here since 30 years, building a school, a library, and the audience where Hoperaisers gave a concert the day before our tour (ca 5.000 yong attended, they say). Father Daniele Moschetti, an impressive figure with a wooden crucifix on his chest, wishes me "welcome to us". (Checkout: www.korogocho.org )

After the concert of the Hoperaisers, a stand has come up, where people can register for participation in the World Social Forum. How will it be to participate in the WSF? Will the young slum-dwellers from Korogocho find the researchers and activists who have registered so many activities for the WSF? The "final draft" of the programme of the WSF was released at http://www.wsf2007.org yesterday. The venues and times are not yet in that draft. Intersting to see how people will find each others and their activities. Here, to end with, a picture of the registration in Korogocho

registration for the WSF in Korogocho.

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20 January

What World Social Forum Aims At

[World Social Forum] 

(Nairobi 20 January 2007) . The opening ceremony of WSF 2007 starts today at  14 pm in the Uhuru Park of Nairobi. This morning, the  Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation printed my article (below), in which I shortly describe the project I am involved in here, and give some views about the social forum process.




What is the World Social Forum aiming at?
The World Social Forum is not only the world’s biggest jamboree, which occurs each or every second year in Porto Alegre, Mumbai, Nairobi, or another center of the Global South. The social forum is a form of intellectual and political activity, which resembles that of the educational institutions and the libraries. These are supposed to be, and sometimes they actually are, ‘open spaces’.

Thus one of the nine thematic terrains chosen for the Nairobi WSF 20-25 January is: “Building a world of peace, justice, ethics and respect for diverse spiritualities”. This could also be the explicit goal of a university or a library. 

The social forum is going on at many levels: local, national, regional, and “world”. It is a process, but it is not yet an institution. Should the social forum strive to establish itself as one of society’s lasting institutions?

The answer must be yes. The social forums aim at building a global society that could not materialize earlier, because the conditions for its existence were lacking. World social forums are not possible without world communications. The Internet, yet another ‘open space’ at our disposal, is the ultimate proof, but also a prime condition, of the on-going globalization of human society.

But we are not yet living in the global society. Imperialism and war are still the words of the day, as we can see in Iraq. Not to speak about the lack of respect for diverse spiritualities.  A hundred thousand WSF participants, or a million people in the various social forums around the world, might be impressive numbers, but they are far from sufficient. How to make the social forums grow and extend? What should the Nairobi WSF, for instance, be aiming at?

The openness of the ‘open space’ is informational. It means a capacity to receive and to deliver the social information, which contains the truths and the solutions arrived at together. The social truths and solutions must always be questioned and discussed; they are indeed always questionable and disputable. To guarantee the continuity of the form the social forum was given is, as Chico Whitaker (one of its founders) has said, perhaps the biggest challenge ahead of the WSF.

Yet more is needed: the social forum must achieve new mergers with those other ‘open spaces’ which were already mentioned above: the educational institutions, the libraries and the Internet. A much broader engagement of the researchers, the librarians and the teachers than what we have seen so far is needed if the social forums are to succeed in their aim to build global society. The journalists, too, must become part of the embryonic global society of which the social forum is the bearer.

Other key professional groups in the vast field of ‘information’, such as the developers of free and open software for computers, should also be mentioned.

One example of what is already being done in order to put this theory into practice is the pilot project of the East African Librarians.

Since a first 3-days ‘training the trainers’ workshop in Nairobi 2006, East African librarians are preparing for participation in the WSF, both as citizens and as information specialists. They want to start a documenting of the information that the hundreds of conferences and workshops of the social forum are producing, in order  to preserve it and present it in their libraries. And then the librarians intend to repackage and disseminate all this information for the use of different groups, including the marginalized and the information-poor.

Kenya Library Association has set up a webserver at the Kenya Educational Network (Kenet) to become the database of this pilot project. Like the Wikipedia, the server allows the readers to edit and amend the existing information and to create new pages. The WSF participants themselves, individuals as well as organizations, are invited to write about themselves, their projects, and their daily agendas during the Nairobi WSF. The webserver is found at www.wsflibrary.org.

This ‘information activism’ on the part of the librarians can also be understood as mobilization against the prevailing trends in the world economy and politics, which threaten the public library with extinction. The library is a public service, but according to the present power-holders, the public services should be privatized, that is, grabbed by capitalists. The library delivers as much information as possible to as many as possible without delay, and at an affordable fee, or gratis, yet current doctrine on ‘intellectual property’ prescribes that all information should be owned and sold on ‘the information market’. These neo-liberal (actually monopolistic) tenets form the essence of the general agreement on trade in services (GATS) and the agreement on tradable intellectual property rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The WSF aims at exposing and burying imperialism and market fundamentalism and to lay the foundations of world public finances for world public services, including the world’s public library. Mikael Book

Mr. Book, 59, lives in Finland and is a member of the Network Institute for Global Democratization (NIGD), a group of researchers, which is active in the World Social Forum. During January 2007 he works in Nairobi as a resource person in the pilot project on “Documenting of the WSF” of the East African Librarians. More information on the project is found via www.wsflibrary.org.





































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09 February

The Role of the Writer

re: Thomas Ponniah's Essay "The Role of the Writer at the WSF"
[World Social Forum] 

Dear Thomas (and all), below pls find some reflections, caused by your writing:

1. "To reformulate Gramsci in terms of the dynamics at the World Social Forum (WSF) one could say that all political activists have the impulse to write but for some of us writing is our primary contribution", you write But has it come to your mind that this would hardly apply to Gramsci himself? He was undoubtedly an intellectual, but was he "a writer"? Before answering this question one has to consider the fact that G. did not publish a single book of his own writing. He wrote, of course, a lot of articles and reviews for the newspapers. Furthermore, he was not considered an especially good orator. So in that sense, at least, he was "a writer". However, would it make sense to say that writing was his "main contribution"? In my view it would not, just like it would not be fair to appreciate  a Gandhi, or  still less, a Socrates on the basis of their writings (Socrates, by the way, seems to have left no writings at all).

One may ask, of course, if not the famous Prison Notebooks of G. plus his beautiful letters to his loved ones and friends, - did not those enormously influential essays and notes , and letters, in the end become his "main contribution"?

G. somewhere speaks of his own contribution as "fertilizer" - "Nessuno voleva essere «concio» della storia. Ma può ararsi senza prima ingrassare la terra?"  (By the way: it takes some extra courage to  look at oneself in the mirror of the history, speaking about  one's own contribution as "shit" which fertilizes the history.)

For whom did G. scribble all his fascinating (as it turned out after the war and the end of the Fascist state, when G. was already dead since a decade) notes in his notebooks? I would suggest that  he wrote them, first and foremostly, for himself.
 Of course G. had in  view the possibility that others would read his notes, and most probably he hoped that others, too, would enjoy them. But he could by no means be sure about that. We know, indeed, of cases where the writings of the political prisoners just disappeared. This happened, for instance,  to Altiero Spinelli, one of the founding fathers of the European Union.  
A revealing text, in this sense, is the beginning of G:s introduction  to philosopy. Or, should we rather call it his essay on how to write an introduction to philosophy. Here we have G. making notes, not for an audience of students of philosophy, but in order to set some  guidelines for himself (the presumtive writer!) :

"It is essential to destroy the widespread prejudice that philosophy is a strange and difficult thing just because it is the specific intellectual activity of a particular category of specialists or of professional and systematic philosophers."

2. "The writer" is very often understood to be a poet or a novelist, and thus somebody who is inventing a whole world of his/her own,   cementing, if necessary, the whole with more or less elaborate lies.  The philosopher also strives to understand, explain etc. the whole world - or at least a small part of the world; but how can one understand or explain the part if one does not try to understand the whole? -  and is therefore also, in a certain sense, a Writer. And, following Gramsci and yourself, one may constate that all have the impulse to write. Especially so today, when 2.5 billion mobile phones have already been sold, and are being used for the text messaging, in other words, for writing.

But let's forget about these considerations for the moment, and consider instead  our favourite Authors, who manage to spellbind us, their Readers, with their astounding books and writings!  Did you see them at the World Social Forum?

I once suggested to one of my favourite authors that she would go to the WSF herself to participate. "Does somebody arrange an  Asocial Forum ", she responded, "because in that case, I would rather go there". The sheer thought of going to meet 50.000 unknown persons from all corners of the world makes some Writers feel Angst, if not pure horror.

Yet, think of it: there are not too many Writers at the WSF. Why? Perhaps our writings are not yet good enough?

3. When you speak about the role of the writer at the WSF, I cannot avoid thinking of the Hoperaisers, a band of young men from Korogocho (they still go to school, if they can afford the fees and the schoolbooks), who are obviously writers, because they write their own music and their own songs, like Voices from the South, G8, and Another World Is Possible. Before and during the WSF, the Hoperaisers played the role of the Gramscian intellectuals, that is,  the role of the political activist, the writer, the organizer, etc., who helped to make hundreds, if not thousands of young people from the shanty-towns aware of the existence of the WSF, in the first place.   A week before the Nairobi WSF, I wondered whether the young slum-dwellers from Korogocho would ever find the researchers and more or less educated and well-organized activists from near and afar, who had registered so many activities for the WSF. As it turned out, one could see some positive efforts in that direction on the side of the inhabitants of Korogocho and Kibera. They came to the WSF, and some of them protested against the food prices there, for instance. Fine! Others, like the Hoperaisers,  sang political songs...

- - -

Who can "evaluate" what  50.000 or so people have being doing during a whole week, including all the conferences and meetings that were not necessarily registered as WSF-activities, although they took place in Nairobi just before, during or just after the WSF?

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11 March

Att grunda ett bibliotek

[World Social Forum] 


Att grunda ett bibliotek. Det var det vi sysslade med under World Social Forum i Nairobi i januari år 2007.

Den uppdämda, oförlösta spänningen i detta ord: Biblioteket!

Biblioteksmetaforen. Biblioteksdrömmen. Det fantastiska nätverket. Kort sagt internet.

Vi, som grundade www.wsflibrary.org var sjuttio östafrikanska bibliotekarier och några till, däribland jag själv, som är biblioteksaktivist.

En av de sjuttio har redan gått bort. Han hette Samuel. Jag kan inte säga att jag kände honom. Han skrev: "Dear Mikael, I support the revised version of classification, because it is clear; easy to follow and easy to understand. However, I am of the opinion that in order work to look orderly, there is need to arrange the 21 actionable themes in alphabetical order. Thank You". Jag hade gärna fortsatt diskussionen om klassificeringen av WSF:s aktiviteter med Samuel. Frid över hans minne!

Att grunda ett bibliotek är många stora statsmäns dröm. Men har folket någonsin grundat ett bibliotek?

Är folkbiblioteket folkets bibliotek?  Skulle det i så fall riskera att bli kallat för ett populistiskt bibliotek?

Flertalet av de sjuttio östafrikanska bibliotekarier, som deltog i pilotprojektet, var universitetsbibliotekarier. Att vara universitetsbibliotekarie är åtminstone ytligt sett en annan sak än att vara folkbibliotekarie. Universitetsbibliotekariens uppdragsgivare är universitetet;  folkbibliotekariens, folket.

Vi vill dokumentera socialforumets processer, hur ett världssamhälle blir till.

Blir det till?

Ja, bevisligen, tillräcklig dokumentation finns redan att tillgå.

Vad är den mångomtalade globaliseringen om inte världssamhällets tillblivelse?

Världens sociala forum kan anses vara ett bindande bevis, ett dokument, som visar att globaliseringen gått in i ett avgörande skede.

Och önskas dokument i trängre mening kan man leta fram WSF:s principförklaring (Charter of principles) från år 2001. Kärnpunkterna i denna världssamhällets Magna Carta, skrivet av nutidens Johan Utan Land (även kallad Den Globala Rättviserörelsen):  vi är ett öppet forum som vill motarbeta nyliberalismen.  An Open Space - ett öppet rum. 

Vi släpper alltså inte in Tony Blair, ty han inkarnerar nyliberalismen och den nyaste (pågående) imperialismen.

Nicolas Sarkozy får inte heller vara med.

Lästips för den som önskar mer information om världens sociala forum: en tidskriftsartikel som denna  kan tjäna som biblioteksguide; man läser och letar fram mer information. Använd länken "What is the  Social Forum?"  (www.wsflibrary.org)!


För ett år sedan upplät ett stadsbibliotek en hylla för smärre skrifter, broschyrer och lösblad om socialforumet. Där står nu WSF-hyllan bredvid utrikesministeriets hylla med information om EU!
På senhösten bad jag om att få framföra en önskan till chefsbibliotekarien:  skulle biblioteket kunna grunda ett webb-bibliotek för dokumentation av det sociala forumet?
Chefen sade inte nej direkt.  Men till att börja med ville hon ta reda på vad staden tyckte om förslaget.
När våren redan var i antågande (jag hade nöjet att tillbringa en del av vintern i Nairobi)  dök svaret upp i min epostlåda: "... bibliotekets  sidor är en del av stadens publiceringssystem och vi  på biblioteket kan inte göra annorlunda tekniska lösningar utan lov från chefredaktören för stadens hemsidor eller åtminstone inte utan hans vetskap.  Och ifall vi skulle låta göra någonting annat på hemsidorna än vad man i det nuvarande systemet tillåts göra, måste vi beställa det från WissenLifebelt,  vilket vore dyrt. Hos oss har vi bara rent informativ service på bibliotekets webbsidor.  Vi har t.ex. ingen service som förutsätter inloggning och inte heller några diskussionsfora o.dyl. som tydligen skulle skomma ifråga i det här fallet". (Det här citatet har jag översatt från finskan, varvid jag som synes har velat skona staden från onödig publicitet genom att inte nämna dess namn; och det namn på en  multinationell kunskapskorporation som nämns i ovanstående text är naturligtvis fingerat och varje likhet med eventuella företag i verkligheten är givetvis rent slumpmässig.)


Efter detta mellanspel kvarstår frågan: hur skall www.wsflibrary.org utvecklas vidare? Finska ambassaden i Nairobi stödde pilotprojektet med pengar (projektets bakgrund utreds i tidskriften Information for Social Change, vinternumret 2006-2007; http://www.libr.org/isc) och nu gäller det förstås att anskaffa finansiering för fortsättningen. Vi tänker vända oss till The Digital Solidarity Fund. Det ska väl gå vägen, om bara USA och de villigas koalition låter bli att atombomba Iran. (I så fall kan Biblioteket kasta in handduken.)

Projektet går ut på att skapa bestående länkar mellan bibliotek och socialforum (institutionerna) och mellan  bibliotekarierna och det blivande,  vardande världssamhällets medborgare (agenterna). För att detta skall lyckas måste visserligen mycket till. Men bli nu inte rädd! Vi planerar ju inte att göra någonting förfärligt som att starta ett krig på andra sidan av jordklotet för att behålla kontrollen över oljetillgångarna, eller någonting annat i den stilen. Det vi försöker göra är bara att grunda ett bibliotek!

 Just nu funderar vi som sagt på att dokumentera det sociala forumet, någonting som pressen och medierna gärna struntar i eller bara gör på ett mycket slarvigt och ytligt plan.

Vad menas då med att dokumentera? För inte så länge sedan var dokumentation, dokumentera, dokumentalist osv. stora begrepp ute bland biblioteksfolket. Detta påstående kan dokumenteras med en hänvisning till den franska bibliotekarien Suzanne Briets berömda skrift Qu'est ce que la documentation? av år 1951, ett verk som präglas av en omisskännlig entusiasm och framåtanda. Hos Briet framstår bibliotekarien i rollen av en skapande intellektuell, vars yrke består i att  samarbeta med och stöda de vetenskapliga forskarna genom sin 'dokumentation'.  

Nu kunde man ju tycka att bibliotekarien på folkbiblioteket (allmänna biblioteket) också borde vara en intellektuell, som samarbetar med och stöder alla sanningssökare och utforskare av verkligheten, trots att alla  inte alltid är särskilt vetenskapliga forskare (och just därför). Jag avser med andra ord folkbiblioteket och dess bibliotekarier. Men, för att nu komma med lite kritik: under den senare av hälften av 1900-talet och i början av 2000-talet tycks bibliotekarierna ha lagt det aktiva och skapande dokumenterandet på hyllan för att i stället ägna sig enbart åt ett passivt  ordnande och  systematiserande av informationen, utöver knegandet bakom lånedisken.

Det här syns tydligast i bibliotekets och bibliotekariernas sätt att förhålla sig till internet. Man anpassar sig, man gömmer sig bakom stadens ledning eller universitetsledningen, man spelar med som den snälla flickan, man vågar (orkar?)  inte ta upp kampen med Google... Internet är ett nytt slags  bibliotek, en utväxt på  biblioteket,  och internet behöver också sina bibliotekarier. "The library is a growing organism" - Ranganathan. Men den rangathanianska insikten om att internet faktiskt är en del av biblioteket  låter vänta på sig.

I Afrika kan man finna större förståelse än i Norden för ett nytänkande om biblioteket och för förslag om att  grunda nya bibliotek,  on-line eller inte. Att grunda ett bibliotek kan där kännas som ett steg i riktning mot världssamhället bortom Blair och Bush (och Putin, för den delen).  Här i Norden däremot har biblioteken och bibliotekarierna gått i stå.  De vågar inte knysta om världens sociala forum ens på sina egna hemsidor! Än mindre kommer de sig för att dokumentera och själva aktivt delta i världssamhällets tillblivelse.


Hur undvika att börja om från början varje gång man kommer samman? Chico Whitaker, en av sociala världsforums grundare, har sagt:  "In fact, the biggest challenge for the organizers of the World Social Forum does not consist in defining new and better contents that could lead to even more concrete proposals, but to guarantee the continuity of the form the Forum was given – a case in which the means are determinant for the aim to be reached." 

Det öppna socialforumet, den globala demokratin - hur ge dem kontinuitet? Det är tydligen frågan som vi försöker arbeta fram ett svar på.

Bibliotekarien skulle säkert kunna göra mycket på detta område.
För det första gäller det att delta, att samla in informationen från WSF, att  dokumentera dess aktiviteter och att bevara och presentera det för olika publiker.  En stor och resurskrävande uppgift som vi antagligen bara ser början på.  Fast å andra sidan är biblioteket  en väldig institution, en av samhällets äldsta och största. Det är först och främst en fråga om bibliotekariernas vilja.

Varje aktivitetsområde på WSF borde ha sina bibliotekarier, och varje enskild aktivitet - det arrangerades ca ett tusen konferenser, seminarier och möten under de fyra dagar WSF i Nairobi pågick, dvs 20-24 januari 2007 - kunde gärna också ha sin egen bibliotekarie. WSFs internationella råd, som består av representanter från ca 150 mångnationella organisationer och nätverk, har föreslagit en indelning av verksamheten i följande 21 klasser ('actionable themes'):

  • Water;

  • Political institutions and democracy;

  • Peace and war;

  • Housing and human habitat;

  • Gender issues and women’s struggles;

  • Dignity, human being diversity, discriminations;

  • Human rights;

  • Youth;

  • Food sovereignty, peasants and land reform;

  • Labor and workers;

  • Education;

  • Environment and energy;

  • Health;

  • Knowledge, information and communication;

  • Taxation, debt and public finance;

  • Migrations;

  • Trade and transportation;

  • Culture;

  • Transnational Corporations;

  • Children;

  • Alternative economies;

  • Ovanstående klassificering kunde sägas gälla aktiviteter, som världssamhällets  regering bör ägna särskild uppmärksamhet.

    Vilken roll borde bibliotekarierna spela i världssamhällets regering?



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    17 March

    World Public Finances for all and none

    [World Social Forum] 

    "World Public Finances" is an over-arching concept which needs to be elaborated together by the individuals and groups who act in the spirit of the social forum, in order to bring an end to the era of Neo-liberalism and the contemporary financial non-system. (1)

    At the Nairobi WSF in January, a number of participants met two times to discuss and plan their further work and cooperation on "World Public finances". It was mentioned there, and it has been repeated since, that we shall arrange a WPF-seminar in Rostock or Berlin (or some nearby place) in connection with the next G8-summit at the beginning of June. The seminar should be a step towards publishing an international pamphlet on "World Public Finances" in the autumn.

    Photo: Participants in the planning meeting on World Public Finances at the Kasarani stadium, Nairobi WSF, 22 January 2007.

    In my opinion, "World Public Finances" should become the theme, or at least one of the main themes, of the Day of Action which will be the substitute for the World Social Forum event in 2008, and which will probably again be arranged in various parts at the time of the Davos World Economic Forum.

    We are now all waiting for practical suggestions concerning the Rostock meeting, the book project (which was called the pamphlet above), and the preparations for the day of action in 2008.

    In the meantime, let me present some reflections on two complicated questions,  which belong (but how?) to "World Public Finances":

    1. Climate Change

     "Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year."(2)
    How does this relate to our concept of public finances? Or should we rather  ask: Does our concept of the world's public finances help "to avoid the worst impacts of climate change"?

    Undoubtedly, climate change is a public issue which concerns the whole world. It is a public issue in sofar as it has become part of the public sphere, that is,  the sphere of the common evaluation and decision-making. In reality, we have three large and inter-related areas of the common public sphere: the sphere of the scientific communication, the cultural sphere where the authors, artists and critics are fighting their battles(3), and then, of course, the political sphere, which is for us the sphere of democratic communication and deliberation.

    Now climate change has come up as a major reality in all three regions of our common public sphere.

    The British economist Stern is said to have put a price-tag on climate change. We could add, perhaps, that in so doing Stern turned climate change into a global financial issue. For climate change to become that, its "price" had to be evaluated and estimated in terms of money.

    What money is that?

    According to Stern, this value, is measured in percentages of the global Gross Domestic Product.

    So we may ask: are percentages of the global GDP what WPF is about? I am inclined to say yes, - and thereafter I would like to hear wise comments from Stern and other economists, about that strange measure, "the global GDP".  - I would like to know, for instance, how the pathological growth of the money trade -- its increase with two orders of magnitude during  the last 30 years --  is being reflected in the estimations of the global GDP? (4).

    Is it not obvious that "World Public Finances" is also about the "financial system" (or, rather, considering the pathological features of the present "system", the  non-system)?

    This last question is rhetorical. We are back to the inter-relatedness of the big issues and, by consequence, the need for cooperation and common action. The informed opinion of the economist and the financial expert is certainly needed, but that of the scientist, the politician and the philosopher is also much wanted. "World Public Finances" is für alle und keinen (for all and none). Should it not be recognised as a common goal of the World Social Forum, and the movement which sometimes sees itself as the global justice movement? That should be a burning political question.

    2. Military Expenditure

    The second issue I would ask you to tackle concerns the military expenditure, which is public because the military belongs to "the public sector" of the national economy.

    There is, of course, also much public debate and deliberation about the military expenditure. It is definitively is an issue, which belongs in the public sphere.

    Again, we have to ask: How does military expenditure relate to our concept of public finances?  Does our concept of the world's public finances help to avoid and get rid of the military expenditure?
    "The greatest taboo in the development field is the silence regarding the costs of militarism. Global military spending levels - stimulated by the war on terrorism - are now climbing back to the heights they reached during the Cold War. After dropping substatioally during the 1990s, now, some 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world's military bill comes to USD 1035 billion, and it is still rising"(5).
    Is this not what the concept of the WPF is about?

    To ask that question is, again, an exercise in self-evidences. However, there is a hard truth to be gained here, namely: "world public finances" cannot be only about the financial system or architecture. By necessity, we must also come to the question of the political constitution of a world with radically reduced military expenditure.

    "World Public Finances" is an open conspiracy (6) to replace the empires with a  non-militaristic form of government. One of the building-blocks of that new form of government is already at hand. It is the internet, the world's new public library.

    (1) About the "world Public Finances"-initiative, see http://www.cttcampaigns.info/otrosistema

    (2) Quoted from the summary of the STERN REVIEW on The Economics of Climate Change ; see

    (3) "...the art-work is the shining sword in the battle of the minds", according to one of the aphorisms of German art-critic Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), here quoted via http://burndenverdown.blogspot.com/

    (4) "The most common approach to measuring and understanding GDP is the expenditure method: GDP = consumption + investment + (government spending) + (exports − imports)". See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_domestic_product.
    - Consider also the following comment by the authors of the Stern Review:
    "The analysis should not focus only on narrow measures of income like GDP. The consequences of climate change for health and for the environment are likely to be severe. Overall comparison of different strategies will include evaluation of these consequences too. Again, difficult conceptual, ethical and measurement issues are involved, and the results have to be treated with due circumspection." Executive Summary, p. 9. (http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/8AC/F7/Executive_Summary.pdf)

    (5) Quoted from WARFARE OR WELFARE? Disarmament for Development in the 21st century. A Human Security Approach. The International Peace Bureau, Geneva, 2006., p. 31. The estimate is based on SIPRI Yearbook 2004.

    (6) This is a reference to a pamphlet by H.G.Wells. See Wells, H.G. (2005) The open conspiracy. Revised and republished as ‘What Are We to Do with Our Lives?’ in 1931. (Web edition by Rae West, accessed in July 2005),
    http://www.mega.nu:8080/ampp/hgwells/hg_cont.htm  - For some further comments on this book by H.G.Wells, see my article "2015: Political aspects of the public library", in "Information for Social Change" ISC 24 Special Issue: Libraries & Information in World Social Forum context. (http://www.libr.org/isc).

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    24 March

    Two Open Spaces

    [World Social Forum] 

    Greetings from Leipzig, Germany! I am visiting its book fair, which has been held in one form or another since the end of the Fifteenth century.

    To be more precise, it is my companion Leena Krohn who goes to the fair to present and represeent Datura, one of her novels, which has appeared in German translation by Elina Kritzokat. The German title of the book is Stechapfel.

    The Leipzig Book Fair makes me think of the World Social Forum of Porto Alegre. There are indeed many parallells to be drawn between these two events. The book fair, too, is really quite international. The publishing houses with their stands and personnel at the fair correspond to the organisations and networks at the forum. Both of these mammoth events like to be called open spaces. The thousands of authors who read froom their books and answer questions from interviewers and visitors at thousands of events at the book fair, are like the speakers and debaters who appear at the uncountable conferences and workshops of the social forum. But the similarities are less interesting than the differences. Why is the Book Fair not announcing that another world is possible, and why are the authors not participating with their voices in the World Social Forum, not to speak of the librarians! There are exceptions, of course, but they are of the sort that make the rule. The book fair, on the other hand, misses the voices from the global South. In order to have them, it would have to be arranged in Nairobi or Mumbai. The book fair is less international, less universal, more Eurocentric than the social Forum. But the social forum lacks the public extensions of the book fair. Where do the two meet? Where does the library meet the internet?

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    05 April


    [World Social Forum] 

    The "Institut für Wirtschaftsrecherchen (IWR) GmbH" in Saarbrücken may not be world-famous. However, observers of international and financial affairs have been aware of its existence since 2003, when it was founded by the Swiss banker and lawyer André Strebel together with the former banker from Luxemburg, Ernest Backes.

    The IWR sometimes has figured in connection with the news stories about the fate of the Russian Yukos Oil company and its (former) chiefs Mihail Chodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. In case the IWR was mentioned, so was probably Menatep, the bank behind the Yukos company.

    And the name of Ernest Backes is known to everybody who follows the development of the Clearstream affair. In 2001 Backes co-authored Révélation$ with French investigative journalist Denis Robert.

    It was because of the revelations made by Backes and Robert about Clearstream and Menatep that the then CEO of Clearstream Mr André Lussi was sacked from Clearstream.

    On 3 April, Stern, the German magazine, published an interesting story about The "Institut für Wirtschaftsrecherchen". Stern revealed that the Institut has been financed by BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst), the German intelligence service. And how did this leak out to the press? The reason is quite extraordinary: Mr Strebel wants to take the BND to court for having failed to comply to agreement. The BND has not payed the agreed salaries to the two Wirtschaftsforschern!

    Let's hope that intelligence services all over follow the example of the BND and start sponsoring research into the world's most private finances! As the end result humanity may achieve a state called World Public Finances. On the condition, of course, that the researchers are paid their salaries throughout the duration of the research project.

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    13 April

    Which force is the truth-force?

    [World Social Forum] 

    I agree with the proposal of Tord Björk, Luciana Castellina , Ramon Duran, Susan George and Thomas Wallgren - to choose 9/11 as our worldwide Day of Action.

    However, in the present context of the WSF, the Day of Action is generally thought to be organised instead of the WSF event itself, and therefore preferably at the time when the WSF has previously been arranged, which means January 2008. So I think we need to have it then.

    But why could not the WSF also decide to have 9/11 as a Day of Action?

    I must admit that my very first, spontaneous reaction was negative, because 9/11 is to such an owerwhelming extent a negative date. But then, at closer sight, we find also that positive link to Gandhi and non-violence, which we can celebrate and be inspired of.

    Permit me to add a few more words about 9/11 2001. Some, like Alexander Cockburn in "Le monde diplomatique", and Georges Monbiot in "The Guardian" seem to ask us to forget about digging into the inconsistencies of the official story about that past event in order to concentrate more intensely on the crimes that are being committed now. They have not convinced me. I do not pretend to know precisely what happened at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon on that day, but I continue to be vexed by what has been said, and not said, about it.

    But here, again, it is good to remember the birth of the Gandhian "movement of non-violent resistence and truth-force -- on 9/11 1906"!

    What force is the truth-force? Is it power? And what power is that, if not the power of information and of communication?

    At a certain point the New York Times ranked us as "The Second Superpower". But we were not what we were called. We were no more than a gesture, and so was that epithet. It was an empty word.

    The WSF must become a strong and powerful "movement of non-violent resistence and truth-force", as was the Gandhian movement. The "form that the Forum was given" (Chico Whitaker) is the right one. Global democracy can grow out of it. But more than an open space (even if the forum would be much broader than it is) is needed to make the democracy possible. It cannot live for long without institutions and a constitution.

    One of the pre-existing institutions, which history has created for the sake of the coming global democracy, is: The Library. Thus it was an event of some importance when the then chair of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) participated in the WSF in Mumbai 2004. But it went almost unnoticed in the circles of the WSF. Again, in Nairobi, when about 70 East African librarians participated in the WSF in order to collect information about it and contribute to its own Memory Project, the International Council of the WSF paid no particular attention.

    This situation has to be changed. The International Council of the WSF must recognise the need to achieve permanent links between the social forum and the libraries and librarians of the world. Therefore, I would like the representative of the Network Institute for Global Democratization (NIGD) to take up this subject at the next meeting of the IC in Berlin, and to explain, that the Memory Project and the Communication Plan must be extended to the Library.

    The Memory Project of the WSF is not worth its name, if it does not extend the WSF to the libraries. What are we going to do with the memory of the Memory Project (the memory of the civil society!), and how shall we transmit it, if not via the institution of society which exists for precisely this purpose? - The Library, obviously, also should have a place in the Communication Plan of the Forum.

    Individual librarians, mostly, are in favor of the social forum. However, as a group, the librarians, like engineers, economists, doctors, lawyers, journalists, scientists and other professional, intellectually highly educated groups, tend to be loyal, in the first place, to their national governments. But that loyalty, hopefully, shall fade away, and the professionals in the various countries shall become more loyal to the common causes of humanity than to the leaders of their nations. Are we not talking about a new political world-system? Global democracy? (All the professionals are needed to build it.)

    The internet, too, is part of the library, and henceforward of prime importance for the construction of political power in so far as power consists of "truth-force". Let's build the public library system of the world together with the librarians, in the libraries and in that new extension of libraries, the internet. Both the librarians and the social activists need to be pushed in the right direction, though. The NIGD might have a positive role to play in this regard.

    As a short-term goal, let's try to get the IFLA and the library associations on board. - The East African library Associations of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda already activated themselves towards the WSF in Nairobi! (http://www.wsflibrary.org/)

    The WSF-IC should be able to send out clear signals to the library community about the need to link the libraries to the civil society at the world level.

    PS The above is a slightly amended version of a message which I posted to friends in the NIGD and the WSF earlier today. Only now, when I make it available on this blog, does it strike me that the points, which I touch upon - such as deciding on the date of the Day of Action, the symbolic meaning of 9/11 and the Memory Project of the WSF - are almost inedited (in the sense of 'not published'). This discussion only goes on in private and/or closed fora like the mailing list of the International Council (IC) of the WSF! And perhaps echoed on webpages such as the one I am writing. The very fact that the IC is soon to meet in Berlin is unknown to the public. Have you seen something about it in your newspaper? Or heard about it on the radio? No, the media silence around the process of the social forum is almost total. And perhaps rightly so, because what - one may ask - is the WSF actually doing?

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    24 April

    Founding a library

    - another report from the World Social Forum in Nairobi
    [World Social Forum] 

    My writing "Founding a library - another report from the World Social Forum in Nairobi" is available here:


    I should like professional librarians to become fully aware of the potential of their institution together with with the peoples of the social forum.

    But I also intend this text as an intervention in the discussion(s) about the "Memory Project" and the "Communications Plan", which precede the next meeting of the International Council of the World Social Forum in Berlin, 28-30 May 2007.

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