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WORLD SOCIAL FORUM – WINNING THE BATTLE OF IDEAS

Posted on 25 March 2011 by editor

Mario Lubetkin, IPS Director General

By Mario Lubetkin (*)

Rome, Mar (IPS TerraViva) Paradoxically, just as history is proving the World Social Forum right in many of its predictions and analyses, the major media, those “shapers of public opinion”, are not increasing but in fact sharply decreasing their coverage of it. This silent treatment is a clear obstacle to the expansion of the WSF and a cause of real concern for many of its innumerable organisers and participants.

This situation was recognised in the final February 10 declaration by the Social Movements of the WSF, which concluded that the forum must undertake “a battle of ideas, in which we cannot move forward unless there is a democratisation of communication.”

It is curious that ten years ago journalists from around the world flocked to Porto Alegre to cover the WSF debates, which were given broad coverage in print and on television.

It could be argued that this was simply a result of the novelty of the forum and its flood of activists proclaiming, “another world is possible” while the rest of the world careened blindly towards disaster.

The surprise was greater still when the following year, in 2002, certain members of the WSF, where attendance rose steadily, were elected presidents of their countries -like Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva in Brazil.

But these developments, it would seem, were moving contrary to the currents of history. In the same period, with the exception of certain slips -like the popping of the so-called dot.com bubble and the subsequent collapse of 4854 Internet companies between 2000-2003- capitalism, and especially financial capitalism, was charging full steam ahead. It outstripped the real economy, swelled the Gross World Product and international trade, and generated massive earnings for its businesses -insurance companies and banks, especially investment banks- giving the impression that the good times would never end.

From its first years the WSF denounced with tenacity and rigour the elements of the reigning neoliberal ideology that would lead to global disaster: the so-called Washington Consensus that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was imposing on countries of the South, extreme liberalisation, blind faith in the market as the ideal arbiter of the economy, rejection of any regulation especially of the financial firms which were conducting massive levels of speculation. The ruin that resulted is plain to see all around us.

One might think that, since history proved the WSF right, the media might have grown curious about the prescient arguments and predictions of the Forum. But the opposite happened: in recent years, particularly since the global depression struck in 2008, the presence of media at the forum has dropped continuously.

What was more logical was the parallel decline in the media’s coverage of the World Economic Forum, which saw its fundamental postulates proved terribly wrong.

Of course, part of this contradiction has to do with the characteristics and errors of the WSF itself. The analysis of this matter is important given that the Forum constitutes the largest agglomeration of civil society in the world. Four aspects deserve close study:

-The structure of the forums consists of numerous simultaneous meetings on different themes. Thus the journalists must choose which they would like to attend and may find it difficult to make an assessment of the forum as a whole. This is accentuated by the organisational problems of the forum, which were particularly evident in the last meeting in Dakar. This dispersed nature of the event can thus distract attention from the ideas that it generates, including the best suggestions for solutions to the world’s problems.

-In general the journalists who cover the forum are inadequately prepared. Providing good coverage of specialised debates requires a high level of expertise on fields ranging from ecology, finance, minority rights, and philosophical, political, theological, sociological discussions.

-The WSF has thus far lacked a true communications strategy. Despite its extraordinary capacity to draw people from civil society, its management and organisational staff is limited and lacks resources. It could produce better results if it recognised the importance of having and implementing a communications strategy.

-The operation of the mass media has changed dramatically in this decade and requires a rethinking that factors in the new modes of exchange made possible by the Internet and electronic devices, social networks, and major alternative media like Al Jazeera and blogs like the Huffington Post, which have shown serious interest in this subject.

The coincidence of the Dakar Forum and the toppling of the regimes in North Africa has charged the debate and all groups linked to the WSF and challenged them to demonstrate the power and potential of those proposing to build “another world” using new forms of civil organisation and communication.

(*) Mario Lubetkin is Director-General of IPS news agency.

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Q&A: Tunis and Cairo Reveal a New Popular Militancy

Posted on 14 February 2011 by editor

Andrea Lunt interviews activist and intellectual BOAVENTURA DE SOUSA SANTOS

NEW YORK, Feb 14, 2011 (IPS) – More than 200 years ago, one of the United States’ founding presidents, Thomas Jefferson, famously remarked: “Every generation needs a new revolution.” Today, his words are more relevant than ever, as young people across the world mark 2011 as a year of change. Continue Reading

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Marching On With Renewed Hope

Posted on 11 February 2011 by admin

By IPS Correspondents

DAKAR, Feb 11 (TerraViva) – It started with a march through the streets of Dakar, grew with calls for a new global era and is ending with a challenge to activists to take the call for global change beyond the World Social Forum into the world. Continue Reading

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Thousands Pledge Support for People of Egypt and Tunisia

Posted on 11 February 2011 by admin

By Thandi Winston

DAKAR, Feb 11 (TerraViva) – Delegates attending the WSF in Dakar have affirmed their support and active solidarity with the people of Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab world. Continue Reading

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WSF: Political Support Needs Financial Backing

Posted on 11 February 2011 by editor

NORAH MATOVU-WINYI. Credit:Courtesy of FEMNET

Rousbeh Legatis interviews NORAH MATOVU-WINYI, Executive Director, African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 11, 2011 (IPS/TerraViva) – “The agenda for women’s rights and empowerment in each country must be supported by the political leadership,” says Norah Matovu-Winyi, Executive Director, African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET). Continue Reading

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‘Link Hands in Practical Actions’

Posted on 11 February 2011 by admin

Nnimmo Bassey

Nnimmo Bassey

Nnimmo Bassey, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, hopes that this year’s World Social Forum will prove more than a talk shop.

“A great space for people to meet, for people to share ideas. Now we have to leave here with concrete ideas to take the struggle to the grassroots and amplify them. And globalise them,” he says.

“The harder we struggle, the quicker we’ll get the solution. We don’t have time to waste.”

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Time to Focus on Job Creation

Posted on 11 February 2011 by admin

Ebrima Sillah interviews KWASI ADU-AMANKWAH, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation for Africa

The trade unionist says the continent’s workers faced serious problems long before the current world financial crisis and it is time for the continent to focus squarely on job creation.

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‘Move On to the Sovereignty of the People’

Posted on 11 February 2011 by admin

Halifa Sallah. Credit: courtesy of Freedom Newspaper.

Ebrima Sillah interviews HALIFA SALLAH, researcher and sociologist

DAKAR, Feb 11 (TerraViva) – The final two days of the World Social Forum are devoted to working out shared positions on a range of issues. Academics taking part in a parallel forum organised by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, have been discussing the nature of social movements, liberation and how to achieve “the sovereignty of the people”. Continue Reading

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Mixed Reviews on Space for Gender

Posted on 10 February 2011 by admin

By Thandi Winston

DAKAR, Feb 10 (TerraViva) – The road to the large green tent is dusty and rather confusing, but once you get there you are immersed in a babel of women’s voices. The tent, hidden away in the wind and dust, some distance from the main World Social Forum events, has become the unofficial women’s tent at the WSF. Continue Reading

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The People Need to Take Leadership

Posted on 10 February 2011 by editor

Sylvia Borren. Credit:Courtesy of GCAP

Cléo Fatoorehchi interviews SYLVIA BORREN, co-chair of GCAP

NEW YORK, Feb 10, 2011 (IPS/TerraViva) – While the international community is now talking of a triple global crisis – food, climate and economic – a weeklong session of the World Social Forum (WSF) is coming to a close in Dakar, Senegal. Continue Reading

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