• Monday, April 21, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: ‘Signs of Change’ Says Bolivia’s Morales as World Social Forum Opens

    By Thandi Winston and Souleymane Faye*
    DAKAR, Feb 6 (IPS) Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets
    of Dakar on Sunday to mark the start of the annual World Social Forum.
    Activists carried colorful banners denouncing land grabs, restrictive
    immigration laws, agricultural subsidies in Europe and the U.S. and many
    other issues.

    Others sang freedom songs and played drums whilst marching peacefully
    through the streets along a route that began near the offices of
    Senegal's public broadcaster, RTS, and ended at the Cheikh Anta Diop
    University, the main venue for the weeklong gathering.

    Bolivian president Evo Morales, who took part in the march, invited his
    counterparts from poor countries to take part in this event.

    "There must be awareness and a mobilisation to put an end to
    capitalism and clear away invaders, neocolonialists and imperialists [...]
    I support the popular uprisings in Tunisia and in Egypt. These are signs
    of change," said Morales, a former trade union leader who is a
    regular participant in anti-globalisation movement gatherings.

    "There must be resistance and awareness. There must be a programme of
    social struggle to build a new world," he said.

    "We must save humanity, and to do that, we must know our enemies. The
    enemies of the people are neocolonialists and imperialists. We must put an
    end to the capitalist model and put another in its place. It's
    necessary to get rid of the rich and change the world."

    The mayor of Dakar welcomed participants, but other senior members of the
    Senegalese government were absent; President Abdoulaye Wade himself is out
    of the country, though he is scheduled to take part in an event alongside
    the Brazilian president later in the week.

    The World Social Forum defines itself as an open space where those
    "opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any
    form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking."

    As this year's event is being held in Senegal, many of the
    discussions will revolve around what organisers term the crisis of
    civilisation and capitalism gripping Africa and the rest of the world.

    "This forum must contribute to changing the world. It's a chance
    for all those who represent the world's downtrodden to speak amongst
    themselves," said Senegalese historian Boubacar Diop Buuba, a
    professor at the Cheikh Anta Diop University.

    Philip Kumah, a Ghanaian social worker who works for Amnesty
    International, said, "We are calling for an end to injustice in our
    country where the government is robbing communities of their land. This
    forum is a chance for our government to lend an attentive ear to our
    complaints."

    For activist Beverley Keene, from Buenos Aires, holding the forum in
    Africa is an important milestone. "It’s our time to learn from
    each other and assess the impact that the financial crisis and the looting
    of the people’s minerals have on livelihoods."

    The financial crisis is prominent among the themes to be debated at the
    six-day forum seeking alternatives to "the crisis of the capitalist
    system."

    Italian feminist Sabrina Viche said the event is also an opportunity to
    listen to African women. "I came to Dakar to give my support to all
    the women of Africa, who struggle to ensure their voices are heard, I want
    to hear from them what their struggles are and how we in the North can
    support them."

    But it is not enough to meet, Canet Raphael, a sociologist from
    Montréal, Canada, told IPS. "People must know what a social
    forum is for. The spirit of the World Social Forum has its roots in
    grassroots social movements."

    Thierry Tulasne, who works on migration issues for a Canadian organisation
    said, "I'm not sure that social movements can change the world
    in the near future. But I am sure that little drops of water eventually
    become rivers."

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