Pambazuka News (South Africa/UK)
by Firoze Manji, January 26, 2007
This was the first full WSF held in Africa (Mali was host to one of the polycentric WSF’s last year). But the forum was marked by the under-representation of social activists from Africa – or indeed from the global south. Inevitably this reflected on how debates and discussions were framed. Pambazuka News staff had hoped that this space would be the basis for forging a broader radical pan-Africanism. But that was, sadly, not to be. The white North, with its hegemonic parochialism, was over-represented. Social movements from the South were conspicuous by their numerically small presence at the forum.
Probably the most consistently heavily attended forum throughout the week was that organised by the Human Dignity and Human Rights Network which had the largest tent, and held meeting after meeting throughout most of the week, with a cast of well known speakers. But like most of the events at WSF, the set-up of the meetings was of a traditional platform of speakers with the audience being talked at rather than being engaged in discussion. While we heard the experience of both survivors of human rights abuses and human rights defenders, there was little political analysis.
And that probably catches the sense of most, thankfully not all, of the WSF events: there was lots of talking and sloganeering. There was much discussion about policies and alternatives to existing policies. But one couldn’t help feel the absence of politics. It’s as if many believe that nice policies (or human rights legislations) get made by nice people. But the reality is that what ends up as policy is the outcome of struggles in the political domain – fundamentally between the haves and the have-nots. But in a week in which the voices of the have-nots were under-represented, I guess we should not be surprised by the absence of politics.
I think everyone was disappointed by the surprisingly low turn-out: estimates of 30,000 to 50,000 people attended, compared with an expected crowd of 150,000. What made so many keep away in droves? Despite asking many this question, I have found no satisfactory reasons offered.
(Picture taken from here)