First Evaluation of the WSF 2011 Dakar
Note by Samir Amin
1. Networks of Third World Forum and the World Forum for Alternatives, associated with CODESRIA and ENDA Tiers Monde and supported by Tansform-Europe, Action Aid, South South Peoples' Solidarity Network, have been visibly present and active in the Dakar 2011 and probably more than in previous events of the WSF.
Participants from Asia and Africa mobilized in the roundtables and conferences organized by the institutions and the networks involved have probably gathered a good number of Africans and Asians who have intervened during the WSF 2011 Dakar. These roundtables and conferences were attended by a number of participants (more than 200 at any time), continuously over four days (Monday to Thursday) from 09 am to 19 pm. Participants from Latin America and Europe have also been present and active during these four days. The quality and level of interventions have often been remarkable.
2.The unanimous opinion is that the evaluation of the WSF should be first made on the issue of political progress of the Forum, and then, without in any way reducing the importance of organizational issues and stewardship.
3.The central policy question raised is: Do we note progress from one Forum to the other,that is in the political capacity to mobilize major forces in struggle that are actively involved in the transformation of the world and in building " another world " that is better?
4.My personal opinion invites all of us to be modest. No, the major forces involved in the great struggles of our time are rarely found in the Social Forum. As an illustrative example we can cite the case of Tunisia and Egypt where huge popular movements have taken center stage during the course of the WSF Dakar.Few organizations and networks - perhaps none - that have played the decisive role in these two countries have heard of the Social Forums. One could certainly add many more examples for each of the continents of the planet.Probably these movements that are struggling may find loud supporters among many enthusiastic participants in the Social Forums.The ovation given to Tunisian and Egyptian peoples who are struggling testifies it.
It seems difficult to me to conclude that during the ten years of their existence, the Social Forum has made progress in their ability to mobilize the major movements that are in the struggle as required by the urgency of the challenges.Despite some progress, I think the FSM remains trailing always "behind" in relation to progress of thestruggles at the groud level..
This jugement, although it may seem harsh, does not mean that the holding of the FSM is not a "significant event".The mere fact of a worldwide meeting of such a great number of movements (even if not the most active movements on the ground) is more positive as there is no other similar events. Especially when the movements involved in the FSM are certainly and perfectly legitimate by their intervention in defending the democratic rights of workers, women, peoples, in promoting another type of development that is nature friendly and so on. And even if these movements are still too fragmented. It seems, however, that progress has been made in awareness requirements in building convergences, with a view to give the overall movement a strategy for effective action. WSF Dakar seems to me from this perspective of having registered itself in this direction.
One likely major reason that could explain the low presence of large movements engaged in struggle is financial. Participation in the WSF is expensive. NGOs who often have significant resources made available to them by international agencies and those of "cooperation" of wealthy nations are thus naturally "over represented" in comparison to others.
5.Organizational matters and "stewardship" are important, and deficiencies recorded in this area should not be excluded from evaluation.
In this respect it seems to me that the WSF 2011 Dakar was not "worse" organized than others.Especially since the budget gathered for its realization (and bravo for Taoufik to have been able to do it and to have made the collection possible with incredible efforts) was much lower than what was spent in other FSM.
I wish to congratulate the Organizing Committees, Senegalese and African countries. In fact this forum seems to have been less flawed in terms of its organization than others held in countries considerably better off.
I also extend my thanks to the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar and the Government of Senegal, which have greatly facilitated our task.
The march in Dakar was attended by 70,000 participants (the estimation by the police is rarely generous on this regard), much more than expected.
Despite this heavy participation, I must say that at least in terms of activities organized by our networks "clustered" as they call them in the Social Forums, the organization was perfect.We held 36 hours of continuous discussions (attended, I recall by the majority from Africa and Asia), smoothly , in the same good rooms, assisted by an interpretation that did not fail ( A big thank to Babel). The events of the WSF being held in the same place - the University - has avoided the problems that has hit other Social Forums which were scattered in sprawling cities and compelling people to travel long distances and not being sure to arrive at destination in time. !Bravo for Dakar, a city which is less opulent than places where other Social Forums have been held.
Therefore I regret the time spent hearing the "accusations" made during the session of "initial assessment" by the International Committee.We heard the same and too long mantra as in all previous social forums to the detriment of skipping the political debate. Conduct which unfortunately reminds more of "consumer services" than of responsible social activists.The "overrepresentation" of NGOs who have the financial means to participate in all meetings of the international committee should be thought over of ways and means to limit the negative impacts that undermine the credibility of the WSF.
Dakar 22 February 2011