Global Policy Forum

Africa’s Time to Use Global Meet


By Oduor Ongwen

April 5, 2006

I have had interviews with media in Kenya before, but nothing compares to the sessions with the Press in Finland and Sweden in the last one week. The interest is simple to understand, but I am still mesmerised. In January 2007, for the first time, Africa will be hosting the World Social Forum (WSF) in Nairobi.

This is big news here in Scandinavia. It contrasts with the mood in Nairobi where both the African Social Forum Council and the International Committee met for a whole week and two media houses could only send cub reporters who asked some intelligible questions then left in a clear state of confusion.

Nairobi 2007 will happen at a time when globalisation from above is going through a deep crisis of legitimacy, largely as a result of the challenges of social movements and progressive political forces around the world, who are busy globalising the world from below.

The US is now bogged down in long and bloody war in Iraq, which it cannot win. The Iraqi resistance seems to have created a cul de sac for the oil magnates behind the Bush dynasty. At the political level, the US and western influence is dwindling around the world as progressive political forces are gaining more ground in several developing countries, especially in Latin America.

Likewise, the institutions of global economic governance, namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the WTO, are fast and irreversibly losing their credibility and being challenged by both national governments and social forces in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Indeed, the entire neoliberal system is on the defensive. The resurgence of South-South cooperation and solidarity as signified by the emergence of China as a dominant economic player coupled with the intensified resistance of social movements will deepen the crisis of global finance capital. Therefore, Nairobi 2007 must seek to extend and diversify the frontiers of resistance, deepen the methodological dimensions of struggles for justice and dignity and lay the ground for building an offensive capacity against global hegemony.

A space of reflection, encounter and debate – a space for sharing ideas, proposals and experiences – the WSF in Nairobi must and will bring the unique concerns of the African agenda and history of resistance against colonial and post-colonial domination to bear on the articulation of global strategies and appropriate modes of struggles on different planes and fronts.

Considering that the WSF will be taking place in Africa for the first time, it will be important that the choice of the themes intended for the common spaces reflect the broader concerns of the global community and its collective disillusionment with the way a significant section of its population is being marginalised by global economic dispensation.

The entailed activities should aim at giving the required visibility to the methods of presenting the debates along with the treatment that the themes in question have so far received on the basis of the historical process and accumulation of political experience by the WSF.

Building on the experience of previous WSF in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005; Mumbai, India in 2004; and recent polycentric Forums in Bamako, Caracas and Karachi, the Nairobi Forum should be viewed as an open, inclusive and democratic space for the expression not only of peoples' struggles and resistance around the world but a platform for proposing peaceful alternatives to the political, economic and cultural domination that has characterised this corporate-led globalisation.

The organised themes will provide the intellectual platform on which activities synergize, reinforce and consolidate the campaigns and guarantee a plurality of political perspectives to bear on a concerted offensive against the discredited Washington Consensus.

But more importantly, the activities will contain a visible dimension of dialogue between the WSF process and the social transformation concerns of African social movements. The Forum will speak to the worldwide challenges facing the victims of corporate-led globalisation and seek to harness the social mobilisation challenges and capacities of African social movements in solidarity with counterparts from the rest of the world.

Such challenges will need to build on, and of necessity, reflect the unique opportunity for, and strategic capacities of, the African social movements to: articulate and elaborate the hot-button challenges and delineate long-term perspectives in respect to the pressing challenges facing the continent and its people; listen to and exchange experiences with other social movements from the rest of the world; learn from and seek solidarity with activists who subscribe to the WSF charter in its broadest implication; enhance their strategic capacities in constructing alternative social development paradigms that are capable of guaranteeing justice, equity and prosperity for all by exploring and entering the twilight zone of social visioning around the outlines of a new dispensation; and develop strategic and political capacity to animate widespread citizen action against choking debt, unfair terms of trade and marginalisation of Africa in global politics.

I am thrilled that this evening in Stockholm and tomorrow in Uppsala, I will meet and talk to young people who have formed study circles for the Nairobi WSF 2007. I intend to ask them why they are saving their meagre stipends from colleges and their parents to come to Nairobi instead of focusing on the World Cup soccer extravaganza in Germany.

I will no doubt carry some lessons from these young idealists to share with our young democrats in Nairobi, like the Citizens Assembly, Bunge la Mwananchi, Huruma Social Forum, Nyeri and Nyanza social forums that are already making another Kenya, another Africa and another World not only possible, but a reality in our own lifetime.

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