More than 4000 local and global groups from 120 countries took part in the 14th World Social Forum in Tunisia from March 24 to 28. The WSF was created as a popular alternative to the corporate-dominated, elite World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.
The first WSF was held in Brazil in 2001 and was organised as an alternative to the WEF, the yearly meeting of the global ultra-rich.
The forum opened with more than 70,000 people from more than 120 countries marching in Tunis to celebrate the start of the forum and to demonstrate against the Islamic State's March 18 massacre at the city's Bardo National Museum, TeleSUR English said the next day.
The slogan for this year's forum, which involved thousands of groups taking part in workshops, seminars and debates, was: “Together to pursue the revolution of rights and dignity.”
Groups such as the global rural workers’ group La Via Campesina — often considered the world's largest social movement — and the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, discussed themes such as climate justice, feminism, anti-capitalism and the Black Lives Matter movement in the US.
Forum organisers said they decided to hold it in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, to “consolidate the dynamics of changes born thanks to the Tunisian revolution and to the democratic movements in the region”.
The WSF aims to promote discussions among those “engaged in concrete actions towards a more solidarity, democratic and fair world … a permanent space and process to build alternatives to neoliberalism”.
The WSF Local Organizing Committee in Tunis said: “The social movement in Tunisia and the region counts on the global support of democratic forces to oppose violence and terrorism … More than ever, massive participation will be the appropriate response by all the peaceful and democratic forces towards a better, fairer and free world.”
A letter to the forum was sent by new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party won January 25 elections on an anti-austerity program. The first left-wing government elected in Europe for decades, SYRIZA is seeking to reverse the crippling austerity forced on Greece by European and financial elites to protect interests of big banks.
Tsipras' letter is reprinted below.
Dear friends and comrades,
Fourteen years ago, at the start of the new millennium, the World Social Forum came to the fore as the response of the people to the globalisation of the markets.
It was deliberately meant as a versatile meeting of movements, trade unions and associations from around the world, looking for progressive solutions to global problems: poverty, social inequality, lack of democracy, racism, environmental destruction and absence of economic and social justice.
By using dialogue among equals, as well as horizontal processes, it provided proof that social forces from different parts of the world, which may be militant against different problems, can still converge around common goals and so formulate an alternative vision and blueprint for the planet.
With values like these, condensed in such slogans as “people before profits” and “another world is possible”, the World Social Forum was the space in which ideas and modes of action were born and grew which would eventually question the global neoliberal supremacy.
Our common responsibility to build a different future for the world is much greater these days, at a time that blind fanaticism, violence and social regression appear as alternative perspectives before the menacing force of the markets. Such were the motives behind those who, just the other day, spread death and fear in Tunis.
The movements ought to decisively block the way to them by winning the hearts and minds of the poor and the oppressed. Neither the combination of fanaticism and intolerance, nor that of fascism and racism, can open any new way for the future. The world will move ahead only thanks to democracy, respect for rights, solidarity and common struggles.
Dear friends, as you know, Greece has for some time now been on a collision course with neoliberalism.
Faced with the disastrous policy of austerity and extortion by the markets, our people are determined to defend democracy, the welfare state, public goods and services, and the right to an adequately paying job.
We offer a fight for life, dignity and social justice, all within a struggle to orient the economy towards the needs of society, instead of society towards the needs of the economy and sheer financial profit.
Our horizons are not limited by the boundaries of our own country. They extend across all of Europe. We know that in our footsteps, other people are following too, determined to use the power provided by democracy to make the world more just and the future more bright.
The front that will clash with the current balance of power in Europe is already being formed and it becomes stronger every day. We know that these developments will be discussed this year during the forum's proceedings. We know that a key consideration is the all-round support to Greece, but also to all the people fighting for a historic change in Europe and throughout the world.
This is why, today, Greece is sending to those who take part in this year's forum a greeting of optimism, strength and determination. Using solidarity as their weapon, the people will win!