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Tunis World Social Forum

Upon contact with reality at boiling point: positive chemical reaction

Tuesday 9 April 2013, by Éric Toussaint, Sergio Ferrari

The World Social Forum (WSF) wound up its ninth centralized edition on Saturday, 30 March in the Tunisian capital with a significant quantifiable end result. More than 50,000 participants, almost one thousand activities of many kinds; an opening march on Tuesday the 26th that brought out 25,000 people and a tightly-packed closing march in solidarity with the Palestinian people. “A very positive forum” according to the analysis of Belgian historian and activist Eric Toussaint, coordinator of the Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt (Comité pour l’Annulation de la Dette du Tiers Monde – CADTM) member of the FSM International piloting committee since its inception.

Sergio Ferrari: What were the most important aspects of this new edition of the WSF?

Eric Toussaint: There was a strong Tunisian presence in many activities. For example, we observed this in the workshops and activities on the debt. Also in the Social Movements Assembly on Friday the 29th. The great interest youth and social movements showed towards this initiative was obvious. This is a very positive aspect of our evaluation.

Q: Does this mean that the WSF comes out of this Maghrebi session strengthened ?

E.T: No doubt about it. WSF has been going through an obvious crisis for some years now. In particular, its International Piloting Committee, as a facilitating body, has faced huge difficulties finding a new dynamic. At the same time, the Social Forum indisputably remains the only worldwide arena and framework where social movements can meet. In this sense, in the absence of an alternative, the WSF remains very important. Since Tunisian and the region’s civil society remain actively mobilized, this is a breath of fresh air and renewal for this international occasion. The Social forum, in coming into contact with a society in movement, in ebullition, has produced a chemical reaction; a very interesting interaction that we have observed during this edition.

Q: According to your assessment, holding the WSF in a country and region in turmoil could also be a future antidote against any risk of institutionalizing this global occasion…

E.T: Precisely. We could imagine an upcoming edition of the WSF in Egypt if a group of organizations there proposed to host it. In fact, Egypt is experiencing a completely electric situation with a trade union movement proportionally stronger in the industrial sector than in Tunisia, with a peasantry hard-hit by the World Bank’s neoliberal policies and land privatization; but social explosions could take place in other parts of the world and different scenarios are imaginable.

Q: How can the difficulties and the sort of paralysis faced by the WSF International piloting committee be unblocked?

E.T: I don’t have these solutions. I see that a series of forces on the committee want to continue to play this role. Tunis teaches us that a certain point we have to free the terrain and make way for new forces. The CADTM will continue to be a member of the International committee, there are very interesting and dynamic players within it, with whom we collaborate closely. We also know that there is a series of very institutionalized forces that manage the Social Forum “Brand” according to their interests.

Q: Despite all this, you think that we should continue to strengthen it?