Report by Cindy Wiesner

In July of 2012 GGJ participated in a delegation organized by Engaged Donors for Global Equity (EDGE Funder Alliance, formerly known as FNTG) to the preparatory assembly and WSF (World Social Forum) International Council meeting in Monastir, Tunisia. GGJ sent four representatives on the delegation, which also included eight activists from Occupy Wall Street. The next WSF will be held in Tunis, on March 23-28, 2013 and GGJ plans to organize a delegation of US representatives to build with the emerging pro-democracy movements in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Tunisia and the movement are in a major transition post uprising/revolution.  While there we all imagined this is what it felt like being in Cuba in 1961. People and organizations are incredibly humble, fierce and generous.  It was completely inspiring to hear the actual stories of what led to the uprisings and eventual kicking out of the dictator.  It was a series of miner strikes and textile women worker’s strikes, as well as overall civil society being tired of the corruption in the government and extreme level of unemployment amongst youth with academic degrees. The social forum as a process is a new vehicle for them, so there is a high level of basic education and consciousness-raising on what has to happen to pull off a World Social Forum.  They have begun doing outreach via caravans in other cities and rural areas of the country and setting in motion all the working groups in preparation.

There was a 3-days pre-forum that dealt with the thematics axes in preparation for next year. Some of the themes were on women’s rights, debt, unemployment, migration, regional unity, political Islam and fundamentalism in general.  While they expected 400 people, around 1000 people turned out, representing most sectors of the Tunisian social movements as well as many representatives from the Maghreb-Machrek region and Africa.  Following the pre-forum, there was a 3-day International Council meeting, where logistical and political components of the actual forum were discussed. That was also very vibrant, inspirational and some major debates on the future of the forum became polemical, thus confirming that the location of the forum has injected a new life to the forum process itself.

The rich history and actual process of transition that Tunisia and other countries in the region are going through are putting front and center many questions of governance, democracy, what gets written in the constitution, etc.  This will change forever the scope of the conversations that happen at the social forum and the movement.  There is a big outreach focus to bring in the new emerging movements such as l@s indignad@s, occupy, Arab uprising youth.  This move could be really ripe, but could aldo further complicate existing antagonisms between the politics and approaches. This convergence could only help the fragmentation and disorientation of these movements, particularly in the North.

The Tunisian social movements are not only excited about hosting the WSF, but they want to be a home for the global social movements.