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Headed to the World Social Forum in Mumbai

January 2004

My fellowship program (New Voices) is bringing/sending 30 of us to Mumbai for the World Social Forum (WSF) a yearly gathering of social change organizations, activists, organizers, academics (100,000+ registered) etc… that began in 2001 in Brazil as an alternative to the yearly World Economic Forum organized by large multinational corporations, national governments, IMF, the World Bank and the WTO in Davos, Switzerland to discuss trade policies and agreements.

The WSF charter describes the social forum as “…an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and inter-linking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neo- liberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a society centred on the human person.”

While there,as part of my job here at Grassroots International I will be attempting to do some mini-interviews with folks participating in the forum, including some of the partner organizations we support, like the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil, the Democracy and Workers Rights Center in Palestine, the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development and the Authentic Labor Front in Mexico.

I will be trying to post my impressions of the forum, including snippets of those interviews here in GRI’s weblog.

I am excited about the prospects of learning from and connecting with people from all over the world that are doing social justice and organizing work in connection with their own communities…

I am also looking forward to learning about the breadth of social and economic justice work going on in other regions and in South Asia and South East Asia in particular.

In my current state of mind I will be also be going with some of these more skeptical questions in mind:

Is this forum accessible to and effective in bringing together grassroots community organizers from all over the world to coalition-build and strategize or is it simply a gathering of privileged activists (primarily from the Global North) networking and connecting in Mumbai?

How can we at Grassroots International as a U.S. based social justice funder better support grassroots organizations in building coalitions and linkages across borders?

What alternative agendas does the WSF promote and create to the U.S. “War on Terrorism” and the World Economic Forum?

Why is there a Mumbai resistance and what can we learn from their perspectives and organizing?

Because five of our Palestinian partner organizations will be participating and I will be co-facilitating a session with the Institute of Southern Studies and Jewish Voices for Peace on Palestine my entries might be slanted towards the dialogues and linkages happening between Palestinian, Arab and Palestinian solidarity groups. I will also be looking to connect with the Youth camp, the alternative media center and any African organizations representing.

Peace and blessings,

Nisrin Elamin

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