What future for the WSF?

It is too early for an answer. And yet, after having taken the decision of coming to Mumbai, this question is on everybody?s mind if not on everybody?s lips. After two and a half days of seminars, workshops, conferences, and plenary sessions, the question cannot be avoided. The contrasts are great– between the lanes of the venue thronging with marches, dances and musical bands, and the halls, more or less prepared for the discussions that need translation and reflection; between the Indian groups and those that come from abroad; between those who enjoy the feast, the pleasure of being together, of not being anymore isolated, and those who reflect and think of tomorrow, who want to prepare the day after tomorrow. Today, at this stage of the exchanges, one can already perceive various types of forums within a Forum. Where will all this take us? One of the best-known forums is the forum for development. No theoretical debates here, nothing on theories and models of development. Rather, some experiences that work: for example, one person from the Philippines who has set up criteria to evaluate the way in which economic, social and cultural rights are respected in his country. Above all, a repeated denunciation, right or wrong, of globalisation, of international institutions and multinationals. A second forum is that of human rights. After a long time, relationships among various NGOs have been strengthened. There is no longer any need to prove the effectiveness of a well-articulated struggle. The defenders of human rights are better protected, better equipped, when they are served by a large network. The world?s fight against terrorism has increased the fears of renewed attacks on human rights, in particular from authoritarian governments. This calls for new strategies. To this group one can add the various militant pacifists. Their colouring is very Asian –Timor, Korea, Nepal, Tibet; even Palestine is present. The third forum is an Indian one: farmers from Kerala who have arrived in Mumbai for the first time, coastal fisher folk, artisans, rickshaw-pullers, defenders of dalits or adivasis, peace militants from Gujarat. In their diversity all these groups speak of India. Is this going to be the first and last meeting? The most fortunate, who receive financial support from big foundations or institutions, are already well represented at the international scene, and they will meet again. But the other, less fortunate ones are the ones to benefit most from this gathering. In a certain sense, the forum of Mumbai has already become Indian. Does all this give us a clue to the future? Can we dream of similar gatherings at Dakar, Nairobi or Johannesburg? Why not Africa? One has already started imagining other slogans, colours and themes. This shift to other places might avoid a too strong radicalisation, a falling into the trap of a severe contest. It will exert pressure to open the space of exchanges, to be receptive of new issues and to give the movement continuity. This already looks attractive! (Pierre Martinot-Lagarde S.J.). [HL10423]