When 80,000 people talk it makes noise. So it wasn't unusual for the fourth World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai to be snidely called a huge 'talking fair'. There was also talk about WSF's need to introspect on its ability to impact globally. A good point. But try as critics might, there is no way the thunderous babble can be wished away as mere rhetoric...
WHEN 80,000 people talk it makes noise. So it wasn't unusual for the fourth World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai to be snidely called a huge 'talking fair'. There was also talk about WSF's need to introspect on its ability to impact globally. A good point. But try as critics might, there is no way the thunderous babble can be wished away as mere rhetoric.
Originally a reaction to that symbol of privateering called the World Economic Forum, WSF has evolved into a platform where disparate local entities come together to share knowledge of, and protest, a process of economic globalisation that affects the entire world in insidiously similar ways. An all-pervasive 'structural adjustment' now encompasses almost all strata of the world. Equally pervasive is the misery affected, and consequent outrage. WSF is thus an occasion to measure the degree of civil societies' acceptance or rejection of economic globalisation. Impressions of WSF may be extreme but not false.
WSF 2004 impresses upon all of us the urgent need to decentralize the global governance system. The widespread protests against the privatisation of common property resources like water and forest are strong indications of this. At WSF, the vehement opposition to economic globalisation revolved around the collapse of a multilateral world and the sovereign right of countries to chart out their own development agenda. 'Progress' today has excluded a huge mass of human kind and tilted power in favour of those with economic advantages. In a world reeking of 'liberalisation' these protests hold no bad odour.
WSF 2004 is also proof that although most problems are global in spread and need to be focussed upon as such, they must be solved only locally. Whether it is water privatisation in India or forest privatisation in Malaysia, the message was clear: local people never featured in any of these globally-inspired decisions.
Such fora bring together people from different countries, irrespective of political credo, and provide an open platform for discussion. WSF is thus more a process than an 'negative' event. The only way it can become effective in the future is to interact globally, then act locally. Then, after four WSFs and many more regional social fora, all talk of its redundance can be safely done away with.
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