Global Policy and Development

17.08.2016

First World- instead of World Social Forum?

From August 9 to 14, the World Social Forum took place in Montréal. The restrictive Canadian visa requirements prevented many globalization critics from the Global South from participating. Nevertheless, alternatives to the ruthless exploitation of human and natural resources were right on top of the agenda.

Teilnehmer_innen beim Eröffnungsmarsch des Weltsozialforums 2016 protestieren gegen den Ausschluss von Aktivist_innen aus dem Globalen Süden. Foto: Alexander Geiger/FES

Image: of Alexander Geiger/FES Teilnehmer_innen beim Eröffnungsmarsch des Weltsozialforums 2016 protestieren gegen den Ausschluss von Aktivist_innen aus dem Globalen Süden. Foto: FES

Since 2001, the globalization-critical movement meets annually at the World Social Forum in order to discuss alternatives to neoliberal globalization. Tens of thousand activists from NGOs, unions, left-wing parties, collectives, indigenous organizations and others groups come together regularly at the Forum and demand a fairer distribution of global resources.

This year, there were less of them – and it was less diverse as a result. The main reason for this was the location, Montréal. For the first time, the World Social Forum did not take place in the Global South, but in the North. Naomi Klein, who has long been one of the most prominent faces of the globalization critics, called this year's Forum the “First World Forum” for this reason. Participants from the USA, Canada and Europe dominated the events. Many activists, and even a good number of parliamentarians from Africa, Asia and Latin America did not get visa.

Climate Change and Justice

The positions and demands did not change, however. The threatening climate collapse and the ruthless exploitation of natural resources, as well as questions of social justice, remained the Forum's key concerns. This showed, in the very least, that a broad section of civil society from the North opposes a globalization whose price is paid predominantly by the poorest and most marginalized populations in the Global South.

The close connection between climate change and questions of justice was highlighted by the numerous events on various aspects of the climate justice debate. Together with Brot für die Welt, we organized the podium discussion “Talking about Climate Justice – Climate Induced Migration and Displacement from an International Perspective”. At its center stood the question of how the Global North can and must support the Global South in dealing with migratory movements exacerbated by climate change. Two of the speakers, Harjeet Singh from India und MD Shamsuddoha from Bangladesh emphasized that solidarity and justice were key.

The World Social Forum is important – but Those who are Affected must have their Say

If, however, only actors from the North discuss these topics, events can easily turn into soliloquies. This is not necessarily detrimental – we gained many exciting insights from our conversations. However, the lack of perspectives from people from the Global South was a serious omission, also because they are particularly affected by the negative effects of globalization and climate change.

We need the World Social Forum because it can be a forum for free discussions, away from “big politics”, in which we can think outside the box and expand our horizons. Essentially, this is the Forum's intrinsic value, one that must be preserved in the future: It is the only global meeting of civil society actors that is not attached to a government summit, but is independently organized by NGO and civil society representatives. Because of this, it has a special, identity-creating significance for globalization critics worldwide. However, the discussions will gain more credibility if they are held in and with the Global South again in the future.

Countries / regions: Weltweit

Department/Section: Globale Politik und Entwicklung


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    Global Policy and Development

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    Jochen Steinhilber

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    Julia.Kuehne(at)fes.de

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    The Global Policy and Development Department deals with the following range of topics:

    • democracy-building
    • development policy
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    • global economy, taxes and trade policy
    • international energy and climate change policy
    • international trade union policy
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Alexander Geiger
Alexander Geiger
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