World Social Forum :: Liberated Spaces at Your Doorstep


World Social Forum globe.

Since 2001, people from all corners of the globe have come to the World Social Forums (WSF) to build strategies for another world. This year, the World Social Forum is coming to them.

Thousands of people and organizations will take part in a week of action, January 20–26, 2008. Local organizers are planning events in more than 70 countries. By late October, more than 2,020 organizations and individuals had committed to mobilize in January, at the same time the World Economic Forum is meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

“This time, you don't go to the World Social Forum, you bring the forum to your city, to your community—you create a World Social Forum,” says Alessandra Ceregatti from the World Social Forum office in São Paulo, Brazil.

“Creating local events using the WSF method of open space workshops and grassroots leadership can be both stimulating and challenging,” she says.

This isn't the first World Social Forum to move beyond a one-location event. To allow activists from a greater number of locations to participate, the 2006 WSF was celebrated in Venezuela, Mali, and Pakistan.

The 2008 WSF will be even more decentralized, which will help the movement expand beyond the usual suspects. Organizers are encouraged to stage events outside, in the street, where they can “enter in dialogue with the whole society—including those people who are not linked to any organization, movement, struggle,” Ceregatti says.

In the United States, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a driving force behind the first U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, has put out a call to join the day of action under the motto “Many Struggles, One Movement.”

True to the spirit of the WSF, all events are self-organized, and the international coordinators simply provide the space for activists to step into. A website collects all event plans, allowing individuals and organizations to learn what is being planned and to connect their actions.

The site encourages cross-border collaboration around particular issues. International housing and land-rights networks are creating a joint campaign. The Human Dignity and Human Rights Caucus is another international space for collaboration.

The WSF also suggests using the events to link individual issues to other struggles. The groups active within the Belgian Social Forum have chosen this approach. Organizations will frame their different campaigns through the common lens of human rights in a city tour through Brussels.

Global radio broadcasting and public screenings of different events in places around the world will help infuse local gatherings with the same exuberance and excitement that are a trademark of the central social forums.

Lilja Otto wrote this article as part of Liberate Your Space, the Winter 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Lilja is the consulting editor on this issue of YES! Magazine. She attended the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta in June, 2007. Photo of Lilja Otto
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