Green Left Weekly, August 9, 2006.
Steve O’Brien, Durban
Organisers are expecting 100,000 people to attend the Nairobi World Social Forum next January in Kenya. While some smaller regional meetings have been held, this will be the first time that the WSF has come to Africa in such a big way, participants at a July 21-22 workshop were told.
The workshop was organised by the Centre for Civic Society and Focus on the Global South, an Asian-based progressive “think-tank”.
The event brought together more than 200 academics and activists from around the region and the world. There was also a strong and vocal presence of representatives of the many vibrant radical civic movements and residents’ struggles around Durban.
Although originally conceived as a chance to debate the future of the WSF, the presence of many regional activists meant that the focus shifted to informal preparing for Nairobi, discussing issues such as translating African languages, catering, accommodation and security.
Transport is a big issue. It takes at least six days to drive from most parts of southern Africa to Kenya. Nevertheless, plans are underway for cavalcades of buses and kombis to converge on Kenya, campaigning on the road and at border crossings, and then reporting back on the return journey.
There was general agreement on the need to get grassroots, community and civic-movement activists, in preference to relatively privileged functionaries from non-government organisations, along to Nairobi. This is part of aiming to create the broadest possible “open meeting place”, to facilitate exchanges and alliance building among anti-neoliberal and anti-capitalist activists and movements.