European Social Forum – Athens

Chris Jones



In this report I will have to highlight those parts of the ESF which I was able to observe. It is hard to give a full picture because it is only possible to go to a handful of the scores of meeting and events that take place during the forum. All the statements adopted at the ESF should be (or will be soon on the website – www.fse-esf.org ) I have contact with specialists in the health and education fields who attended and could put you in touch if you want. Don’t hesitate to e-mail me ( jsirhc@hotmail.com ) if you have any questions or comments.

 

Major Decisions

1) The week starting the 23rd of September has been declared a week of anti-war, anti-intervention, anti-imperialist mobilisations on a European wide basis. This places the Manchester Demonstration on the 23rd September (timed to coincide with the Labour Party conference in Manchester) is a good position to be an international focus to kick the week off.

2) The EU summit of June 2007 and the G8 meeting of July are in the same German town. This town will be a focus for uniting around European and global issues. The last time this situation occurred (Cologne 1999) the Euromarches` 50,000 strong demonstration at the EU summit, and the debt campaigns big demonstration at the G8 meeting (very significant but frequently forgotten pre-Seattle anti-neo-liberal international mobilisations) were unconnected events. This situation will hopefully not recur.

3) Day of Action on migration – October 7th 2006. This ties in with an earlier decision at the World Social Forum in Bamako. There are also mobilisations planned in North America around the same date. Focus will be the end of insecurity and citizenship rights for migrants.

 

Other dates for you Diary

G8 Summit counter events. July 2006. St Petersburg. There will be an attempt to organise a specifically Trades Union event as part of this to develop solidarity amongst organised workers.

 

Attendance

Over 30,000 people registered for this meeting in Athens and were joined by a further possibly 100,000 Greeks for the demonstration on the Saturday. The ESF attendance included a contingent of about 1,000 Turks which was a major step forward in developing the geographical spread of ESF involvement. This alone I think made the decision to hold the meeting in Athens a good one. In addition, and possibly helped by the location, as well as the ESF’s growing international status, there were over 200 Russians, a good number of Poles and a strong showing from the Romanian Social Forum. Members of the Russian delegation staying in my hotel argued strongly that the next forum should be in Berlin as this is the ideal location for maximising Eastern European involvement. I think this would be a good idea.

 

Overall Strategy

There were a large number of meetings to discuss the overall strategy that the anti-neo-liberal forces should be implementing. This included the discussion of the growth of broad left political parties at the national level and party coordination at a European Union level. The specific role of social forums came up in seminars as well as a specific workshop on how local social forums could function as facilitators/coordinators of support for alternative campaigning at a local level. The ESF is a long way from consensus on these issues (as you would expect) but the there appeared to be a growing acceptance of the need for more coordination on more projects at a continental level. There will be a special meeting (I think in October) to try to take this specific development further. In some countries – Greece and Romania for example – national social forums appeared to play a big role as did some local forums in places such as northern France, Belgium, northern Italy and Leicester.
 

Climate Change

There was a very practical workshop with activists from throughout Europe to discuss plans for the 4th November global day of action on climate change. The actual climate change conference is in Nairobi starting on the 7th of November and there will be events there if you can get there. But for the rest of us…. Last Decembers coordinated demonstrations involved many countries but outside Montreal and London they were often very small. The plan is to drastically improve this situation by longer term global planning this year. The British conference on climate change and building this mobilisation is in London on the 3rd of June and there is a camp on the issue in August. (Details of both from www.campaigncc.org  www.climatecamp.org.uk )

 

Women

Throughout the Forum there was a well planned series of seminars on a variety of issues which culminated in a Women’s Assembly to draft up a Women’s Charter. The women involved in organising this felt that they had significantly developed the Elf’s taking on of women’s issues. The seminars discussed violence against women, impact of neo-liberalism on women’s working conditions, lesbian political identity, women’s rights - secularism and democracy, people trafficking, women and asylum and migration, impact of Bolkenstein directive on the women and the welfare state, and war, poverty and peace.
The reporter to the full assembly highlighted an anti-violence against women campaign running from the end of this year through to the Euro elections in 2008, creation of a network of women’s networks, a campaign for secularism. She also highlighted the problem of organisations present at the forum who held anti-abortion and therefore anti-women’s rights positions.

 

Statements/Charters (full text on www.fse-esf.org )

The final `Assembly of the Movements` on the Sunday adopted a very good statement which is called, I think, the ESF Charter of our Common Principals of Another Europe. This Charter noted the victories in France and in Latin America but emphasised that the transnational corporations/G8/WTO etc. were pushing ahead and more clashes would arise. The Charter stated that there are dangers and opportunities in this situation. The ESF will continue to oppose the war and expose Bush and Blair. It condemned the withdrawal of funds from the Palestinian Authority. Called for the closure of immigration detention centres and called for citizenship rights for migrants. It noted the millions living in poverty and rejected neo-liberalism. It rejected the EU constitution and called for an open Europe, feminist, anti-discriminatory etc. Europe.

Other themes in the ESF included water, development of cities/workers housing, racism and fortress Europe, ecology, youth, the Balkans, Cyprus, relations between Mediterranean states and peoples, Latin America, trades unions, including questions of East –West cooperation with the same company, broad left political parties, the relationship between the mass movements, parties and power. (The seminar on this theme focusing on Latin America was a highlight of the forum for me. Its highly political, non dogmatic and constructive discussion of the problems arising from trying to understand a very different political reality was good. It recognised that the Bolivian and Venezuelan situations challenged many of our expectations because of the role of the governments and their relationship to the mass movements and the absence of a revolutionary party).

 

World Social Forum (WSF)

For more information about the Social Forum movement go to www.forumsocialmundial.org.br 

The next WSF is in January 2007 in Nairobi. This will be a single world meeting. Unlike the meetings 2001-5 the 2006 meeting was broken into three separate events in Caracas, Karachi and Bamako in Mali.
 

 

 

May 2006

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