The Socialist Unity Network

an open letter to the ESF process from British NGOs


The UK ESF NGO group is a forum open to development, environment, human
rights, civil liberties, international solidarity and peace campaign groups
in the UK. It has acted both as an outreach tool for the UK ESF by engaging
NGOs who may be new to the social forum process and as a space for NGOs to
discuss issues of mutual concern and decide on their representation with the
wider process. A wide range of NGOs and campaigning organisations have
attended the meetings over the past few months representing collective
membership of millions and a very broad section of those calling for
progressive change in the UK.

On Thursday 27 August the UK ESF NGO group met to choose the speakers it
would like to represent the sector in the plenary sessions as part of the UK
quota. We were restrained and realistic in the names put forward, asking for
only 4 speakers, of the 15 available slots, to convey the knowledge, skills
and experience of the whole sector. This included just one environment NGO,
one human rights group and two development campaigns. The decision was made
by consensus and the NGOs were careful to put forward a list that was
balanced in terms of gender and ethnicity. These were then proposed later
that evening to a full meeting of the UK Programme Group.

In the end just two of these survived the UK selection process. The UK will
now go to the Brussels Preparatory Assembly without a single representative
of any development organisation in its quota of plenary speakers. Given that
there will be plenary sessions focused on unfair trade rules, international
debt and corporate globalisation we find it extraordinary that the leading
organisations campaigning on these issues will not be represented in the
UK's list. It will have a practical impact too. Next year's G8 will be a
focus for the European movement, yet not one representative of the
mobilisation from the UK is represented either. 

The method chosen to select the UK quota did not include any deliberative
element to ensure that all sections of the movement were represented and was
entirely based on the number of votes secured. Numerous members of small
political groups who had packed the room with their supporters dominated the
voting for the UK quota. This falls well short of the charter of the World
Social Forum to which we have all subscribed. We must now face the facts
that our work and our members will be sorely under-represented by the UK
ESF. This will do nothing to help broaden the movement in the UK and build
confidence in the process among NGOs.

Many British NGOs are keen to get involved in the ESF but have found it
difficult to do so because of the lack of transparency and openness in the
UK process. The decision of the UK group will only make it more difficult
for NGOs to participate in the way we wish.

We urge our European partners to ensure that the sections of the movement so
lacking in the UK list will be compensated for in Brussels.




September 2004


For Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~ For Socialism