Sunday, April 02, 2006

Is another world possible?

A colour, vibrant and jazzy collection of activists from a variety of countries each enchanting slogans leading to the agenda towards free thinking and anti-imperialism

World Social Forum is a consortium of anti-globalization activists founded in Brazil in 2001. Since then activists from around the globe started to meet annually in conjunction with World Economic Forum to oppose and educate people with the evils of New World Order. This year the organizers tried to spread the agenda by organizing it in three countries, infact three continents. Africa: Mali (January19-23), Latin America: Caracas, Venezuela (January 24-29) and Asia: Karachi, Pakistan (March 24-29).

WSF is a mega event and whenever it held it take the lime light of media from all over the globe. In Karachi, it was suppose to be held in January but because of Earthquake it was extended for two months.

About 15000 delegates from outside Karachi sprawled towards the city of lights including 5000 from 60 countries. Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Brazilians, Nepalese, Sri Lankan, French, Burmese yet every variety of colour, cast and creed was found at the event. And well, the event was not just like an expo or a variety show but it was composed of over 400 seminars. Rallies, theatre activities, walks, melas and several colourful programmes add flavour.

The opening ceremony was started with the folk performances from all provinces and opening remarks by Tariq Ali (UK), Asma Jahangir (Pakistan), Moeema Miranda (Brazil), Gustav Masia (France), Jamal Juma (Palestine), Irene Lean (Ecuador), Jose Migual Henandez (Cuba) and Basil Manning (South Africa).

Delegates from 50 countries attended the opening session chaired by Indian MP Kumari Nirmala Deshpande "We want peace and justice in the world, we are against war," Brazilian delegate, Moema Miranda, told the gathering. "We can achieve this by uniting ourselves and the World Social Forum must move on," she added.

Asma Jehangir laments the current military leadership of being hypocrite and pro-western, she challenges the concept of free market. Asma Jehangir enthuse positivity that we will empower ourselves and could fight against the hegemony enforced on us.

The WSF representative from Brazil, Moeema Miranda, said: “WSF offers opportunities to bring together popular forces from varied constituencies to develop constructive alternatives that will defend the majority of world population from attack on fundamental human rights and lead them to move on to break power concentrations and extend domains of justice and freedom.

Pakistan's first WSF meeting was held under tight security after the latest suicide blasts in this volatile southern city that killed a US diplomat and four other people this month. "It's good that despite the blast a lot of foreign delegates are attending the meeting," chief organizer Karmat Ali said.

Delegates held discussions on issues ranging from HIV and Aids, Indo Pak Cricket for peace, Youth, Women liberation to highly publicized series of forums on Kashmir issue. There were paintings, exhibitions, tableaus, theatre shows, and walks etc. There were numerous rallies with periodic intervals. But the best part which clicked me immensely is that the forum was attended by people from all walks of life and in several sessions you can view a woman from a rural village from interior Sindh sitting next to highly modern elite lady. This thing had taken me literally and this is the amalgamation our nation was looking for since ages and well WSF paved the way for this entanglement of people from different classes, background and ideologies.

But there seems a high lack of coordination among the organizers, the kit was not provided on the first day and when the kit was provided the event schedule was not given. There were no banners or boards guiding the public that which hall is where and one have to take the round of whole area to find the required spot. Many commented that the event has become more a political party and NGO moot and the real issues been ignored. Even clashes among representatives from different provinces were witnessed in some sessions.

The schedule was not followed and the halls were not maintained properly. Everything was marred with dust and bright sun. Even a female speaker belonging from NGO got fainted. Weather has made the event pathetic for visitors to be there in day-time. There were no dust-bins and the eating places looked more or less like garbage dump by the end of each day. The organizers should be proactive and far sighted enough and had provided waste-bins at spot. In addition eating goods were very expensive. If the organizers and WSF people can't arrange their event than how could they run that Another World??

Even there was no sound publicity done of the event. Many NGOs and intellectuals complained that they wanted to participate but didn't know how to register their discussion groups. The website holds very incomprehensive information about the event. The camps where the foreign volunteers and visitors were accommodated were also not properly managed and facilities were not provided properly. The organizers should provide them excellent accommodation so that they carry good example of hospitality when they leave the country.

The camps where the foreign volunteers and visitors were accommodated were also not properly managed and facilities were not provided properly. The organizers should provide them excellent accommodation so that they carry good example of hospitality when they leave the country.

But overall the event was superb and thumbs-up in many ways. It paved the way for many foreigners to visit Pakistan for the first time and got an open interface to interact with Pakistani people. It really correct their views as Pakistan is seen as a place like Afghanistan where fighting take place all the time. It was also a colourful fusion of different classes and cultures but I believe the potential could have gauged and brought into use if the activity was properly planned and the participating NGOs were productive in their sessions. The sessions went more like discussion groups in a measly organized setting. If the organisers have utilized the space of expo centre, it would have added million colours to the event. The visitors from interior and provincial capitals must have learned a lot and created a good network when they return home. No doubt it was a proud achievement for Pakistani activists who have lobbied hard to become the host. We wish every year Pakistan become avenue of such global events aiming at empowering society and the individual in general.