United in the conviction that ‘another world is possible’, around 50,000 grassroots activists from the world’s social movements gathered this January in Nairobi, Kenya for the seventh World Social Forum (WSF).
The first WSF took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001. It developed as a radical alternative platform for debate and strategizing, a direct challenge to the World Economic Forum of the rich and powerful held annually in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.
With a strong anti-capitalist bias and a commitment to hammering out alternatives, each WSF has been a huge melting pot. Into this pot a spicy mixture of struggles both local and global for justice, freedom, respect and ecological sanity are stirred up together. The result is a rich concoction of passion, creativity, ideas and that rarest of gems, optimism.
It’s not without its flaws, of course – much of the talk this year focused on whether the WSF movement is still relevant and useful. Heated debate broke out over creeping corporate sponsorship and the exclusion of the Kenyan poor – more on that below.
But it was the first time this extraordinary event has been held in Africa, which gave it a new energy and a fiery flavour. NI editors Jess Worth and Adam Ma’anit were there to report on the struggles, ideas and campaigns bubbling up from the global grassroots. This month’s Currents section dips its fingers into this simmering cauldron of cultural resistance. For more, see the editors’ blogs on our website: www.newint.org