Strategy for future global social movement cooperation

Tord Björk | global crisis,popular movements,WSF | Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

There is a growing interest in strengthening possibilities for global participatory democracy through social movements. This takes such expression as the cooperation between popular movements on issues as food sovereignity and concern for linking issues as the climate crisis and solution to the finance crisis. The cooperation develops in metings with organisations as Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth International and World March of Women with the common quality that they have a strong third world presence in their global leadership.

Other kind of organizations as NGOs dominated by professionals without a democratic base in local groups often makes important contributions to the poltiical discussion on how to solve the social and ecological crisis. But there is a problem if the discussions on how thinking can democratically be integrated with collective action is dominated by this kind of organisations. They do not have the same need to go forward and understand the complexity of building action that is based on what people can do in their daily life and what they can do collectively. When this kind of overemphasis on a wide range of discussions and less on the need for collective action becomes to dominating the kind of problems occur which are no evident in the social forum process both at European and World level.

Although the cooperation among international popular movements developes also independently of the social forum process there is a need for addressing how to find ways also within the social forum process for strengthening the cooperation among popular movements that are interested in linking social and ecological concerns and makes efforts to have strong third world influence in their decision-making.

At the moment there are at least three broader initiatives during WSF in Belem with this kind of purpose. The Assembly of Social Movements is the traditional tool for this purpose. But this year many actors have seen that this is not enough. Thus MST have called for a meeting of netorks and international social movements on the 29.1 with the purpose for organisations that have a base in local groups to discuss further cooperation.

There is also the initiative to organise a meeting of social forum networks to discuss common strategies and action on the multidimensional global crisis. The initiative emanates much from the globalisation and labour network and Attac Europe.

Thus there are many options for proposing ways for different actors to go further. Some points in a popular movement oriented program could be:

– Both social and ecological issues needs to be addressed in a profound way.

– The program should preferably include both a short term, middle term and long term plan.

– It should preferably also include both political demands, a broader popular education and discussion were traditional separations between policy proposals within the existing system and complete rejection of the present world order preferably is avoided and instead is turned into inspiration finding new avenues for collective action.


– On the short term an alliance of international and national popular movements as FoEI, Via Campesina, World March of Women, War Resisters’ International and similar organisations can put forward some of the best demands from statements as the Nyeleni declaration, Beijing declaration 2008, the Climate change conference in Bangkok 2008, The Assembly of Social Movements declaration from the ESF European preparatory meeting in Istanbul late 2008 and other similar statements.

– It is important to go beyond the solutions promoted in many global negotiations that focus upon large scale trade or other institutions global forms trying to influence the whole world in a monocultural way. It is necessary to address the global level but also to bring up issues that challenges the present model of large scale solutions. One way of doing this is to develop the food sovereignity concept further as Bolivian president Evo Morales have made in his statement on the climate crisis were he promotes also energy sovereignity. He also ptu forward demand of ecological debt instead of trading emission rights. Another kind of demand is to war and occupation, stop armament and use the military resources for ecological and social concerns.

– Of crucial importance is to bring forward solutions that will give sustainable work to many people and change the power relation between the speculative and productive economy. There is a need to rebuild our cities and transport systems making them more ecological and oppose the antisocial shopping center and motorway society. The working class are as interested in producing public transport vehicles as private cars and build ecologically, it is the economic system that stops workers from producing sustainable goods. There is the possibility to plant locally sustainable trees that gives nutrition to the local population and oppose monoculture plantations.

– It is also on the immediate level important to jointly address the issue of repression and restrictions of democracy that is a hinderance for social change and a solution to the multidimensional crisis.

– In the short term it is also important to create a broad general political discussion. A popular movement plattform within and outside the social forum process should be able to promote the establishment of a discussion forum at the official WSF web-site or the site. The social forum process must become more open to people in common that wants to participate in the debate.

– What is also needed in the short term is a collection of qualified articles on the multidimensional crisis, alternatives and popular movements experience in democratic and social change


– During 2009 and 2010 there are many occasions as the G20 meeting, NATO 60 years, G8 and the Climate summit and other international meetings were a popular movements plattform and other similar intiatives can deveop the plans and actions further.

– Hopefully a more comprehensive democratic program could be developed. In such a program it is of importance to place both rural and urban, ecological and economical, social, cultural and political issues.

– What also would be useful is a more systematic exchange of experience between popular movements both concerning  the history and evaluation of the present situation for popular movements and different ways of working but also how history in general is used in such a way that people in common is seen more as a problem than a solution with dangerous utopian ideas threatening a benevolent elite within and between nations.


– Sitting discussing with people on restaurants in Sao Paulo it seems as if the present crisis also opens up for more long terms ideas and discussions. 1 million workers have been unemployed in Brasil during the present crisis. It is about time that we address the issue of alienated work and consumer culture. Tha direct democracy in both economical and political fields is of imortance toi change society. Such a discussion can go much further than what different organisation can democratically agreee upon in full but all organisation commited to solve the social and ecological cirsis can promote that such a discussion takes place.

– One of the key aspects to address more proofundly is politics and environment. In the social foeild many movements and organisations elaborated demands and analysis but the present world models stops tehm from being implemented. When it comes to ecological issues the demands and analysis are not as elaborated and sometimes even progressive organisations promote large scale trading systems of emission rights that are problematic. Thus under discussion in Frinedns of the Earth Sweden is to organise an international conference on Politics and Evnvironment together with interested international movements. Such efforts can also be organised on other issues.

– Alternatives needs also to be deveoped in a more comprehensive way. Friends of the Eart have developed the fair share concept which together with other movements perspectives and the future study tradtion could be a basis for common efforts to promote alternatives to the present system.

It is also about time to reform the social forum process. A popular movement plattform together with like minded movements and organisations could organise at the same time as world and regional social forums inside or outside according to what formally is acceptable a dialogue between movements and policy-makers, political parties and/or liberation movements. Other ways of reforming the social forum process can also be discussed through a working group of those interested in sustaining social forums questioning the present opposition between open space and decision-making conference models.

Tord Björk

Sao Paulo 20th of January 2009

No Comments

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI