Over 50 debates and seminars,plus film screenings, drama performances and book sales. The Forum is being arranged by about 100 Finnish NGOs and social movements.
JUSTICE, FAIRNESS AND UNFAIRNESS A CHINESE JEANS FACTORY has been granted a large trial order from abroad. The jeans have to be
ready for dispatch quickly otherwise there will be no future orders. Through appeals and demands, the factory manager goads his workers, who are women, into doing overtime. They work day and night, sleeping for a few hours by their sewing machines or on the piles of cloth. The women end up attaching clothes pegs to their eyelids so that they keep their eyes open. They live in a dormitory that houses many women and where the space for each sewing machinist is about the same as it used to be in the hostel for the homeless on Pursimiehenkatu in Helsinki. Just a bed. The factory manufactures brand jeans for about EUR 4.10 each. Of that the machinists get 11 cents. They send most of their wages home to their parents, who depend on the cash sent by their children. Elsewhere: We’re on the way back from a workplace visit to the construction site for the Olkiluoto nuclear plant. On the way we pass the housing area for the foreign construction workers. Lines of neat huts surrounded by forest, far from anywhere. We can’t go inside. Anna Kontula’s book ‘Invisible Village’ describes things inside the barracks. Two men share an eight-metre room. There’s a tiny fridge, a chair, sweaty clothing draped on the radiator. And a communal kitchen. The barracks have been designed as single dwellings for Finnish migrant workers who take their laundry home each weekend. The barracks are now packed with Poles, Ukrainians and Portuguese workers who work six-day weeks and visit home at intervals of six-months of a year. The evenings are monotonous.
With these situations the question of justice and fairness crops up naturally. Sure, we recognise unfairness when we come across it. We also find justice hand in hand with fairness in the general sessions of the Finnish Social Forum. What are we entitled to as citizens, as workers, migrants or even sexual minorities, and what is fairness? These are the sorts of questions that the many meetings of Social Forum will focus on. There are over 60 events being held at the Forum. There will also be documentaries dealing with the global chains of production, such as the one about the Chinese jeans factory, China Blue. The Finnish Social Forum is an open event. You can take part in its programme without registering or having to pay an entrance fee. The events have been designed to be open to all and spontaneous, but you need to keep an eye on the Forum website www.sosiaaliforum.fi. There are a wide variety of different groups and organisations involved. The Forum is being organised by over 90 associations and social movements, including church, cultural and trade union activists. The programme of Social Forum is divided into six themes: Working life, the Economy and Welfare Services, Peace, Education, Art and Culture, Democracy and Participation, and Environment. This paper devotes a page to each theme. Though in terms of its content the Finnish Social Forum is something of a show of strength for civil society, it depends on many sources of funding. The main one is the foreign ministry, which facilitates the organisational work, communications and above all the attendance by NGO guests from developing countries. This year there are guests from Egypt, Honduras, Pakistan and Palestine/Israel. There’s more about them on the following pages. In the spirit of the World Social Forum, the Finnish forum offers an open space for discussion and encounters. There’s no one truth on offer, rather many divergent points of view. A great variety of groups and organisations will be on show in the Arbiksen Hall . But there is a common endeavour to seek justice and alternatives amidst world of stringent values. The world is one and people are to be cherished. And there’s much in the world that one can influence and which can be changed. Together. Raija Korhonen, is a priest and social worker from the parish of Helsinki who has been involved in organising the Social Forum since the second such event. She is also the Church Social Work staff representative for the financial organisation of this year’s Forum. PS. Now that the 10th Finnish Social Forum is upon us it is just and fair to mention Jaana Airaksinen and Päivi Uljas, who worked on the first Finnish Social Forum. It was they who brought the Social Forum to Finland. Our thanks to them.
SATURDAY 2 APRIL AT 12.00, MAIN HALL How does peace come about?
Panel discussion with the Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU and Living Together in Cities on peace-brokering and peace education. Participants include international visitors to the Social Forum Gershon Bask from Israel/ Palestine and James Chann from Pakistan. The mediator will be Janne Hopsu, foreign affairs editor at MTV. The discussion will look at issues such as: What are the ingredients of peace? How to bring about the necessary impetus for generating peace-brokering? What is the relation between the activities of external proponents and builders of peace and the peace work of those living amidst crises? How realistic is Finland’s self-conception as a leading peace-brokering nation?
WHAT IS A SOCIAL FORUM? A Social Forum is not an organizational entity, but instead the fruit of collaboration between various civil society movements. It operates as an ‘open space’ to which proponents of equality and a democratic society can bring their visions to be discussed and debated extensively. There is a wide span of opinions and interest groups involved. The Finnish Social Forum adheres to the principles of the World Social Forum. The Finnish Social Forum is part of the international network of social forums, which is made up of regional and thematic social forums worldwide. The most significant of these is
the World Social Forum (fsm2011.org), which has become perhaps the most important discussion arena of civil society. The World Social Forums have at best brought together over 100,000 participants. The Finnish Social Forum gives expression to many – in some cases totally divergent – points of view about the world today. Nevertheless, the factor that unites the different interest groups that organize the Forum is the belief in a more just, democratic and equal world. The point of the Social Forum is to present crucial issues for public discussion and debate, to enable different perspectives the opportunity for a constructive dialogue and to further cooperation between the different actors involved.
Gershon Bask James Chann
The Bulletin of the Finnish Social Forum, 2–3 April 2011 English version published as a supplement to 6Degrees. Editor-in-chief Karim Maiche email@example.com Editor: Teemu Matinpuro Design and layout Marja Salonen, Cover Antti Nordin, Map Sanna-Maria Lousaari Translations: Mark Waller Publisher Suomen Rauhanpuolustajat ry, Finnish Peace Committee
2.–3.4. 2011 HELSINKI, ARBIS
World Social Forum: A natural convergence of thoughts and ideas but a process seeking direction.
THE MANTRA “ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE” was alive at the WSF 2011
in Dakar, Senegal, at the University Cheikh Anta Diop. The idea is that ‘open spaces’ stimulate decentralized debates allowing coalitions and alliances to formulate concrete actions towards a democratic and fair world. Two weeks before, at its annual meeting in Davos the grandiose World Economic Forum (WEF) brought together leaders and intellectuals to discuss the state of the world. Media glitz, glamour, wealth, on the one hand, and the subtle meanings of democracy and “a fair world”, on the other, differentiate the two forums. This represents the core political and developmental questions at the WSF, demanding attention from those interested in change. The connection between local and global issues is presented as “complex”, a fault traceable to leadership generated by institutions that set boundaries based on interests. Civil movements informed by this closed agenda develop fire-fighting responses, verging on purely reactive stances. If there is poor leadership and no political agenda-setting concerning the alternatives we need, the third sector will remain steeped in rhetoric.
IN NEED OF A DEVELOPMENT KINDERGARTEN We should go back to kindergarten level teachings to foster a better understanding of the world, development and politics. The WSF, has created such, however, the language needs to go back to basics. Most people don’t have time to go into the complexities of situations. They understand food, water, energy, shelter, health and gainful employment issues beyond the grasp of academics or politicians. At this level, contextual discourse can clarify the perceived “complexities”, and lay foundation for better leadership.
WHY ARE THEY MARCHING? The divide between the marchers during the WSF 2011 opening march and the “ordinary Senegalese” onlookers embodies the challenge of involving the wider society in
EGYPT’S FUTURE WILL BE A DEMOCRATIC ONE KARIM MAICHE spoke to Amr Gharbeia (22), an
international guest of the Finnish Social Forum and renowned pro-democracy activist and blogger. In 2005 Deutsche Welle designated his gharmeia.net site as Arab language blog of the year. He was detained by the police at the start of the Egyptian revolution but managed to escape from detention.
What has changed in the post-Mubarak era? The changes are still unfolding and Egypt has still to completely purge the old regime and its tools of oppression. With a bit of luck and a lot of effort by the emerging political forces, Egypt could be on track for democratic reform during this year and next .
What kind of Egypt would you like to see in the future and what is the role of the civil society in the process? For the immediate future I’d like to see Egypt turned into a parliamentary democracy with
the process. People stood looking bemused on the pavements observing the placard waving marchers, and businesses were closed and boarded up to ward off these potential “trouble makers”. Interestingly, a few university students professed their ignorance about the WSF. There was excitement when a small group of students shouted and screamed from their residence to the marchers. But was it a show of solidarity? No! Surprisingly it was a protest against the WSF. This forces one to wonder about the future of the movement, who will be marching and why?
AFRICA FORUM, AFRICA PRESENCE, THE MISSING AGENDA? There was a huge African presence at WSF 2011. The themes ranged from global trends to life and death issues affecting peasants. The Africa Diaspora Day recognised the role of diaspora in politics and the knowledge economy, while climate and land issues were deliberated and intricately linked to the biofuels debate. Various presentations (African Biodiversity Network, Ekta Prashad, Indonesia etc) painted a picture, of people losing their lands to large corporations to pave way for fuel, export crops or control over resources. There is a need for forensic data identifying the drivers of the hideous domestic and international trend of land grabs, followed by a targeted non-cosmetic campaign. Land grabs drive the internal displacement of persons (IDPs) and now affects millions in Africa. Not to underplay it, but this shows how easy it is to have a cosmetic campaign and avoid dealing with the systemic problems at a domestic level. Rights are in trouble, not only in Africa, and the reluctance by democratic states to ratify legally binding instruments such as the indigenous and tribal peoples Convention (ILO 169, ratified by 22 countries) says it loud. The United Nations Collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) faced strong resistance by groups from the Ameri-
cas, but the Africans sent mixed messages. In private they were waiting for rewards from UN-REDD. So what is the true agenda from different groupings? At a meeting organised by Jai Sen, of the India Institute for Critical Action: Centre in Movement (CACIM), he asked me, “are you here as part of change, or paid to be here to be seen to be part of change?” This is a question with many dimensions, I did not have an answer. Jai acknowledged being paid to be at the WSF, but he was also seeking change. Now that is an agenda!
CHAOS BREAKS THE BRANDING AND THE COMPLEX LANGUAGE BARRIER Titling and branding is growing within this space, as we try to bring new thinking and articulate global concerns. Is it wrong to brand or use complex language to define the problems of the world? If the message is inclusive and does not create communication barriers, it’s maybe okay, but, it might be counter productive and definitely a key concern. The University in dakar was in session at the same time as the WSF, which meant that the 2000 self organised events could not happen as scheduled. The plans evolved as situations changed. Forced to talk to each other, seeking space to listen or make presentations, people saw beyond their narrow focus. Impromptu meetings started taking place at convenience. Some of the tents put up for the sessions became central to thematic convergences, and give exposure to groups such as the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and Dignity International (climate and land). Though undefined, there was agreement on the need for action towards COP 17 and Rio 20+. Dakar 2011 was almost like “a jam session”, where the players bring their instruments, without practice jump on stage and produce great beats. By discusing the same things from different perspectives, Earth issues came out a clear winner.
strong influence coming from grass roots initiatives and organisation. Civil society has a critical role to play during the interim to flesh out details in the general consensus created over the past few years.
There is no widespread awareness of its existence outside these small groups.
Does the social movement or civil society in general have enough power and influence to pressure those who are now in charge in Egypt?
Political protest movements such as 6 April, Freedom & Justice and other movements did not have any relations with other organised movements in other Arabic speaking countries (the situation in Tunisia for example restricted the emergence of such movements much more than in Egypt). Human rights organisations are known to have built good network over the years, and since 2006 there has been a network of Arabic speaking bloggers/citizen journalists/techies who share an interest in public affairs. The most important link between people in those countries by far has been Al Jazeera.
The social movement in Egypt has persuaded the military council, which is at present ruling Egypt to not take Mubarak’s side and to lead to him being ousted from power. After destroying the police force and the ruling National Democractic Party in the uprising on 28 January, the Tahrir Square sit in kept the crisis alive and created the effect of a general strike, but the real demonstration of social power was the massive wave of industrial action during the few days before Mubarak’s departure from power on 11 February. After 11 February, the social movement continued cleansing workplaces of the Mubaraks controlling them, and in just 10 days we have seen as much industrial actions as over for the entire previous year. This movement has been dubbed opportunistic and dangerous to general security by the military council and the mainstream media.
Is the World’s Social Forum known in Egypt? Individual activists and some organisations that are inclined towards social justice are aware of WSF and take part in it.
How strong is the relationship between Egypt’s movements with their counterparts in other Arabic speaking countries?
What could civil society in Finland do to help you to achieve your goals? Solutions. Practical ideas that build alternatives now. The general discourse in the country focuses too much on (overwhelming) problems and spends little effort on building the new world in the shell of the old. Now is the right moment to introduce non-hierarchical, green, inclusive and just solutions to problems of energy, water, agriculture, health, housing, education, and technology and build a movement around them. Finland is a very different place
than Egypt, and the solutions have to stem from the country itself. We can see how a different place handles its own problems. Solidarity goes a long way in furthering the struggle for social and environmental justice.
AMR GHARBEIA IN THE SOCIAL FORUM DEBATES: Sunday 3.4. 11.00-13.00 Main Hall: The Egyptian civil rights activist and blogger Amr Gharbeia, Henri Onodera, researcher at the University of Helsinki, and Susanne Dahlgren will discuss the background to mobilization sparked by the Egyptian uprising and the prospects for the future. At 15.00 in the Main Hall: Closing session of the Finnish Social Forum, CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY, Amr Gharbeia, Egypt With comments from Heikki Patomäki, Teivo Teivanen, Hanna Nikkanen
2.–3.4. 2011 HELSINKI, ARBIS
The Bulletin of the Finnish Social Forum, 2–3 April 2011 English version published as a supplement to 6Degrees.