Thursday, March 03, 2011

International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development
Newsletter #76
March 1st 2011


Message from the Editorial Team

The Social Forum movement in Africa

The Human Economy
Nyéléni Bulletin

The ILO (International Labour Organization) Social and Solidarity Economy Academy

Message from the Editorial Team

Judith is back from the World Social Forum, which was held in Dakar from February 6th to 11th. She shares her impressions with us.
For our readers who understand English, we would like to recommend a book, The Human Economy, edited by Keith Hart, Jean-Louis Laville and Antonio Cattani. The editors have assembled a citizen's guide to the building of a human economy. This book for English readers is a major effort to share the state of global knowledge, particularly the reflection and analysis of works written in French, as well as Spanish and Portuguese. It does not cover Asia, which will be described in future works.
Many concepts explored in this book are familiar, like solidarity economy and local development, fair trade, microfinance and local currencies. Other essays analyze elements such as the current state of globalization and alter globalization. It also deals with very relevant concepts such as social capital or common resources.
Essentially, this book is a successful attempt to collect and present a fairly complete set of concepts relevant to understanding the challenges facing the planet, from the global to local level, as well as the range of people-centred initiatives. In this sense, it is a work of reference and training tool.

As is the case with our newsletter, we find it extremely important to allow for the exchange of knowledge across languages and cultures. In this sense, the book's editors, as well as the diverse essays from various continents fill important gaps particularly in the English-speaking world.

In this issue, we also wish to share different information, including upcoming events.

Editorial Team
Judith Hitchman
Yvon Poirier
Martine Theveniaut

The Social Forum movement in Africa

The 2011 edition of the World Social Forum was held at the Cheik Anta Diop University in Dakar, the capital of Senegal from February 6th -11th. In the ten-year history of the WSF, it was the third time the Forum came back to Africa, following the polycentric WSF in Bamako in 2006, and that of Nairobi in 2007. Most people living outside Africa are not aware of the depth and vibrant nature of the social forum process and growing strength social movements throughout the continent, with the many national, regional and thematic fora that have also taken place there in recent years.

Africa is the continent that is probably suffering most severely from the combined effects of the neo-liberal crisis of our civilisation. The impacts of migration, climate change, land- and common goods-grabbing are widely felt by a broad cross-section of the communities. There has long been a chronic lack of adequate investment in infrastructure and basic public services in all African countries, although there are considerable variations from one country to another. The traditional informal economic model does not generate tax, and the imposed neo-colonialist exploitation of resources by multinationals pays little into the coffers of the States. These combined factors have resulted in the destruction of the traditional solidarity-based society, massive threats to peasant agriculture and commonage, insufficient education and healthcare systems and megalopoles that are lacking in basic services… In Senegal alone, the State can only cover 70% of the needs in electrical power at any one moment, so power cuts are a daily occurrence, frequently lasting for as much as 48 hours. Basic food costs are also rising at an alarming rate, as a result of Economic Partnership Agreements that favour the importing of cheap surplus production rather than encouraging food sovereignty and local production and processing. Remittances from migrants living abroad, a mainstay of many African families, and a key source of income throughout African society, have fallen sharply as those living abroad suffer increasingly from unemployment. It is therefore not surprising that there is increasing unrest and riots and that civil society is organised in strong local networks.

Strong grassroots mobilisation

It is against this background that caravans from all over North, West and Central Africa converged for the Forum. At the opening march, there were an estimated 70,000 participants. The Forum itself probably brought together over twice that number (an estimated 75,000 people participated). No exact figure is possible, as it was a truly open space, with no gate controls and a far greater grass-roots participation than any previous edition. This mobilisation in a country like Senegal (total population 13 million, 3 million living in Dakar), is in itself a significant dimension. There were 10,000 registered participants from countries of the North. Students, local inhabitants groups, small-scale farmers, migrants’ associations, trade unionists and members of other social movements made up the vast majority of participants, all mingling in the chaos of the Forum. Fewer intellectuals, far more local mobilisation than ever before. A significant sign of the times.

The Forum was held at the same time as historic events were sweeping through countries a little further north: the fall of dictatorships and revolutions, first in Tunisia, then in Egypt provided a meaningful background to the meetings. Mubarak’s decision to stand down coincided with the closing ceremony of the Forum, providing a very special kind of energy. The fact that these uprisings were the result of civil society’s expression of discontent rather than organised by political party based movements, is a key factor of change, and one that resonates with the Social Forum approach to organised civil society.

Unfortunate and unnecessary chaos to the Forum was caused by the newly nominated Rector of the University’s decision not to make the promised rooms available for meetings. This was compounded by the knock-on effect of breakdown of other related logistics (failure to allocate rooms impacts printing a programme, doing effective booth planning for interpretation etc…). Although it was a nightmare for the Local Organising Committee, the participants took it all surprisingly in stride, and made do with much good humour. A crisis management unit worked day and night to solve the most pressing issues (renting tents, allocating existing space…) Nothing was going to stop the mobilisation… Was it prompted by fear of the strength of what organised civil society can represent, or political sabotage? At the end of the day, the result is the same.

Local languages

Language is political. West Africa is probably the region where local languages have best survived colonialism, and in Senegal most people actually speak a local language rather than French. Women, who left school early, often have minimal French. It was very important therefore for Babels to be able to train locals in basic interpretation techniques and to help facilitate interpretation for the three main local languages: Wolof, Bambara, and Poular. The logistical chaos greatly reduced the potential of this contribution, but it was nevertheless important, particularly for the meetings in the women’s tent and for the Via Campesina. Sign language was also used throughout the Forum.

Effective solidarity economy in action

The week prior to the Forum has always provided an opportunity for various groups to meet. Until now, these meetings have always used private sector services for the provision of interpretation and equipment. We successfully used ALIS equipment during this week, (Alternative Interpretation Systems), and Babels provided the interpreting for these prefora as well as for the WSF. The funding (where available) was paid into the WSF account, thereby mutualising the available human, technical and financial means. The events covered were organised by the Science and Democracy Forum, Trade Union's Forum, Habitat International Coalition, International Alliance of Inhabitants, The Forum on Health and Social Security, a seminar on Fair Trade, the Fishing Forum, as well as the Migrants Forum that was held on the island of Gorée (an island off Dakar, historically associated with slave trafficking).

The official restaurant tent catering was well organised by small local women’s groups. This catering used only local products, and directly benefited small-scale farmers and women’s groups.
There was also a convergence Assembly on Solidarity Economy and Fair Trade (the latter was particularly aimed at developing South-South relations). This brought some 100 people together, who came up with a good final declaration. (


African civil society is moving towards a more joined-up movement. The World Social Forum continues to provide a space for developing connections and dialogue across borders and differences. It may not be a space for action per se, but it does provide the basis for developing actions that reach beyond the few days of the Forum. This particular Forum took place at a historic moment for Tunisia and Egypt, and will certainly leave its mark on Africa and indeed global civil society.

Judith A. Hitchman
(Original article in English and French)

The Human Economy
Keith Hart (Goldsmiths College, University of London), Jean-Louis Laville (Conservatoire national des arts et métiers) et Antonio David Cattani (Université fédérale de Rio Grande do Sul)
Published in English only
Polity Press
320 pages, 2010

A brief review by Yvon Poirier

The global financial crisis has renewed concern about whether capitalist markets are the best way of organizing economic life. Would it not be better if we were to treat the economy as something made and remade by people themselves, rather than as an impersonal machine? The object of a human economy is the reproduction of human beings and of whatever sustains life in general. Such an economy would express human variety in its local particulars as well as the interests of all humanity.
This project is not a dream but is part of a collective effort that began a decade ago at the first World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and has gathered pace ever since. (1)

It is still necessary to explore the concepts and understand the deep issues we are facing to build a people-centred economy. People in our movements need to understand better what they are doing and the challenges they are facing. This book, published in English, is an effort to share concepts that are sometimes better known in other continents such as South America or in French speaking countries. Two of the editors, Cattani from South America and Laville from France, are well known in their respective cultures. The essays in this book are new, but they are similar to a previous book published in South America. In particular, Dicionario internacional da outra economia by Cattani, Laville and Gaiger.

(1) Description by the editor
For other descriptions or information :

Nyéléni Newsletter

The Number 2 of the Nyeleni Newsletter is now available online in three languages: English, Spanish and French!

This edition of the newsletter has a special on factory farming.
The Newsletter is published every two months on the website.

The ILO (International Labour Organization) Social and Solidarity Economy Academy

The second edition of the ILO Social and Solidarity Economy Academy will be held in Montreal (Canada) from October 24th to 28th 2011.

The Academy participants will also have the opportunity to participate in FIESS (International Forum on Social Solidarity Economy) during the week prior to this event.

Our Newsletters are available on the WEB:

Special thanks to:
Paula Garuz Naval (Ireland) for the Spanish translation
Michel Colin (Brazil) for the Portuguese translation
Évéline Poirier (Canada) for the English translation

To contact us (for information, feedback, to subscribe or unsubscribe):
Yvon Poirier

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