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A workshop on the World Social Forum ahead of the Nairobi hosting of the WSF in January 2007 will debate how this annual gathering of progressives best generates collective, global-scale, national and local social change.

Announcement: CCS/Focus Workshop on the WSF - Durban, 22-23 July

Join us for:

WHAT: A Workshop on the World Social Forum

WHY: scholars and activists are ready to debate how this annual gathering of progressives best generates collective, global-scale, national and local social change

WHEN: the weekend of 22-23 July 2006

WHERE: Durban, South Africa, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Faculty Club (Howard College Campus, King George Ave, Glenwood)

* the International Sociological Association quadrennial congress (23-28 July in Durban), and
* the Nairobi hosting of the WSF in January 2007.

* five years of community mobilisation in Durban, one of the Third World's most fractious cities, as well as popular uprisings across the world;
* five years of WSF gatherings in Porto Alegre, Mumbai, Bamako, Caracas and Karachi;
* dozens of intellectual reviews, books and academic articles about the WSF; and
* an overdose of neoliberalism, racism, sexism, eco-destruction and imperialism.


The Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and dozens of local social and environmental activists will welcome our cohosts Walden Bello, Nicola Bullard and Meena Menon of Focus on the Global South plus movement intellectuals Immanuel Wallerstein (Yale), Ebrima Sall (Codesria), Fred Hendricks (Rhodes Univ), Geoffrey Players (Univ of Liege), Graem Chesters (coeditor of the book *we are everywhere*), Giuseppe Caruso (SOAS), Mohau Pheko (Integrity Consultants) and many others. Durban's own movement intellectuals will join us and relate global processes to local conditions; they will also arrange site tours in subsequent days for visitors with specific socio-economic interests, solidarity and networks to share.

On the evening of July 22, we will celebrate the fifth birthday of the UKZN Centre for Civil Society and the tenth birthday of the African Sociological Review, a flagship journal of the Dakar-based Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria).

African intellectual and activist inputs into our Workshop on the WSF are especially important, given that critical voices from this continent are too often silenced by elites and other progressives. By virtue of suffering the most heinous of social systems - slavery, colonialism, apartheid, neocolonialism, neoliberalism - Africans have a passion for fighting global injustice from which this Workshop will draw sustenance and strategy.

Although space is limited, we invite notices of interest from international, African and local participants. Registration costs, to be announced, depend upon the success of fund-raising, but will be moderate. Overnight accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the Faculty Club is available on 22 July. An estimated 120 people will be gathering, and the Workshop will close with sufficient time to attend the opening of the ISA. Transport will be available.

The Centre for Civil Society - - includes staff and students who have promoted the World Social Forum, but not without critical intellectual concern. We are working with one of the world's leading think-tanks of social change - Focus on the Global South based in Bangkok, Manila and Bangalore - and Codesria to celebrate African contributions to sociology and social change, and to ask and answer tough questions about the WSF.

CCS LIAISON COMMITTEE TO THE WORKSHOP ON THE WSF: Amanda Alexander, Baruti Amisi, Patrick Bond, Dennis Brutus, Ashwin Desai, Ntokozo Mthembu, Molefi Ndlovu, Raj Patel, Helen Poonen, Trevor Ngwane, Virginia Setshedi, Ahmed Veriava

For more information and to register your intention to attend, please contact Patrick Bond ([email protected]) or Ntokozo Mthembu ([email protected]).

(Also, join CCS and the International Sociological Association's Research Committee 47 on Friday, 28 July, 3:45-7pm for a double-session 'Grassroots Sociologists' forum plus the Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture.)



Since the first World Social Forum gathering, held in opposition to the Davos World Economic Forum in early 2001, the WSF has taken on a life of its own: often with multiple and contested identities and purposes; taking on the meaning that is given to it by the participant or observer; experienced and interpreted uniquely by each person who is part of the process. In 2002, continental social forum were set up in Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia in addition to many national, thematic or local social forums.

The WSF has special characteristics: it is a symbol, it is a space, it is a project, it is owned by anyone who wishes to join, it is organic and experimental, it is a work in progress. But for all the achievements - both symbolic and actual - of the WSF, there are also criticisms: it is opaque, it is not effective, it is chaotic. The decision making structure is unclear.

Fundamentally, there are wide divergences in how the Forum is perceived: if itีs a space, what sort of space is it? Who has power and who is represented? Does anyone 'own' the space? Can it be better used? Are African voices and interests adequately represented? Do we need a unifying project? What are the differences between the different Forums, and are there 'recipes' for making a 'good' forum? Do we need better processes? What do we get in return for all the work we put in? Do the Forums succeed on being a place for cross-sectorial projects (between NGO, unions, etc.)? How can the WSF be more grounded? What role do the Forum's sectoral subcomponents - in healthcare, education, environment, economics, indigenous movements, labour, women, youth, anti-racists, faith-based movements and many others -play? Can a programme for global social change emerge from the WSF?

The Workshop on the WSF will bring together activists and academics: not to make decisions or proposals but rather to gather, share and debate research, writing, projects and reflections on the WSF and the context in which it exists, and to create a dialogue where this richness can be shared and reflected upon. We will be asking: What has the WSF achieved? Where is the WSF going? How is it shaping, and being shaped by, the new forms of activism and social movements? Can the WSF provide a space for transforming social relations? What research needs to be done? Who is the research useful for? How can we share and democratise information.

In Durban over the 22-23 July weekend, we will pose these questions, and in October in Bangkok we will take them up again at the offices of Focus on the Global South. A Latin American venue is being sought, along with European and North American settings, for future Workshops on the WSF in 2007 and onwards.

Join us! Another Workshop is possible!