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World Social Forum 2016: ready to lose the North?

For over fifteen years, the World Social Forum -a true happening of alternatives to the neoliberal model- has brought together anti-globalists, activists, and other builders of a more just world from all around the world. In its eleven previous incarnations, the Forum was held in so-called developing countries, like Brazil, Senegal and Tunisia.

For over fifteen years, the World Social Forum -a true happening of alternatives to the neoliberal model- has brought together anti-globalists, activists, and other builders of a more just world from all around the world. In its eleven previous incarnations, the Forum was held in so-called developing countries, like Brazil, Senegal and Tunisia.

That being so, it was a great surprise when the city of Montreal (Quebec, Canada) was named as host city of the WSF 2016. It seems that youth and the new social movements have convinced the International Council to welcome the candidacy of a Northern country. “The first World Social Forum in the North will be an historic opportunity to renew global social struggles, and all of it carried by the spirit of Quebec youth,” said Chico Whitaker, a founding member of the WSF, during the announcement.

It seems that Quebec has won acclaim from anti-globalists as the initiator, among others, of the World March of Women in 2000, and the land that gave birth to the ‘Maple Spring’ in 2012 (student strike movement that later included other social demands against the government of the time).

The choice of Montreal also reflects how the traditional North-South divide is becoming increasingly obsolete when it comes to solidarity, exchange of expertise and fighting poverty. Even though it is in the South that the largest number of people in poverty and affected by conflict are found, so-called “rich” countries generate their own (increasing) lot of excluded and poor. Moreover, the importance of addressing poverty in all its forms and wherever it is, has been recognized at the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a universal agenda which aims to ensure that no one is left behind.

The search for solutions and alliances that can lead to a better redistribution of wealth and the preservation of the resources of the planet go through the change of structures that perpetuate inequality, which requires a strong and united civil society and alliances between sectors ranging far beyond geographical or economic divisions.

Whether you think of the recent scandal of the “Panama Papers” and the broader issue of tax evasion, or the crisis of the Syrian refugees, it is clear that global action is often necessary to create the political will to address problems.

Holding a first Social Forum in the North still posed some challenges, especially regarding the participation of delegates from different continents. To promote maximum representation, various committees were established to help with visa applications and other paperwork, find accommodation with local families to reduce costs, provide grants to subsidize the participation of antiglobalists with limited means, etc.

The WSF 2016 will be organized around 13 themes, such as “Democratization of Knowledge and Right to Communication”, “Migration, Refugees and Citizenship without Borders” and “Workers against neoliberalism.” The registration period for self-managed activities has expired (list of confirmed activities), but it is still possible to register for the Forum or to participate remotely in some workshops. Information on the accommodation options is available here (in French and Spanish only).

Tens of thousands of people from the four cardinal points are expected to come to Montreal in August 2016, to build alternatives and alliances with engaged citizens for a more humane, more just, and peaceful world. We hope you will “lose the North” with us!

By Chantal Havard, Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC)

Chantal Havard is Communications Manager at the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. The CCIC and several of its members will be present at the WSF 2016.