First International Forum in Africa
Bamako hosted the opening ceremony of the World Social Forum on Thursday 19th January, the first time an international forum has come to Africa. Between 19th and 24th January, the Forum will concentrate on the call for social justice.
Ten thousand delegates from civil society organizations around the world are this weekend in Bamako, capital of Mali, for the World Social Forum, a global forum which focuses on issues which divide the rich and poor and which raises issues to bridge this gap, suggesting ways in which wealth and development can be more equally distributed.
Among the issues to be raised in this forum are the lack of rights of many African workers – no social security, no health care, no right to sick leave, no unemployment benefit and low wages, a situation affecting many workers in informal sectors, which in Africa includes a substantial percentage of the workforce (up to 90% in some regions).
Once again, the issue of subsidies and tariffs will be raised – richer nations continue to give their producers and products unfair advantages, while preaching freedom of trade but practising protectionism. Producers from poorer nations are unable to compete, because without subsidies and with import tariffs imposed on the goods they produce, their products are more expensive.
However, developed nations often link increased access to developing markets to financial aid packages, meaning that the financial benefits are washed away in a sea of economic and commercial colonialism.
Calls will again be made for an elimination of subsidies and for the creation of the principle of a level playing field, which is not the case at present and which in turn is a shame for the developed world.
Another important issue on the agenda is debt cancellation, a policy which has already begun. Some developed nations and institutions have cancelled the debts of developing countries and there will be calls for this policy to continue and be expanded.
Finally there will be an examination of the Millennium Development Goals and how the measures to implement these are faring.
The World Social Forum is an important way to gauge how much social progress is being made and to keep the pressure up on those who would do far less if they were not placed under the spotlight.
The first World Social Forum was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001, as an alternative top the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Forum in Bamako will be paralleled by Social Forums in two other locations, namely Caracas (Venezuela) and Karachi (Pakistan).
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