My best intentions to produce a daily report of our activities at the World Social Forum failed due to the intensity of activities and limited access to the internet. In this report I present a summary of our activities from Monday January, 21 through Wednesday, January 23. In general, we have been able to introduce our proposal to different organizations and made a significant amount of important contacts.
Nairobi - Sunday, January 21. - Today was our first day of work in meetings, conferences and workshops at the Forum. The presentations are divided up in 4 sessions during the day, therefore, technically any one person can only attend 4 sessions a day. We concentrated mostly exclusively on migrant workers rights presentations, with the exception of one entitled "Revisiting the Bamako Appeal: issues of democracy and susbstance in the world movement", organized by the India Institute for Critical Action in Movement. That event was well attended on a makeshift area of the balcony covered by tent covering material. It wasn't easy to follow however because the levels on noise captured from the outside of the makeshift room were too high. This is one event where "culture overshadowed" politics.
My first attempt to attend an event failed since it was either cancelled or moved without notice. Other compas dind't have better luck. We were able to participate in an activity called "Mainstreaming the combat against exploitative migration, including human trafficking." This was presented by an organization called International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism. This presentation concentrated heavily on the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation. This NGO has branches in different countries and presents a line that understands that the present migration situation is one of the effects of capitalist neoliberals policies. Their main proposal was to create an internet network. As it is the case with many of this proposals, every initiating organization hopes to be the center of the effort and have control over it. Our email contacts were taken and we will see if this initiative is followed through. We also had a brief chance to present our proposal, which only resonated as the need to organize migrants workers internationally, from workers of the world unite, to migrant workers of the world unite.
"Borders, rights and people's freedom of movement", lead by Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana, was another presentation we were able to attend. This activity was well attended but it was also a continuum of testimonies with no participation from the audience. In general, here we also had a streaming of different testimonials and interpretations of the problems of migration from different parts of the world, including the U.S. We circulated our printed proposal, but didn't have a chance to speak. This activity was presented at the end of day under a tent, and by 7pm it was already dark, no electrical light available, nor sound system. At this activity we were able to make informal contact with people working on migrant workers rights in Spain.
Another of our members attended an activity called African Migration and Violence, presented by the Forum for Another Mali. Another dimension of the migrant workers reality was presented and we were able to make important contacts with the organizers.
We also attended a presentation by the India Institute for Critical Action Center in Movement about revisiting the Bamako Appeal, issues of democracy and substance in the world movement. Different perspectives were presented regarding this important document, which attempts to be a contribution for organizing progressives struggles in the world. What it was was apparent was the minimal presence of Africans and people from Latin America, while the audience was mostly European and white.
Onother workshops a member of our small delegation attended had to do with a concept that in the U.S. and Latin America we still do not experience in force, the concept of European "externalization" of their borders. That means the expansion of their border into other countries to either quickly deport migrants to those "buffer" zones or to pay the governments of those countries to stop and deport migrants workers that must transit through their territories to reach the magnet European countries.
Our day ended close to 8 pm and I wasn't able to write up a report due to being exhausted and no access to the internet.
Monday, January 22. This was the day we had to do our own presentation, which was scheduled for the period 8:30 am to 11 am. We arrived on time and setup our banner in front of the tent we thought was the location assigned to us. Later on we discovered that was not the right place and that people who had come looking for us couldn't find us. Indeed we where just a few feet away from the right place.
Our activity was attended by about 12 people from different places such as Burma, Mali, and Spain. The conversation was extremely rich since we had time to exchange ideas with those in attendance. In general, we got a sense that our proposals were supported by the compas who attended. We learned a great deal from the participants. Our compas from Spain explained that while their country presents itself as a "welcoming" country, the work permit laws allow for the exploitation of migrant workers for a period of 8 years. We also learned about the deplorable conditions of abuse and victimization of Malian and Burmese workers who migrate to neighboring countries in search of work. The meeting was well documented in video tape and we hope to process it upon return and make it part of a report-back activity.
Another event that our members attended on this day were, a workshop about the rights of the migrant workers presented by the Democratic Labor Organization of African Workers. This event conducted in French and our proposal in that language was circulated among all participants, with good reception.
We also participated of the U.S. organization Southwest Workers Union's event called "Struggles along the US/Mexico Border - Militarization, Migration and Human Rights. This was one of the first activities attended by Jesse Diaz who arrived from Los Angeles to join our delegation on this day.
I wasn't able to find an activity organized by the World Federation of Youth on "Youth and Immigration" and I was very disappointed since this is an area we have not had much experience in terms of organizing. It might have been cancelled or the location changed but there were no notices about it.
Tuesday, January 23. Early in the morning we started our work attending a presentation by a very important organization in the migrant workers rights field for French speaking people, called "Forum of International Solidarity on Issues of Migration". Nearly eight panelists presented themes based on "Migration and Development".
We also attended an activity organized by a U.S. based group called "Migrant Rights International", entitled "Migrant Rights: Exploring Root Causes and Strategizing International Plans of Action". We were able to formally introduce our proposal here also.
We ended up the day participating at an event organized by the International Confederation of Labor, entitled "Immigration as tool to bring about change in both countries of origin and destination". This activity was useful to understand the position of the Italian CGIL, the French CGT and the Spanish Workers Organization. While they seem to have a sympathetic view of migrant workers, the emphasis is on working in the "sending" countries, preparing potential migrant workers for an "organized" immigration into their own countries. The night fell upon us without electricity in the room and while we circulated our Italian, Spanish and French printed copies of the proposal, we didn't have a chance to speak to the audience.
Wednesday, January 24. Today was the most important day of our work in the Forum since ARCI called upon an "Assembly for Migrant Rights". Since our delegation had previously endorsed this activity, our banner was displayed prominently in the large room for the activity. In a sense this was the culmination of previous meetings and we had an opportunity for formally introduce our proposal. The ideas of a May Day dedicated in solidarity to migrant workers rights worlwide resounded clearly, together with many other proposals to advance this movement. We became part of a listserve that will circulate the final draft of the statement that we will have to sign on, assuming that there is also place for changes and corrections.
Finally, the last activity of our delegation here will be to attend the Assembly of Social Movements where we will attempt to introduce our proposal again.
Tomorrow will be the closing ceremony at Uhuru Park, and we will start getting ready to go back home.
By Sergio Reyes