World Social Forum Nepal (WSF 2024); - A short observation Of A participant

This was the first time Nepal hosted WSF in Kathmandu after it was first time held in Porto Alegra in 2001. It was designed as a counter forum to the World Economic Forum held in Davos at the same time.

March 14, 2024, 1:21 p.m.

The World Social Forum (WSF) Nepal 2024 concluded a 5-day program concluded in February at Bhrikutimandup, Kathmandu with some declarations. This was the first time Nepal hosted WSF in Kathmandu after it was first time held in Porto Alegra in 2001. It was designed as a counter forum to the World Economic Forum held in Davos at the same time.

This year, around 90 countries with more than 50,000 people from different fields participated in the programs as told by the organizer though I could not verify the number. In the event, pressing issues ranging from local to global such as injustice, neoliberalism, climate justice, various forms of discrimination, economic inequality, climate justice, peace, gender equality were raised, discussed and hinted doable solution . Hundreds of civil society’s organizations, NGOs and their representatives, activists, independent personnel, writers and media-workers took part in this forum. Etc. Dramas were also staged to highlight violence against women and other issues. Likewise, poster, pamphlets and flyers were distributed and a book stall was selling the books and agencies marketed their products. The other areas of attraction were handicraft stall in which grabbed the attention of large number of visitors. .

Several organization organized parallel session highlighting the challenges facing the globe. Oxfam Nepal organized an Economic Inequality and Justice at the premises of Nepal Tourism board in which several delegates expressed their views and opinions on the growing gap between haves and haves not..

However, the global conflicts and wars did not come up as loudly as they should have. A thin voice was raised about Palestine where hundreds of people lost their lives every day. But it failed to grab the attention it deserves. It is beyond my understanding what led WSF not adequately raised the issues during its five day program. One explanation can be that it did not want to take the sides of either Palestine or Israel.

After the takeover of Taliban in Afghanistan, the CSOs activists mainly the advocates of women’s rights have become its soft target. This was manifested in the event was there were no women’s rights coming from Afghanistan to loud the voice. The war in Gaza and Ukraine did not only take the lives of the people but millions were displaced and dying without having proper medical services, foods and shelters. Thousands of children were killed. Lots of bombings and its destruction surely bring serious climatic and environmental effects which are going to be faced by the people. But the problems and challenges faced by the people were not adequately discussed in the event.

The pain of people in one corner of the globe was not felt by the people of another corner!

Talking about logistic management, the participants were seen expressing dissatisfaction over the time management and location of the event. The complained that there was the itinerary of the event at the appropriate place. The Participants were seen wandering here and there to find the right place they liked to go. The volunteers were there to assist but they were not oriented properly and not found proactive too. Since thousands of people were assembling, there were no paramedical or health centers to be seen to cope with the major health incidents. No proper signs and indicative arrows were placed to guide the participants to the different stalls where programs were running. To keep the place clean, there should be an arrangement of placing the dustbins place to place which was lacking.

The selection of some panelists in some sessions was irrelevant and inexperienced on the issues they were speaking; either they were chosen to fill a vacuum or invited to please the person or both.

Overall, the venue and management of WSF was good, being a people jamboree there might be some glitches. Around 700 hundred volunteers were mobilized to assist (as said) the forum. More than 50 food stalls were there to provide food instantly. Neighboring campus, a conference hall of Kathmandu Convention Centre and Tourism Board Office were used in addition to the Bhrikutimandap open space for the WSF. Space wise, it was able to accommodate all activities and many makeshift conference stalls were installed to host several sharing. At the center there is an open space with a platform where several dramas were staged and exhibitions were organized. A 5-day long mela (fair) was successfully completed.

Thanks should go to the organizing committee and other sub committees. It was not that easy to organize such a forum in Kathmandu where finding an appropriate space is challenging. The time of the event was little irrelevant as people coming from hot countries were seen facing challenges coping with cold weather. However, the event was a huge success and kudos to the organizer!

Conclusion

There were no planners and policy makers who participated in the forum. It means the issues raised at this WSF remains as it is for the next WSF also! As the WSF-024 was hosted by Nepal, it would have been better if the Nepal Government representatives were present there to listen and learn. Rather than bringing issues and their solutions to the action, it remained on expressing, sharing and exchanging ideas and meeting people of the globe- showed a camaraderie function only. In a way, it was a loose platform for sharing with all levels of people from grassroots organizations to international agencies and people but bringing issues into action and drawing global attention to the people’s problems, it remained far behind. It would have been better to have a place to flag-up major issues globally at the doorsteps of the international agencies such as World Bank, international monetary fund and national governments etc.

A collective white paper of a declaration should be published through major media houses. And it should be submitted to the multi, bilateral and national agencies including the UN and to the respective national governments which would have been much meaningful but it was not initiated; probably it would not come up at the ambit of the forum.

Some queries and questions arose while participating the forum:

1 The main slogan of the WSF is another world is possible; what does another world look like? What are the major features of it? Who defines it?

2 It talks about the climatic issues; and assembling thousands of people from the globe in a place, how much emissions does it emitted for this event? Is there any account of it?

3 Does it only talk and share or does it take some actions also? If it takes, what were those which arose from the past forums and result of their actions? Have the forum kept an account of those and shared with people?

4 Hope it will not be dubbed as an elite dominated forum.

GB Adhikari, a participant of the 16th World Social Forum 2014, Nepal

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