April 24, 2024

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People’s Power For A Better World!

A Report on the World Social Forum 2024 Nepal

The sixteenth edition of the World Social Forum has taken place at a time when multiple crises appear to be competing with each other to be the one that pushes all of us into a catastrophe of planetary proportions.

The climate crisis, caused by over-extractive and over-polluting production processes. Growing inequality and social exclusion, which have now reached epic proportions. Powerful forces of social division and exclusion, leading to xenophobia, sectarianism and majoritarianism, seen most acutely in rising antipathy to refugees and migrants and indifference to majorities of the world, whom the system has relegated as “surplus population”. Scientific and technological advances serving corporate interests with little effective public oversight, such that the miracles of science appear more of a curse than a blessing to the vast majorities of our planet. And in the midst of all this, war and armed conflict seen across the globe and so much of the globe’s precious resources diverted to fund war and feed the machinery of war.

Each of these crises and many more featured prominently during the solidarity march held on the streets of Kathmandu on 15th February, and on the four days of plenary and parallel sessions held on the grounds of the Bhirkuti Mandap Exhibition Ground and rooms of the nearby college campuses. Around thirty thousand people from 98 countries participated in the events.

In his message of support António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, said the World Social Forum represents an important space to lift up voices, focus on the most vulnerable, restore hope and find innovative solutions for people and the planet. He said, “Thank you for coming together in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation. Uniting for the common good is critical as conflicts rage and geopolitical divisions grow. We need global solidarity to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals – and reform an outdated, dysfunctional and unfair global financial system.”

Speaking at the WSF, Aledia Guevara, physician and activist from Cuba, who also is the daughter of the global icon for social movements Ernesto Che Guevara, spoke about how across the world the producers of food – the small holding and landless farmers, fisher folk, pastoralists, and forest dwellers and workers, are not accorded the respect they deserve. She said, “People who cultivate land and produce food are the most important.”

Dr Nira Debi Jairu, a Dalit and women’s activist and former member of the House of Representatives of Nepal, welcomed all participants to Nepal. She spoke about the conditions of Dalits in Nepal and the political struggle to ensure Dalit rights and women’s rights. She said, “We want to live as humans. Through our struggles we have achieved great success. South Asia has more women leaders than the United States of America.”

Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram, the internationally renowned economist from Malaysia, spoke about the need to remember the struggle against imperialism and hegemonic powers. He said, “The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was born in 1947 and developed further in Belgrade. Why is the NAM relevant today? We need a NAM that rejects war. Helps end the war in Gaza and builds solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

Dr Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian physician and member of the Palestinian national Initiative spoke eloquently about the ongoing attacks on Gaza. He said, “It wasn’t a coincidence that Nelson Mandela said the freedom of South Africa will not be complete till Palestine is free. The Palestinian struggle represents the liberation struggles of the whole world. It isn’t only against military occupation. It is a struggle against apartheid and racism and settler colonial systems. We will overcome, because we are together. The people of the world are with Palestine.”

Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association, spoke about how the Nepal edition of the World Social Forum represents a reignition of the forum that started in 2001. Sandeep said, “The dream of justice, peace and harmony blossoms in our hearts.Seventy years after Bangdung, where in 1955 former colonized nations came together to build a new world with hope and equality, today, we are together to advance this vision further. We are all together to inspire each other, learn from each other and create international solidarity for a better world.”

At the World Social Forum 2024 Nepal, ActionAid Association sought to build collective energies towards creating a Global Movement for Climate Justice and work together to social and ecological justice for all.

Photograph Captions

Photograph 1: The World Social Forum in Kathmandu, Nepal, was launched with a rally where social movements and people from across the world held placards with their causes in solidarity.

Photograph 2: The esteemed panellists for the session on climate justice during WSF 2024 in Nepal. From left to right these are Soumya Dutta, Co-convenor of the South Asian People’s Action on Climate Crisis (SAPACC), Ajaya Dixit, Executive Director of Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), Nepal, Zhang Lanying, Associate Professor at the Institute of Rural Reconstruction at Southwest University, China,  Zahid Mohammad Imran, Associated with Participatory Research and Action Network (PRAAN) Bangladesh and Shraddha Kashyap, Ekta Parishad, Madhya Pradesh.

Photograph 3: The panel of speakers for the session “Building a Movement Mindset”, from left to right Dr Arjun Karki, Chief Executive Officer of Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN) and former Ambassador of Nepal to the United States, Professor Wen Tiejun, Renmin University, China, Dr Nira Debi Jairu, former member of the House of Representatives of Nepal, Aleida Guevara, physician and activist, Cuba, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Economist, Malaysia, Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association, Mustafa Barghouti, physician and member of the Palestinian National Initiative, Farooq Tariq, Haqooq e Khalq, Pakistan, Esther Mariaselvam, Associate Director, ActionAid Association and speaking at the dais, Walden Bello, academic and activist, Philippines.