Civil Society, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Migration & Refugees, World Social Forum

ECUADOR: Social Movements to Go Ahead with Int’l Meetings Despite Crisis

Gonzalo Ortiz

QUITO, Oct 7 2010 (IPS) - “What lies ahead in Colombia is an increase in the number of refugees and displaced persons, while in Guatemala and Mexico people are going to continue leaving their countries in difficult conditions in which they face dangers to their lives,” said Nelsy Lizarazu, one of the spokespersons for the Fourth World Social Forum on Migration.

“The flow of people between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is not going to let up until conditions for people in Haiti improve, which does not look like it’s going to happen,” the Colombian expert added, in her summary of some of the most pressing concerns to be discussed at the meeting, which opens Friday in Quito.

Delegates from “some 650 organisations and more than 1,200 other people,” have registered for the gathering, which will run through Tuesday, Oct. 12, and “will discuss the question of human mobility at a very complex moment for Latin America.”

But this is not the only international meeting to be hosted by the Ecuadorian capital, which is still reeling from the events of Sept. 30, when President Rafael Correa was held captive for 11 hours by rioting police, and had to be rescued by loyal police and troops amid a hail of gunfire.

According to official figures, five people were killed and nearly 300 were injured over the course of the day, as the protesting security forces closed down airports and set up roadblocks, and thousands of people took to the streets in support of Correa. However, the media put the number of fatalities at 10.

A state of emergency will remain in force at least until Friday, and troops are patrolling the streets by foot and in vehicles mounted with machine guns.

Although several international meetings have been cancelled, including the 42nd period of sessions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that had been scheduled for Oct. 4-8, the Fourth World Social Forum on Migration “will go on as planned, and all of the organised events will take place,” Paul Salas, in charge of media relations, told IPS.

Friday will also be the start, in Quito, of the fifth congress of the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organisations (CLOC)-Via Campesina, which will bring together 800 delegates from 18 countries, as well as 300 national representatives, Luis Andrango, CLOC secretary of operations and the president of Ecuador’s National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous and Black Organisations (FENOCIN), told IPS.

And on Wednesday night, the 10th International Indigenous Peoples’ Film and Video Festival opened in the capital, with some 250 entries from the Americas and Europe to be shown through Monday, Oct. 11.

These three international meetings, and the Ecuadorian organisations and institutions that are organising them, plan to hold a march by members of social movements from all around the world on Tuesday.

More than 2,000 delegates from other countries will take part in the joint demonstration, as well as thousands of Ecuadorians, the organisers say.

“We have applied for the necessary permits, and we will be holding the march,” Andrango told IPS.

One of the common issues held by the different groups participating in the march will be the integration of different peoples, “beyond the mere economic integration of nations,” he said.

“An overlapping of the agendas of rural movements, indigenous nationalities, and people concerned about human mobility is only natural,” and strengthens the different groups and people and their social development and organisational capability, Janeth Cuji, communications director for the powerful Ecuadorean Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE), told IPS.

The Fourth World Social Forum on Migration will be held at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador and the CLOC-Via Campesina congress will be hosted by the Central University of Ecuador.

There will be four main themes in the seminars and panel discussions at the Fourth World Social Forum on Migration: “Global crises and migration flows”, “Human rights and migration”, “Diversity, coexistence and sociocultural transformations”, and “New forms of slavery, servitude and human exploitation”.

The opening conference will be given by Stephen Castles, a British sociologist who is one of the most prominent scholars on international migration.

The other keynote speakers will be Mexican activist Rufino Domínguez Santos, director of the Binational Centre for Oaxacan Indigenous Development, and Professor of International Relations Aurora Javate de Dios, director of the Migration Studies Department at Miriam College in the Philippines.

Presentations on “Global crises and migration flows” will be given by Alberto Acosta, the former president of the constituent assembly that drafted Ecuador’s new constitution and a professor in economics at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences; Victor Nzuzi-Mbembe, a farmer from the Democratic Republic of Congo and social activist with Via Campesina, the global peasant movement; and Brazilian sociologist and philosopher Ivo Poleto, head of the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change.

On Saturday, the main speakers on the theme of “Human rights and migration” will be Abdelhamid El Jamri from Morocco, the chair of the United Nations Committee on Migrant Workers; Hana Cheikh Ali, a Palestinian lawyer with the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid; and Sara Prestianni from Italy, the head of the Migreurop Euro-African network.

“Diversity, coexistence and sociocultural transformations” will be the focus of presentations by U.S. labour and racial justice activist William Fletcher; Luis Macas, an indigenous leader of Ecuador who was formerly president of CONAIE and is the founder of the Intercultural University of Indigenous Peoples; and Bela Feldman, director of the Centre of International Migration Studies at the University of Campinhas in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“New forms of slavery, servitude and human exploitation” will be addressed by Bandana Pattanaik of Thailand, the international coordinator of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women; Priscila González, head of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in the United States; Eve Geddie of Belgium, a representative of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants; and Alberto Soteres, director of Save the Children Spain.

In Latin America, “the smuggling and trafficking of persons is closely intertwined with drug trafficking, which makes migration even riskier — and the dangers will only grow in the immediate future,” said Lizarazu.

“The war on drug trafficking has not worked in either Mexico or Colombia,” she said. “Drug trafficking is still going strong, and has penetrated the fabric of societies, and only through the mobilisation and socioeconomic development of society itself will it be possible to extirpate it.”

The Fourth World Social Forum on Migration forms part of a series of events held this year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the World Social Forum.

Andrango, meanwhile, said they were expecting Bolivian President Evo Morales to make an appearance at the CLOC-Via Campesina conference on Tuesday. Morales, an Aymara Indian, is a leader of Bolivia’s coca farmers.

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