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Voices from the World Social Forum 2024 – PODCAST

Feb 23 2024 (IPS) - After interviewing a member of the Nepal organizing committee ahead of opening day, I was excited about covering my first ever World Social Forum (WSF). He suggested that at least 30,000 and as many as 50,000 activists from over 90 countries would attend the three-day event.

But day 1 disappointed me. The march through the centre of Kathmandu was large, but not the massive showing I expected to see — perhaps because police in the vehicle-clogged city centre didn’t close roads along the route, but squeezed marchers into one lane of traffic. Again, thousands crowded in front of the stage for the opening ceremony but while it was impressive, it was far from a stupendous showing.

But as I hurried to attend various workshops over the next three days I became increasingly impressed. Each session — most held in cold, dusty classrooms in a series of colleges lining a downtown road— was full, some to overflowing.

People were eager to squeeze in, to hear colleagues from across the world explain and advocate on issues that affected all of their lives in very similar ways. Between workshops the chatter of those who had finished early — or at least not late like the rest of us — floated through the open windows of classrooms.

On closing day more than 60 declarations were reportedly issued by the various ‘movements’, the thematic groups that comprise the WSF. I’m sure they assert the need for change: for peace, equality, rights and dignity — for people, nature and the planet. As usual, I support these calls.

But what I learned at my first WSF is that energy and enthusiasm for a world that looks and runs vastly differently than the often terrible one that we inhabit today has not waned among a huge number of people, young and old.

I’d hazard a guess that the ones you’re about to hear, who I recorded at the start of the Forum, would be as engaged and energetic if I had spoken with them after it ended, following hours of listening, learning, and networking about how to create a better world.



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