In this site, there will be different documents that provide the Citizens’ Assemblies with clarity of numerous aspects. This library of documents is available in three languages. It provides a substantial number of articles and other written contributions produced from an original vision which corresponds with the Citizens’ Assemblies. These are organized in three topics :
1. Relation between assemblies and dialogue of the facilitators
2. Methods and challenges of the assemblies
3. History and social construction of the assemblies
A collective with friends from the Citizens Assembly of the Southern Cone was present, from February 1 to 12, 2011, in the activities developed during the World Social Forum - WSF in Dakar, the coastal capital of Senegal, a country in the north-east of Africa. Even though we had been personally invited by different networks and initiatives, we still managed to retain a strong identity and coordination in common, as citizens of the Southern Cone from the Assembly. A common collective perspective - though diverse in the inside - became evident as well, and turned out to be the fruits of trust, fraternity and reflection in community, generated through years of work and process construction. This is why we would like to share, with the Assemblies groups, some of the collective thoughts which resulted from this experience, as affectionately as always.
A joyful return
Strange though this may seem, we are leaving the WSF feeling as if we have been through a “returning” experience. We already mentioned it during the migrants’ meeting on Gorée island: it was a return to humanity, because it was right there and then that we proclaimed the principles of a larger and better humanity, since we had been dehumanized with the slavery of millions of human beings. Right now, though, the feeling of returning is wider and even deeper, more intimate. Maybe it is because we are “closing a circle” - as our Mayan Quiche ancestral wise men from Central America call it - in this painful and joyful Africa, which is celebrating only 50 years of independence from colonial power and, coincidently, seems to be 150 years further away from Latin America in getting over poverty. Maybe it is because we know and we are more aware, due to our present knowledge of the human being, that the first great human migration set out precisely from here, from Africa, to the whole world, about 10 million years ago; that we are all Africans under our skins; that we have brothers, sisters and cousins in all corners of the world; that we are only one diverse humanity inhabiting the same home, in the full sense of the word. Maybe because the crime of slavery committed by the western civilization of the northern countries has given us, nonetheless, a wealth of fifteen million African brothers and sisters who are part of our Latin American identity and culture at present, showing us that – even in the midst of horror – beauty, hope and resistance prevail. This must be, then, the joyous feeling of being re-united with part of our origins: this odd sense of having come back.
Moving from inadequacy to facilitating the new
We confirmed that WSFs are valuable spaces because of their great popularity and variety of topics, interests, identities and initiatives. This 2011 edition proposed about 200 workshops and daily activities, together with several parallel forums, demonstrations and caravans, closing with 38 convergence assemblies during the last two days of the forum. We also confirmed that we run the risk of getting lost in a dialog of the deaf, in which each interest, pain, identity, topic and struggle ends up as actual subordination and exclusion of the others, reproducing in a way – in a contradictory way, as a matter of fact – a distinctive trait of the world order that we need and want to change today. Love and imagination seem to be even more important than intelligence so as not to lose sight of the right path and build human happiness from difference.
The wealth of options and conversations at the forums is a useful way to feed global resistance as well as a new, more and more universal human conscience, which is at the same time internally diverse and horizontal. Naturally, this entails huge logistics and organizational challenges which, on this occasion and given certain characteristics of the host country, made the realization especially complex and even chaotic. There are, however, unequivocal signs of a profound inadequacy between the new dynamics, the new energies that are still coming to the forums, and the old – already contradictory – forms of organization of the debates, conversations, exchanges, which are still swamped in such hierarchical models as the typical ones in conferences where panel members talk to the masses and others fight for the microphone to repeat old instructions and ancient ideas. This is a really deeply inadequate method, but it is not just a question of method. There is a general feeling of wearing out confirmed by several friends from the first Forums: it seems that the “soul” of the first Forum in Porto Alegre, the initial “dream” is being diluted. We do not want to exaggerate and say that the dream is turning into a nightmare – no, not even close -, but it has been proven in Dakar and by the revolution in Egypt that the new social, political and cultural dynamics of the emancipating processes from this second decade of the 21st Century no longer follow the path set by the Porto Alegre Forum. Of course, the inertia will continue and there will be regional thematic forums gathering people, but we believe that we need to work further and better on what we have learned from the processes in Tunisia and Egypt and the citizens’ assemblies that are just beginning. We believe “the issue is along those lines”.
Global / regional emancipation tension
At the same time, we stress our belief that moving towards higher levels of articulation of an emancipating alter world proposal cannot but take a different, operative, practical, viable road to its realization from gradual, complex and unequal construction of regional blocks of countries or geographically, culturally or interest-related areas. The very real, historical movement seems to confirm this need, as much for the states as for the peoples and social and citizen movements. This does not mean there is an opposition between the whole world and the blocks or regional areas; what it does attempt is to sustain both: the first one, because of its width and wealth and because it represents the pragmatic horizon where the new humanity conscience is generated and fed; the second one, because it is a viable instrumental working path, where the new, necessary, urgent and growing regulation consensus is possible. This is a complex tension, not a mutually excluding opposition. This revitalizes and re-affirms our commitment to the process of the Citizens’ Assembly of the Southern Cone and its systematic relation with the other assemblies in the world, since it becomes apparent inside this real emancipation movement of the peoples, which is certainly not easy but definitely essential to the task of transforming reality.
Pictures taken during the 2011 World Social Forum of Dakar by Nicolas Haeringer, Ricardo Jimenez, Dante Farricella, Francois Soulard, Lucia Alvites, Arafet Ben Marzou and Fabien Leblanc.
The perspective - the importance of Rio+20
It is precisely from here that we think we can provide new perspectives, not only systematically sustaining and deepening the processes of regional assemblies towards dialog and global consensus, but also interacting with the many initiatives of various ranges by cheering people, and which the Assembly has always been part of. This is where the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, in the context of sustainable development and Poverty eradication in Brazil, together with the States, the large Agencies and NGOs, and the peoples, movements and citizens, become significant. This is a milestone that neither begins nor ends the road of strength, struggle and labor towards the big objectives that it is after; but it does update, at present, the convergence between what is multiple and what is diverse on this road where we must be. Apart from the optimism and the pessimism feeding the debate about these Summits, what matters to the peoples and citizens is that this is a great opportunity to enrich our movements, networks, initiatives, thoughts and emancipation proposals, to validate ourselves as creators of possible, desirable, quality responses to the ever more urgent crisis of global, regional, national and local regulation.
Even though when it comes to nations, there are undeniable and encouraging signs of change and although we know that nations interact with the people, our responsibility as people, social movements and citizens is first and foremost to the risks run by the changes from the very nations. It is thus reminded, through a historical perspective, by our friends from the Forum for a New World Governance, precisely with reference to the Rio+20: “It is also true that the arrival of new actors who expect to be protagonists, at times, makes us feel this is a healthy renewal. But… much too frequently, this burst of new actors is translated into the events by a beautiful arrogance, shown by this or that person who, after a long wait, manages to get into the closely-knit club to which only the great belong. As of late, neither China nor Brazil, or at least their highest representatives, have been able to resist that obstacle met by all of those who, before them, acquired the rank of great power” (FNGM: October – November, 2010. Pages: 6 and 7).
In order to fulfill such responsibility, we deem it important to systematize the very many and diverse debates, experiences and teachings back to an “us”, as converging Southern Cone residents, in order to make a contribution to this milestone so as to continue, then, the road and the struggle. After what we have lived and thought about in Dakar, we can visualize three large accumulation fields, which are interactive and simultaneous, on which we need to focus our efforts and work. First of all, there is the proposal, the group of integral ideas which may render possible and desirable reponses as regards new forms of regulation to overcome the integral crisis: some sort of heart and engine of the emancipation process, depending on whether the biological or mechanical metaphor is preferred. It is the program or content sphere. The second sphere is that of citizen, popular, social and political force generation, a force that can be the foundation and the drive to carry out the proposed responses, avoiding the strong risk of being blurred in the natural tensions and contradictions of its inner diversity. And, thirdly, there is learning, creating and strengthening the conditions and methods that will make the proposal and the political force possible, but from an inclusive paradigm and a collective prominence, with high levels of conscience, commitment and responsibility so as not to tumble into fragmentation and inefficiency.
Collecting proposals and avoiding bouncing from one meeting to another
What we have learned is that this is not just meeting for the sake of meeting. Meeting is valuable, but utterly insufficient. We need to stock with proposals, with mobilizing ideas, stronger than army - like Victor Hugo said; thicker than stone walls - like José Martí said; subversive and summoning, opening paths and unleashing energy, providing sustainable answers to the crisis; ideas which nourish and, at the same time, are the fruit of new methods, forms and attitudes. During the transition from the 20th Century to the 21st, a more advanced change in the discourses can be observed, which is a good thing, but in practice there is still a long way to go. Our assemblies provide a great opportunity for imagination and creation, but a great responsibility as well. We are convinced that we need to bet on the growth and deepening of what is social and popular, on all new and higher levels. Audacity and innovation are the saints and signs of the new needs and demands, of the new steps ahead to overcome the inadequacy that was once useful but is now blurred and fading.
This is undoubtedly a long and difficult challenge; however, making the movement of reality, its needs and its work towards emancipation something conscious and thoughtful is a truly valuable and essential asset to organize efforts. Reality keeps changing fast even while we write these lines, as it can be seen in the growing African crisis, which was perceived quite strongly at the WSF since it was hosted in a neighboring country to those going through the experience at the moment. The struggles in Egypt, for instance, surprise us with something possible and unprecedented, with the imagination in the service of subversion, displaying the power that people and small collectives have, armed with courage, joy and fair ideas, just as much as those young professionals who – through the Internet – condemn, highlight and mobilize against the sinister police methods of the authoritarian regime.
How many apparently unexpected, though truly historically significant, changes should we expect until Rio+20 in May, 2012? Lots, for sure. But our commitment and responsibility is to go along – modestly, of course – the rhythm of the events and learn from the urgency and emancipation responses they entail.