Unions pursue alternatives to neoliberal globalization at World Social Forum

The 11th World Social Forum (WSF) opened Sunday in Dakar, the capital of the West African nation of Senegal. Trade unionist from around the world were among the 70,000 people from 120 countries attending the forum,  a gathering of community, environmental, and labor activists and intellectuals, looking for alternatives to a world economic order whose only concern is the private accumulation and expansion of capital. 

The forum, which will last a week, will consist of marches, conferences, debates, and workshops held at sites all over Dakar. The object of the forum is to create an open space for discussions and debates about alternatives to neoliberal globalization.  Specific discussions will be held on a wide range of subjects like the crisis of capitalism, the African Diaspora, privatization,  building a sustainable economy, protecting the environment, human rights, and the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. 

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), a worldwide organization of affiliated union groups representing 176 million workers, has sent a number of representatives including labor leaders from Africa like Kwasi Adu-Amanhwah, General Secretary of the African Regional Organization of ITUC.

In a media release, the ITUC said that the WSF will give thousands of people the chance to exchange views on globalization, human rights, and workers’ rights with a special focus on Africa and stressed the need to build a popular movement to supplant neoliberal globalization.

 “We are here to exchange ideas and promote effective concrete solutions to answer the (economic) crisis and get the global economy onto a sustainable path, which supports decent work for all,” Adu-Amanhwah said.”Competition within and between countries to attract multinationals and foreign investment is heavily based on keeping wages low and engaging in unsustainable and environmentally damaging production methods.” 

CNTS Senegal, the national union confederation of Senegal, also sent representatives. Its General Secretary Mody Guiro said neoliberalism, the economic philosophy of unrestrained capitalism, has been especially bad for Africa. “It is more urgent to change the current model of globalization and put an end to neoliberal orthodoxy that has left millions of Africans with underfunded education systems, poor health services, and virtually no decent work opportunities,” Guiro said.

ITUC will hold an event on Wednesday where speakers will examine the causes of the global economic crisis and offer solutions. Speakers will also make presentations on immigration, domestic work, access to social protection, and trade and investment.

On Tuesday, ITUC held a Dakar demonstration of solidarity with people of Egypt. The action coincided with an international day of solidarity in which union members around the world held demonstrations at Egyptian embassies to demand that a democratic transition take place in Egypt and that those responsible for violent repression of demonstrators be punished.

The WSF opened on Sunday with a march through downtown Dakar by thousands.  The rally after the march was addressed by a number of speakers including President Evo Morales of Bolivia. He warned that private companies in South America and Africa are trying to privatize natural resources. He said that some governments had privatized water distribution and said that he would ask the UN to declare water a basic resource “that must not be managed by private interests, but should be for all the people, including people of rural areas.”

On Monday former Brazilian President Luis Inacia “Lula” da Silva told an audience, “for too long rich countries saw us (developing countries) as peripheral, problematic, even dangerous. Today, we are an essential, undeniable part of the solution to the biggest crisis of the last decade–a crisis that was not created by us, but that emerged from the great centers of world capitalism.”

Da Silva urged people at the WSF to follow the example of the people in Egypt and Tunisia. “In South America, but especially in the streets of Tunis and Cairo and many other African cities hopes for a new world are being revived,” da Silva said. “Millions of people are protesting against poverty. . ., against tyranny, and against submission of their country to world powers.”

Echoing da Silva’s words, Moroccan trade unionist Mohamed Kabba told reporters, “pressure from the streets, that is what gets results.”

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