Charter of Human Responsibilities
www.alliance21.org > Workgroups > Thematic Groups > After Mumbai

Mumbai 2004: Solidarity Economy Meets People’s Economy

by Philippe Amouroux - Françoise Wautiez -

The Workgroup on a Solidarity Socio-Economy (WSSE) at the Fourth WSF, Mumbai, January 16 to 21, 2004

After the European Social Forum, we barely had a month left – December, with its illuminated streets, its end-of-year balances, all the presents to buy and all the friends and relatives to whom, at least according to tradition, we should dedicate a little more time, time that just seemed to be slipping by so quickly – to finish preparing the Economy of Solidarity events for the fourth World Social Forum.

This fourth WSF promised to be even more complex than the previous ones: held in a completely new place, Mumbai, known for its hyperpopulation, dense traffic and extreme poverty on every street corner, and in a country, India, of which we know so little in terms of political culture, social movements or experiences of economy of solidarity. Besides, we did not even know whether this latter concept, which already has a space of its own within the Social Forums (cf. our February 2004 paper here) meant anything in India and in the rest of Asia

Faced with so many unknowns, the WSSE took some initiatives:

* As in the previous year, it facilitated an electronic forum in French, English and Spanish, with participants from many Latin American, North American, European, African and Asian countries.

* There, it proposed a preparatory meeting that it eventually organized in October 2003: in Bangkok, Thailand, active members of the Alliance and of the WSSE from India, the Philippines and Thailand met representatives of the networks of economy of solidarity (ES) to understand the coordination work performed during the previous Social Forums, to define what the concept of Economy of Solidarity covers in Asia and which common program we should present at the Social Forum in Mumbai. John Samuel, current director of Action Aid and active member of the WSSE implemented the logistics for the organization of this meeting.

* John Samuel also found for the WSSE a team [1] in Mumbai that took care of everything related to accommodation and the renting of computer equipment, mobile phones, transportation to and from Gonegao, where the Forum would be held, and of a meeting place where the WSSE could meet [2] either internally or with the networks of Economy of Solidarity, etc. In a word, they made the work of the WSSE’s members present in Mumbai possible.

In early December 2003, Carola Reintjes communicated to the rest of the network promoters that the International Committee had accepted a Panel on the Economy of Solidarity, whose Asiatic version was People’s Economy.

The Promoters’ Network could thus organize a common program including:

1) A panel on the Economy of Solidarity called: “Towards People’s Economy: Realities and Strategies from Local to Global” with a representative from each continent.
2) Seven seminars on themes already developed during the III WSF:
- Fair Trade for an equitable economic order,
- Economic Public Policies, Relations between State and Society,
- Towards a World wide Finance System/circuit,
- Innovative Practices and Self-Management,
But also,
- Discovery of Solidarity Economy/People’s economy in Asia,
- Social Responsibility of SMEs for Development of People’s Economy,
- Social Money and Solidarity Socio-Economy,
3) A general Synthesis Seminar of the events on the Solidarity Economy.

On the spot, the WSSE had people print and distribute almost 5,000 programs describing these common events as well as 50 seminars and workshops related-to the Economy of Solidarity mentioned in the Official Program of the WSF. It aimed at promoting interactions between the networks that are already members of the coordination and other networks or social movements that share common interests. Altogether, they represented 60 events, i.e. almost 5% of the 1,200 events of the WSF. The workshops "Women and Economy", "Social Money", "Fair Trade" and "Ecological Debt" organized or co-organized almost ten of these 50 events on their respective themes.

Nevertheless, we could not but notice that the participation of Indians, in particular, and of Asians in all their language, tradition and expression diversity essentially took place in the streets. In addition, we often discerned a certain disappointment as to the participation in the events: rooms seating 4,000 full to one-tenth of their capacity, many seminars and workshops attended by less than 10 % of Asians or even whole groups leaving the room as soon as the section concerning Asia was over!

On the other hand, everybody considered the fact that the participants from the WSSE and the Alliance - more than a hundred allies! - stayed at the same hotel as a very positive point: the opportunity of gathering around a meal or a glass of pineapple juice (or, at the very most, a glass of beer, since it is quite hard to find liquor in India) helped us all to know each other better both on the personal and professional level. Work meetings were easier to organize despite the very heavy schedules of the Forum. The Global Animation Team of the WSSE held its periodical meeting for two days after the Forum, the most active animators and participants of the WSSE workshops as well as their guests met one morning to speak of the future of the WSSE, and the workshops "Vision", "Social Money", "Social Responsibility" and "Fair Trade" could work on their action plan.

As a conclusion, this fourth World Social Forum represented an important challenge because of the completely new context in which it was held. The high degree of coordination attained during the previous forums made the collective work, the correlations between thematics and the restitution of syntheses easier. The work carried out with John Samuel and the RSCD team, the seminar on the discovery of ES in Asia and that on the Social Moneys, whose contributors came from different countries of the continent, as well as the workshops that always represent opportunities for easier dialogs with the participants, paved the way for a strong link between the Asian experiences and those of Economy of Solidarity on the other continents.

Henceforth, it seems obvious that the WSF does not allow more than this: it paves the way, but all the work still has to be done. In 2004, the WSSE is thus thinking of organizing a meeting in Asia (in a country still to be defined) with a certain number of leaders of the ES networks, to see how the numerous field initiatives in Asia may gather around the concept of Economy of Solidarity and join the internationalization current of this dynamics.

Further reading (some of the work of WSSE):

[1The RSCD (Resource and Support Center for Development) is an Indian NGO that focuses on development. As such, during the WSF, they organized a seminar called “Grassroot Democracy by Women in Governance”, in co-operation with the Mahila Rajsatta Andolan (Women’s Governance Campaign) and the WSSE workshop “Women and Economy”.

[2And the Alliance, too.

URL : www.alliance21.org/2003/article230.html