by nathan thanki
The dust having finally settled following the first ever World Social Forum in the Arab world, which took place at El Manar University in Tunis from March 26-30, we must ask ourselves some tough questions about the future of the Forum.
The event was highly anticipated, with many activists from a variety of social movements being drawn to and intrigued by post-revolution Tunisia, and procedures got underway on the 26th with a march through streets that just over two years ago bore witness to the start of the “Arab Spring.” The excitement on the streets was palpable, but it was immediately confined as the Forum took up its three day residence in the university campus.
Tunisian activists complained bitterly about the tight control of the space by the Tunisian government. As a result, many did not participate in the Forum. Graffiti on banners welcoming the Forum to Tunis displayed the mood: many are frustrated with the Forum for taking corporate sponsorship as well as for charging registration fees. And while the Forum was further criticised for lacking voices from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the university was buzzing with delegations from across the Middle East and North Africa who seemed to take advantage of the opportunity to have face to face meetings en masse to cross-pollinate strategies for their respective struggles.