Reinventing the World Social Forum: How Powerful an Idea Can Be

foto F. Mestrum

foto F. Mestrum

Almost a generation ago now! It was in 2001 that the first World Social Forum (WSF) was organised in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the city of the Workers’ Party of future president Lula da Silva and the city of the participatory budget. There was hope, much hope, and a belief that ‘another world’ was possible and that we could shape it. This became the slogan of all future WSFs.

There were not that many people at this first meeting, though the fact that almost 15.000 people from all over the world gathered at short notice was a real surprise. Those who had taken the initiative, people from the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT), intellectuals from Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia, such as François Houtart, people from the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique… It was a real success and one year later they were 50.000 to make the trip to Brazil, with more than 1000 journalists! The World Social Forum was the answer to the World Economic Forum in Davos and wanted to propose an alternative to the neoliberal globalisation. Continue…

On the very very slow death of neoliberalism

On the IMF evaluation report on the institution’s approach to social protection

For many years now, neoliberalism has been declared dead. The report of the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the IMF on the institution’s approach to social protection shows this is far from true. And it does not look as if human rights, universalism and redistribution are going to be part of the IMF-agenda soon. Continue…

Basic Income in the European Union: a conundrum rather than a solution

Vanden Broucke’s report on basic income:

“My first claim is that VanParys&Vanderborght are unclear about the consequences of ‘firm limits on hospitality’ for the European principle of free movement: this renders their case ambiguous with regard to a core feature of the EU. National basic income seems incompatible with a consistent and legitimate logic of free movement and non-discrimination; to support this claim, I sketch a normative framework with regard to free movement and non-discrimination. My second claim concerns VP&V’s case for pan-European basic income. If it is true that the EU’s principal justice-related problem is that European integration has diminished core capabilities of national welfare states, such as national redistribution and national stabilization, without adequately ensuring their functioning at a higher level, the remedies to that problem are essentially different from a pan-European basic income. My third claim concerns both national basic income and pan-European basic income. The starting point of VP&V’s case for basic income is compelling: we all benefit from a common inheritance, for which none of us did anything. However, more arguments are needed why basic income should be the priority amidst competing claims on the ‘gift’ constituted by past technological, economic and social progress. In fact, the need to add a social dimension to the European project militates against rather than in favour of basic income, be it national or pan-European. ”



Social commons: because social protection is ours

Social protection is high on the international agenda to-day. In 2012 the ILO (International Labour Organisation) adopted a recommendation on ‘social protection floors’. In 2015 the international community in the General Assembly of the UN (United Nations) adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a separate chapter on inequality, and explicit mention of social protection and several components of social protection in different points of the text.

Nevertheless, we should not be too optimistic about all people everywhere getting living wages, good health care, quality education, maternity protection, pensions, etc. Continue…

The IMF and Social Protection

Interesting report of the Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF on actions concerning social protection.

Three important points need to be mentioned: first,  the report does not cover what it calls ‘long term poverty reduction measures’ such as health and education; secondly, while questions may arise on whether social protection falls under the mandate of the IMF, the report confirms it is part of macro-economic stability. The IMF should ‘avoid excessive stress on vulnerable people’. Thirdly and most importantly, the IEO points to a possible conflict with the World Bank which has signed a joined statement with the ILO on the universalism of social protection, based on the fact it is a human right. While cooperation with the World Bank has been smooth (contrary to work with the ILO and UNICEF …), this may change if the World Bank moves indeed towards a rights-based approach and universalism.

A full analysis of the report will follow soon

Read the report

Basic Income in India

The basic income debate is now also emerging in the South. Read the report on India, with special attention for the last critical chapter by Jean Drèze.