THE SYDNEY SOCIAL FORUM
In September 2002 the first Sydney Social Forum (SSF) was held. Since then, it has been held each year involving the support of hundreds of people and a variety of organisations.
The 2003 SSF was very happy to hear from guest speakers David Barsamian,
award-winning director of Alternative
Radio in the US, Nicola Bullard, Deputy-director of Focus
on the Global South and Ariel Guides, representative from BMP (Solidarity
of Filipino Workers), the largest trade union congress in the Philippines.
Speakers in 2004 included:
Tinashe is the former Secretary General of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), which was awarded the international students festival peace prize in 2003. In 2002 he was expelled from the University of Zimbabwe by the government for opposing the Mugabe regime. Currently active with the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Social Forum, Tinashe is also a member of the International Steering Committee of the Oxfam Internaitonal Youth Parliament. He has contributed to a number of journals on the Zimbabwean crisis and the need for transformation and democratisation in Zimbabwe.
Jacques-Chai works with Focus on the Global South in Bangkok, which was founded the same year the World Trade Organisation came into existence. Focus engages in research, analysis and actions to help combat the impact of globalisation on the daily lives and struggles of the poor and marginalised people in the South of the world. Jacques-Chai is also active in the Thai FTA (free trade agreement) Watch campaign. This is a national coalition campaigning against the FTAs, especially the Thailand-Australia and Thailand-US FTA. FTA Watch is active on many issues, including privatisation, access to drugs and GMOs.
Donna was one of the 140 human shields in Iraq during the US invasion in March 2003. She has recently returned from Iraq, where she worked with an international team of humanitarian workers who went to the beseiged town of Falluja to help distribute medical aid and evacuate wounded civilians. During her time she was shot at several times by American troops and briefly taken captive by insurgents.
As the social forum concept has grown - the World and European Social Forums in particular mobilising tens of thousands of people - world events continue to make such events necessary.
The war on Iraq has signalled an intensifying permanent war on the world's poor, adding more open unilateral military aggression to existing neo-liberal offensives conducted through organisations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and World Trade Organisation.
In Australia, the Howard government's enthusiastic support for US foreign policy has been accompanied by increasing attacks on public healthcare and higher education, the continuation of a deplorable refugee policy, and a push for wider deregulation and privatisation as part of a Free Trade Agreement with the US.
On the other side, the worldwide movement against the war in Iraq - and Sydney’s largest ever political demonstration in February 2003 - was also a spectacular expression of opposition to corporate greed and lack of democracy.
Within this context, the Sydney Social Forum seeks to provide an open space promoting solidarity and cooperation among the diversity of activist networks in Sydney, Australia and internationally.
The SSF aims to promote discussion of analyses of the state of the world, visions of an alternative world and strategies to get from one to the other. It also aims to facilitate discussion of the nature and significance of the international Social Forum movement, from the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre to the emerging regional and city-based Social Forums.
The Sydney Social Forum can only be a real success with the participation of a broad range of groups and individuals.
If you, your trade union, collective, community group or organisation would like to be part of the 2004 SSF, get in touch, get registered and get involved.