INTRODUCING THE 2005 SYDNEY SOCIAL FORUM

Inspired by growing movements for global justice and against war over recent years, social forum processes have sprung up world-wide. The recent World Social Forums in Mumbai (2004) and Porta Alegre (2005) each have attracted over 100,000 people. The European Social Forums have similarly attracted tens of thousands. Many other regions, countries, and cities have formed their own social forums.

In Australia, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth have held their own forums. The first Sydney Social Forum (SSF) was in September 2002.


CONTEXT

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 trade unions and workers' rights, 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.

Increasingly, there has been a recognition that while people may be struggling at a local, state or national level, on different issues, and for the rights of different groups … it is really all the same struggle. The increasing links being made through the social forum movement between activists and campaigns in the developed and developing world is just one example of this.

Social forums have emerged in recognition of the fact that there is much to oppose. The World Social Forum began as a counter-balance to the World Economic Forum. However, social forums are an attempt to go beyond this, to investigate and make concrete moves towards alternatives.


ROLE

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. It is a space created for and by the participants.

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. The social forum aims to promote discussion in a spirit of openness, collaboration and constructive debate. The SSF also aims to provide a platform for proposals of action, and concrete inter-linking of campaigns. We encourage as many individuals and groups as possible to use the opportunity to participate, meet and discuss strategies.

The SSF sees itself as part of a world-wide movement. As the statement of principles coming out of the first World Social Forum in 2001 states: "The World Social Forum at Porto Alegre was an event localized in time and place. From now on, in the certainty proclaimed at Porto Alegre that 'another world is possible', it becomes a permanent process of seeking and building alternatives, which cannot be reduced to the events supporting it."


SUPPORT

The aim of the forum is to include the broadest range of people possible in dialogue and collaboration around the organisation and content of the forum. The purpose of the SSF organising group is to facilitate (and be a nucleus for) the ongoing process of the social forum momentum by creating space, networks, and activities that will promote the existence of a diverse and truly representative Sydney Social Forum.

Infused with the success and vitality of campaigns internationally for global justice and against war, the SSF provides a unique space to bring activists and campaigns together. This has benefits for those new to activism, those involved in particular campaigns, and those interested in discussions of overarching issues and across campaigns.


Ways you or your group can work with and support the SSF:

1

Participate in the organising group. For more information about how the group functions, see the website. Meetings are currently every Thursday, 6.30pm at the Gaelic Club (upstairs bar), 64 Devonshire St, Surry Hills. Get in touch if you would like to come along.

2

Arrange for someone from the organising group to come to your group and make a brief presentation on the SSF. We are currently trying to arrange a series of these meetings, as a means to establishing more dialogue on the content and form of this year's SSF.

3

Organise a workshop during the SSF. Start thinking early, and get your proposals in soon or contact us to discuss your ideas. This way we can publicise the workshops before the SSF. Think about how you can publicise the workshop amongst those you know already. This maximises your audience, and also feeds into the social forum.

4

If one session alone is not enough, you can organise a series of workshops or a workshop stream. You can talk to the organising group about how we can help provide the time, space, infrastructure you need. We can also help out if you are interested in working with others on particular issues or themes.

5

Contact us to discuss your ideas for content. This helps to inform discussions in the organising group about what themes, debates, discussions and forums can or should be structured in. So far, we have begun to structure themes around: local organising, global issues, alternatives, and strategies for change. We have also discussed incorporating art and music events in the forum.

6

Stay in touch with the SSF: check out the website, subscribe to the email list, ask to be put onto our mailing list, appoint a contact person with whom we can liase. We occasionally do web-polls on decisions about the forum. We are also interested in using the website to promote campaigns and discussions in the lead up to the SSF - and perhaps developing specific issue/campaign pages. Please send us articles or updates which you think might be appropriate or important.

7

Register for the 2005 SSF and/or make a donation. Details on the website. All money goes towards publicity for the forum, and funding interesting international guests.

8

Publicise the SSF. We can provide you with flyers, posters, stickers, broadsheets, etc.