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As Neoliberal Order Wreaks Havoc, World Social Forum Gathers in Tunisia

Climate crises, austerity, and the policies of the elite to be challenged by call for 'dignity' at World Social Forum

Jon Queally

In a world witnessing revolutions in mid-stride, flourishing climate crises, and the reign of austerity economics, tens of thousands of people from all over the globe are gathering in Tunisia for the 2013 World Social Forum to confront the contemporary situation with their consistent call: "another world is possible."

This year, WSF participants come together under the banner of "dignity" and seek a way to push back against the neoliberal establishment that refuses to loosen its grip despite the calamity their chosen policies have unleashed in recent years.

Tunisia's hosting of the event makes it the first time the global gathering has taken place in an Arab country and marks the important role the country played since the overthrow of former President Ben Ali in 2011.

As Al-Jazeera, who spoke with WSF spokesman Romdhane Ben Amor, reports:

"It's the first time the forum is being held in an Arab country," he said.

He estimated as many as 50,000 visitors from 128 countries would be gathering to discuss shared economic and social problems. The forum will begin with all these participants marching down the streets of Tunis, the capital, on Tuesday afternoon.

The issue of public debt would be one of the main topics on the forum's agenda, he said.

"It's a leading dilemma in Tunisia," he said. "There's no work, prices are rising, the government isn't able to invest in society, and it's all because of the debt."

Deutsche Welle adds:

The WSF was launched in 2001 as a counter conference to the World Economic Forum in Davos. More than 3,000 workshops, demonstrations and concerts are scheduled to take place in Tunis this week. Organizers expect up to 50,000 participants from around the world to discuss globalization and labor issues, women's rights and other matters concerning the future.

A women's meeting and a mass rally leading the protestors to Tunis' city center marks the start of the forum on Tuesday.

There won't be a special focus on the Arab world, but many members of Tunisian civil society are hopeful that the forum will boost the local democracy movement. The fight against extremists and an exacerbating economic crisis have battered the country. "Our process toward democracy is moving very slowly. I hope the forum can contribute to improving it," said [Mouhieddine Cherbib, a member of the WSF's organizing committee].

And Al-Jazeera's Yasmine Ryan concludes:

Many of the participants at the WSF view the economic reforms being pushed through under pressure from international lenders in countries such as Italy, Greece, and now Cyprus, as being fundamentally undemocratic. 

It is not by chance that in 2001, the first WSF was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil; the alter-globalisation movement rose from a continent where emerging democracies had been forced to swallow IMF-backed structural reforms for the previous two decades.

Since that meeting, successive forums have brought people together under the shared aspiration that "another world is possible".

Those gathering in Tunisia today hope that someday, economic policy will be written for the Mohammed Bouazizis of the world rather than the bankers.

Follow this year's World Social Forum on Twitter here:

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