Message from Chico Whitaker, co-founder of the WSF, to the WSF 2016 Collective

16 July 2015

Dear members of the World Social Forum 2016 Collective Organization.

I just received the information about the letter that the Mayor of Porto Alegre sent to the Mayor of Montreal, inviting him to participate in the Thematic Social Forum that will take place in his city in January 2016. At this forum, the assessment of the 15 years of the World Social Forum process will be made in preparation for the World Social Forum 2016 which will take place in Montreal in August of the same year.

This is good news, because it signifies that the two Mayors can help each other in order to ensure the success of the Montreal WSF.

However, it is important that we always bear in mind that the support brought by the governments to create the forums is fundamental, but these are an autonomous initiative from civil society, both for the relationship with governments and with parties and businesses, in accordance with our Charter of Principles.

I am making this observation knowing that the Organization Collective of the WSF 2016 will soon discuss details of support to receive services from the city of Montreal and it will be useful to avoid misunderstandings.

I am taking the liberty to do this because, as one of the co-founders of the World Social Forum process, who has been alongside it since its creation, I know the importance of support from governments of the city and country where they become reality, when they share the utopia of “another possible world” pursued by the Forums. But it is necessary that organizers like the governments clearly see that, as much as this support is essential, it does not diminish the autonomy of civil society as a promoter of the event.

I have no doubt as to the help that the City of Montreal, conscious of the character of these events and the benefits that they bring to citizens, will give to the WSF 2016. In our experience, the largest participation in the World Social Forums—always hundreds of thousands of people—has been from the people and organizations of the city and the country in which they are carried out. This makes them an extraordinary occasion to train and encourage these people and organizations by allowing them to know other experiences of action for “another possible world” and to exchange with its participants, coming from diverse regions of the earth. The Forums therefore renew, for its participants, the hopes to surmount the severe social, economic, political, and environmental menaces with which humanity is confronted.

But we must also be conscious that the decision to organize the World Social Forum 2016 in Montreal, proposed by Canadian participants, has been taken with tremendous joy by the International Council of the WSF after the WSF 2015, but it was clear for all that this decision creates new challenges, as you surely know.

The first among them was the fact that for the first time, a World Social Forum will take place in a Northern country.

There was also observation of the fact that in the collective that would organize the WSF 2016, there would be a large participation from the young (which corresponded to what the International Council of the WSF was looking to obtain for a long time);

And there was also understanding of the fact that it is particularly difficult to obtain visas to enter into Canada (which could reduce participation from organizations from civil society of numerous countries).

This last challenge is a clear example of the necessity of support from governments. In Montreal’s case, we of course have hope that the city government can support the efforts so that the federal government of Canada facilitates the giving of visas and the inhabitants of the city can benefit the most from the exchanges allowed by the Forum.

But I am sure that the WSF 2016 will be successful. More sure of support from the government, Montreal has acquired experience from organizing two Local Social Forums—in which those among us who could participate were extremely well received by the city population. And important Canadian delegations have participated in the World Social Forums that have already occurred.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I hope your work goes well, and you can count on all our help, as much as it is possible.

A big “abraço” from Chico Whitaker.