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Major UK NGO's Criticise ESF Organising Process + SWP / SA

Reclaim Our Forum! | 01.09.2004 09:03 | European Social Forum | Free Spaces | Globalisation | Social Struggles | London

A coalition of 10 British NGOs including the major ones like Oxfam, Jubilee and Greenpeace have written a letter complaining about the UK European Social Forum organising process and saying it has been characterised by a lack of transparency and openness. Finaly this can officialy end the myth peddled by the authoritarian left that those who have been critical of the UK ESF process are simply wreckers, splitters or crazy anarchists who don't represent anyone!

While the NGOs don't mention them by name, they're criticising the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) and SA (Socialist Action) for dominating a meeting to decide speakers names through weight of numbers. This is a significant moment. Reports from the meeting also revealed what appeared to be willful miscounting of votes and other undemocractic behaviour. The letter has been published ahead of the european esf assembly meeting in brussels this coming weekend.

An open letter to the ESF process from British NGOs

The UK ESF NGO group is a forum open to development, environment, human rights, civil liberties, international solidarity and peace campaign groups in the UK. It has acted both as an outreach tool for the UK ESF by engaging NGOs who may be new to the social forum process and as a space for NGOs to discuss issues of mutual concern and decide on their representation with the wider process. A wide range of NGOs and campaigning organisations have attended the meetings over the past few months representing collective membership of millions and a very broad section of those calling for progressive change in the UK.

On Thursday 27 August the UK ESF NGO group met to choose the speakers it would like to represent the sector in the plenary sessions as part of the UK quota. We were restrained and realistic in the names put forward, asking for only 4 speakers, of the 15 available slots, to convey the knowledge, skills and experience of the whole sector. This included just one environment NGO, one human rights group and two development campaigns. The decision was made by consensus and the NGOs were careful to put forward a list that was balanced in terms of gender and ethnicity. These were then proposed later that evening to a full meeting of the UK Programme Group.

In the end just two of these survived the UK selection process. The UK will now go to the Brussels Preparatory Assembly without a single representative of any development organisation in its quota of plenary speakers. Given that there will be plenary sessions focused on unfair trade rules, international debt and corporate globalisation we find it extraordinary that the leading organisations campaigning on these issues will not be represented in the UK's list. It will have a practical impact too. Next year's G8 will be a focus for the European movement, yet not one representative of the mobilisation from the UK is represented either.

The method chosen to select the UK quota did not include any deliberative element to ensure that all sections of the movement were represented and was entirely based on the number of votes secured. Numerous members of small political groups who had packed the room with their supporters dominated the voting for the UK quota. This falls well short of the charter of the World Social Forum to which we have all subscribed. We must now face the facts that our work and our members will be sorely under-represented by the UK ESF. This will do nothing to help broaden the movement in the UK and build confidence in the process among NGOs.

Many British NGOs are keen to get involved in the ESF but have found it difficult to do so because of the lack of transparency and openness in the UK process. The decision of the UK group will only make it more difficult for NGOs to participate in the way we wish.

We urge our European partners to ensure that the sections of the movement so lacking in the UK list will be compensated for in Brussels.





"Official" closed (£40K!) ESF website:

Autonomous and Self Organised Spaces and Initiatives

"Unofficial" open (£free) ESF website:

Indymedia ESF Newswire:

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