We are concerned about the political evolution of Babels within the new political forms and evolution Social Forum are taking.
This is a proposal we would like to make in order to incorporate it with the Babels Charter expressing therefore our common vision of what we are aiming at together with our differences.
This manifesto is clearly a positive expression to answer an increasing risk of intitutionalization and old habits that will in the near future jeopardize our projects together: The use of closed and private mailinglists and not the Babels Forum, regional 'coordinations' and not project orientated ones, institutionalization of 'coordinators' and 'interpreters' and not volunteers sharing responsibility and information together, and so on.
We hope that this manifesto will meet your concern and express our goals.
Jose Arconada, Constance Boris, Yan Brailowsky, Thanasis Chrysos, Bettina Gertum Becker, Laurent Jesover, Gabriela Punto Arnao, Monica Salom, Gregoire Seither.
- We publish a first version of it here
Interpreters and translators as political partners in Social Forums
As volunteers of the Babels network we would like to underline several changes occurring in multilingual communication and exchange of ideas. This evolution was made possible through the process of the Social Forum because it was created by the dynamics of the Social Forums. As Babels volunteers, and as part of an organized group of activists within various Social Forums, we support these changes and wish them to go even further.
Our experiences of the first two World Social Forums as interpreters or translators (volunteers or otherwise), as alternate media activists or as delegates, made us realize the importance of languages in an ongoing effort to create new political spaces. It became obvious that languages were not only a way to communicate, but that they are, in themselves, an expression of political alternatives.
Languages are not only about transmitting ideas, but are also the cradle for new ideas. This is why we push for the presence of a much larger number of languages in Social Forums, allowing more and different people to express themselves and participate in the debates. Since the creation of Babels, the Social Forums have increased the number of languages with interpretation from 4 to over 15 different languages. This, in turn, has allowed more people to participate, and not only the fortunate intellectuals and activists who have been trained to speak and to understand neo-colonial languages.
Babels has also fought to increase the number of spaces in which international communication can take place. Interpretation must be provided wherever it is needed, from large conference rooms to areas where small groups of people meet to exchange ideas, to articulate movements, and to propose concrete actions. Big events are as important as small workshops, where grassroots activists meet to discuss the issues they are concerned with.
For these reasons, Babels does not have a client/employer relationship with the Social Forums: Babels is a political partner which is part of the Social Forum process itself, and Babels has the same standing as any other participating organization, network or social movement that take part in the Social Forums.
Involving volunteers in Social Forums is therefore for Babels to get involved and to participate at all levels. The joint work of the volunteers and trained experts (whether professionals, retired professionals or non-professionals) and skilled people (whether translation students, bilingual activists, and so on…) is a conscious choice. The quality of interpreting and translating in social forums is also linked to the commitment of the volunteers through collaboration and cooperation inside and outside Babels.
If Babels is a virtual network which takes a concrete form when 500 to 700 volunteers gather at a Social Forum, it is also a communication network able to share with everyone the decision-making process, including in this way a large diversity of views in various different projects, as well as apparent contradictions. The set of tools Babels uses, which strive to create open meeting spaces build a legacy from which volunteers taking new responsibilities can find some inspiration.
Babels organizes itself around people willing to take the responsibility of building a project for a predetermined period of time with a team of volunteers who are all on the same footing.
Babels organizes itself around projects, most of them linked with on-going Social Forums.
Babels, just like the Social Forums, is a process and not a set of recipes.
The organization process is based on autonomy and shared responsibility. The processes are open and built on consensus and horizontality. This means that no one represents Babels or that no one can speak or sign documents other than as a member to the network. This means that there is not an institutionalized group of "experienced people" or "coordinators", nor pre-established rules or recipes that have to be followed from one project to the next. New teams should take responsibility in agreement with the evolution of the political organization of each Social Forum, and solutions are never to be found outside of each new context.
Babels is a new political project in itself as it has no representative, and no permanent form of organization. Older forms of organizing such as NGOs, unions or even previously existing networks often take the forum of lobbyism or power struggles. But these forms cannot apply to Babels which is an international collaborative project in which transparency, horizontality and cooperation are key, all in order to make true the political ideal of the Social Forums as "open spaces for debates leading to actions".