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Letter to the UK Committee
(Date: 7 September 2004)
Babels and Nomad’s Open Letter to the ESF Organising and Co-ordinating Committees
London 19th of May 2004
Reflections on the importance of practicalities in the construction of political alternatives
Last Sunday’s Organising Committee (May 16, London) fell at the half way point of the 10 months between the first ESF 2004 European Assembly (December 13/14, London) and the ESF itself (October 14/17, London).Babels and Nomad feel that, so far, the UK Organising Committee has steadfastly refused to tackle practical issues in a transparent and participatory manner. This reached a critical point last Sunday (May 16) when these issues were yet again ignored and not discussed .
Given these continuing refusals, we feel impelled to highlight the importance of prioritising alternative ways of approaching practical issues. The role of organisations like Babels and of projects like Nomad in the political and practical construction of social forums cannot be ignored any longer.
Contrary to what was heard several times in the last OCs and CCs, practical issues are not purely technical issues. They are political in their very nature. The practical ways in which we (the organisations and individuals involved in the preparation of this ESF) are going to meet the material and financial needs required by an event of this scale is of primary political relevance. Whether environmental and sustainability issues are taken seriously will be the result of political choices. Whether voluntary, creative and sustainable solutions will be prioritised over commercial service providers will be the result of political choices. The scope and nature of ‘outreach’ activities reflect a particular positioning. There is not just one way to allocate scarce resources and decisions regarding venues, communication strategies, website, and the various ESF office ‘practicalities’ (etc.) are the clear result of political choices.
The current lack attention to these issues is jeopardizing the involvement of extremely valuable sectors of civil society. The lack of transparency, participatory process and communication channels prevent individuals and organisations with alternative solutions and energies from offering alternatives to the socially and environmentally destructive capitalist sector.
The last European Preparatory Assembly in Istanbul agreed overwhelmingly to Babels’ terms of involvement in this ESF process. Sadly, it is now clear to Babels’ members that interpretation, translation and all other related communications issues are considered as purely technical issues that ought to be approached in a technocratic manner.
Babels is NOT a simple service provider of free interpretation and translation! Babels and Nomad’s objectives are to work towards the financial and technical autonomy of the alter-globalisation movement. Babels and Nomad want to participate in European Social Forums, both in their preparation and their realisation.
However Babels and Nomad are not interested in participating in the preparation of an international Social Forum that has no other ambition than being a self-sufficient spectacle. Babels and Nomad are international non-hierarchical networks who do not want to reproduce old models of hierarchical organising with all of the inefficiencies associated with that. Babels and Nomad’s involvement in the organisation of this ESF can only occur if participatory, innovative and creative solutions to practical issues are given more thought and political consideration.
We refuse to distinguish the processes of technical organisation from the processes of political construction because this very distinction prevents us from building viable alternatives. This distinction only allows us to state what we are against and not to develop what we are for. If another world is possible, then the means we use to reach the ends we want must be coherent with those objectives.
Babels’ proposal to improve the process:
In order to continue this process on a transparent basis and to help unlocking grass-root creativities and participation, we ask the co-ordinating committee to agree that:
All working groups looking at various aspects of the preparation of the ESF prepare by next CC meeting a comprehensive written report on their activities. There should be reports on Finance/budget, venue, communication/website, accommodation, Visas, Office, Legal, Outreach, Programme, provision of food, Cultural Working, Interpretation, Written Translation (and any other forgotten issue that may get mentioned in the meeting).
Those reports be made public through the various ESF-related lists and on the ESF web-site.
Those reports should include an indication of the mandate and objectives of the group, a description of the investigations undertaken and the conclusions reached so far.
Those reports explain the technical/financial/political/organisational constraints faced by those groups and suggests ideas to overcome those constraints.
That these reports make recommendations about how other groups/people can get their voice heard and suggestions considered (call for volunteers, call for particular technical expertise etc.).
Those reports should include the name and contact details of coordinators or contact email list address of these working groups so that interested people/organisations can get in touch with questions, comments or suggestions.
Those reports should include a time-table by which decisions must be taken (if relevant).
Babels and Nomad
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