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 Home > Event-related > European SF > FSE-ESF 2004

[ en ]

ESF04 debrief held in Athens (April 9/10, 2005)

Outcomes most relevant to ESF06
(Date: 25 April 2005)

Please note - this was constructed from the notes of the meeting (held in Athens on April 9/10 2005).∞


Babels-UK: John, Natalie, Emma, Julie B
Babels-EL: Anastasia, Luis, Julie Hogan, Dimitri, Artemis, Panayotis
ALIS: Alexis, Thanos, Richard, Kostas, Giorgos
Nomad: Julien, Sophie
Babels-Tech: Jean-Michel, Patrick, Yan
Austria/Brazil: Graziella
Belgium: Veronica
Czech Republic: Barunka
France: Joanne
Germany: Helga, Lisa
Italy: Silvia, Guilia, Irma
Poland: Dawid
Spain: Gemma, Idoia

Babels-el as partner in ESF process

Political process in Athens

The Greek Social Forum is a part of the European process and is a political network of grass-roots organisations, women organizations, migrants organisations, the leaderships of some of the big Trade Unions and people from left parties: Synaspismos, that is a parliamentary party of 4% (in the framework of the European Left Party) and small far left communist parties, NGOs (some radical like ARSIS, others not so radical).

They are trying hard to bring on board for the ESF2006 National Organization Assembly more groups from all around Greece: NGOs, Amnesty International, Green party agreed to participate. 60 organisations have signed until now the declaration of the Athens ESF that will be sent to Artemis for translation. The trade unions (that are controlled mainly by the Social Democrats) and the Greek sectarian SWP which is much smaller than the UK are problematic as they want to set up an organising committee and be part of it whereas others are trying to set up working groups (logistics, memory, budget, etc) and then see what coordinating body is needed.

It is important that Nomad and Babels take a stand on this issue and come to the EPA to be part of the working groups. If there is such a coordinating structure, find out how it helps, what are the problems and try to have Nomad and Babels on board. Generally, people in Greece are aware of the importance of Babels and Nomad and the politics of language. The Social Forum will be a good space for Babels and Nomad to expand.

Babels as equal partner

Babels-el members are attending ESF meetings in Athens and it seems that everybody consider Babels as an equal member in the process. On Wednesday, people from the Organising Committee had to go and visit different venues for the ESF and Babels was invited. Unfortunately they didn’t go but it shows that there is a positive attitude towards Babels.

2 committees: Greek in Greece and 2nd only for ESF project 2006 and again there are other coordinating groups: programme, organisation, outreach. 3 working groups + organisation committees meeting. The technical group is part of the organising committee.

We will be granted an office with fax, phone line, photocopy machine, etc; it will also be an official place to meet.

Babels-el presentation

They have been successful in getting all groups involved in the ESF-2006 to take them into account and take interpretation seriously. They are officially present in all committees (even though it’s hard for them to attend all their meetings). They are looking for an office, which should not be hard since they’ve had several offers. However, they’re finding it hard to “deliver”, because they don’t have enough coordinators or interpreters -so one of their main problems at the moment is outreach. They need volunteers to translate (Transtrad!).

Babels as a political agent

The organizing committee of the event must agree to include Babels as a political agent, respect its autonomy and advice on all translation issues (both technical and linguistical), include its needs in the general budget and agree to raise all money needed for translation and interpretation of that particular event.

This step is pretty much self-evident, but it us usually the most difficult one. It needs to be followed-up and fought for during the run-up to the event. It is important to remember that Babels is not a money-saving service provider, therefore, our only initial commitment is to cover the interpretation needs of a certain event making sure minority languages are taken into account and the right of everyone to express themselves in their own language is respected as much as possible –for, at the most, the same price a commercial provider would do it.

Technical group / ALIS etc

Technical Group: some work has been done on getting local radio stations going. Next EPA in Prague will be the moment when the technical group communicates if alternative translation equipment will be feasible or not. The idea would be to replace entirely the commercial but it is too soon to say we can do it, maybe after Prague. Nomad International Team members attending the meeting underlined the fact that they had many problems in past events so it is really important that the Greeks and the Nomad International Team find a common basis on which to work for the project. For examples, the Greeks have been working on the radios without liaising with the international team when Hemant in India, has acquired a lot of knowledge on that.

We are working under pressure because the Greek OC wants results. The EL team was created for this specific forum. It is not true that we only care about technical aspects. We are working in a very specific political context. It is a pity that we reinvent the wheel. I hope we will be able to cooperate smoothly with Nomad.

The budget question

Autonomy over the budget

Babels autonomy or not over the Babels budget: in Paris ESF, the money was 100% managed by Babels and in London ESF, the money was 100% managed by the ESF company. Both present pros and cons.

A mixed solution could be good: preparation costs managed by the ESF and the costs during and after for example would be managed by Babels.
Action Point for the Budget Working Group: analyse the Greek ESF situation for the negotiation of the budget and decide on which kind of autonomy Babels should have over the budget.

Joint Nomad/ALIS and Babels Budget for Athens ESF?

If Nomad/ALIS and Babels are to be merged in one project that we manage together, the budget would need to be a common one too. In the end, it was decided to set up a budget working group with people from Babels and Nomad/ALIS, West coordinators and Greek coordinators.
Action Point: this working group still needs to be set up and quite soon as some money is already being spent for Babels mainly in the EPAs. In Prague EPA in May, Babels should come up with a collaboration agreement that mentions the principles of Babels, how the budget would be managed, what are the items, the deadlines, what kind of autonomy Babels would like to have over the budget, etc. The negotiation of how much on which item would come later as the figure of interpreters would be needed in order to estimate how much money is needed for the project.

What to include in the budget (see below – reimbursement)

Since the actual needs are only known shortly before the event, the agreements must be based on items, not amounts. In all cases, add “if needed”. Also, if a coordination wishes to do so, and provided that this decision is circulated openly and transparently, they can reimburse coordinators for their expenses with a per diem which should be equal to that received by the interpreters during the event. This per diem would be a compensation for expenses, not a payment or a reward, and no coordinator should claim it for more than one event per year.

Other internal Babels matters

Quotas for interpreters

There was a discussion on the quotas, that is to say the percentage of people coming from which part of the World. It is actually a very important issue as most of the budget is spent on transport of the interpreters. London quotas were decided by Babels-uk whereas there was no European list for the coordinators for discussion.
Action Point: It is important, once the figure of interpreters needed is known, that we decide at the European level in Babels on which quotas we base Babels budget.

Paid jobs for Babels co-ordinators

In London 4 Babels coordinators were employed by the ESF04 Company in order to manage Babels Project and do the liaison between the network and the ESF. Babels volunteer coordinators felt this was bad for several reasons mentioned in the meeting:
 There is a vertical relation between Babels employees and the Company
 It is unfair that some people are paid quite well in London when other coordinators had to fight for months to get their costs reimbursed
 It is centralising
On the other hand, one of the paid employees attending the meeting, mentioned that in the host coordination, there are a lot of tasks such as logistics, office work, etc which are huge 3 months before an ESF, that are very time consuming if not impossible for someone who is volunteering after work.

It seems at some point that there were a bit of frustration because Babels employees were well paid. The salary was based on the job specifications and the current salaries in the UK. In other words, Babels coordinators employed by the ESF Company were not exploited.

Reimbursement of Babels coordinators (see above - budget)

Some coordinators proposed to create a per diem for volunteer coordinators. It was not very clear whether this per diem would be for the costs of coordinators (mobile, coffee at the airport, etc), for the potential costs of the coordinators (little costs that accumulate and can’t be proved), for recognition of what coordinators are doing invisibly, for lost wages when they are working too much for Babels and not working enough for their company or their freelance job, etc…

As there was some confusion on what was meant by per diem, the debate escaped a bit on many issues:
 if we are a network of volunteers, we can’t receive a per diem that is not exclusively reimbursement of costs
 even if there is money allocated in Babels budget for the costs of coordinators, there are many costs that we cannot claim because we don’t have the receipts which make the per diem useful
 if we give a per diem, then the problem would be to distinguish among coordinators who do more or less, which is problematic

Action Point: Budget Working Group to decide whether they want to implement per diem, if they want to create 3 paid position 3 months before the ESF (see Brussels minutes please add link! on the issue where the conditions to such a thing are explained) and make the decisions known to European Coordinators in order to decide together if we agree or not by May EPA in Prague in order to include that but not budget it in the collaboration agreement

Outreach (how to enhance our pool of interpreters)

New coordinations need a good outreach strategy. Babels’ challenge in ESF London was to increase the pool of local interpreters regardless of their language combination.

These are the steps to be followed: First, send a message to all registered members and then a call for interpreters at every ESF local and international meeting. Contact with interpreting schools and universities is vital. Don’t forget that search for minority languages needs a targeted strategy and, last but not least, at every stage of the search process, it is very important to stress Babels’ principles.

Joint project plan: Babels, ALIS and the ESF

The Organising Committee, in order to get it to comply with our deadlines, should create its own project plan (programme, logistics, etc). That way, Babels, ALIS and the ESF are all accountable for the management of the project.

Action Point: babels-el to come up with a project plan proposal and discuss it with the European Coordinators by esfcoord list and wiki.

ESF programme

Number of plenaries is bound to be cut down meanwhile the seminar is expected to be the most common meeting pattern; estimated that there may be around 250 seminars). Babels needs to attend all the meetings. Programme will probably be ready one month in advance.

Database and Internal/External Communication Rules

Babels needs to agree on rules to use the different IT tools available: email and mailing lists, website, wiki, discussion forum, database. The point is to be able to archive our discussions to serve as reference points, to help newbies participate in the organization of the forum. The Babels database must be translated into Greek.
People should take the time to explain what they are doing, otherwise they are defeating the purpose of doing it.

Issue of access to the database: for legal reasons, the coordinators can only have access to people who subscribed voluntarily to a project. At the moment, there is no official ESF06 project. Action Point , we need to set it up and invite Babelitos registered on the database if they want to get involved in Athens ESF. This needs to be done by 2 weeks time. Once people have registered for the project, Babels-el and other coordinations will have access to their files. It is important to ask the volunteers to tick the little box ESF06 at the bottom of their registration file. There will then be another email for people who have Greek in their working languages in order to invite them to join the babels-el info list.

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