Toward WSF2007

Babels and ALIS Brief for the WSF2007-Nairobi

Following the informal meetings held in Bamako during the WSFP2006 with Edward, John, Njoki, Odouor and Onyango, members of the WSF2007 Organizing Committee (OC), and thanks to the presence of 3 volunteers from Nairobi in the Babels-Alis Bamako project, Asha, Kathy and Mosala, we could evaluate a little better the situation for the WSF2007. The present brief is part of the exploratory process we started in Bamako. It aims at summarizing different information and being the basis for further discussions. At the same time, it aims also to be a step toward the first formal decision to be taken by the OC, the fact that translation during the WSF2007 will be handled fully by volunteers committed to the SF process in full accordance with the World Social Territory definition.

1- Presentation of the needs

At the moment, the venue and the number of rooms are of course not known. Nevertheless we based our discussion on a raw estimate corresponding to an SF average. We all are aware that SFs are unique and correspond to local realities. The presence of 100% volunteers in Firenze-ESF2002, Paris-ESF2003, London-ESF2004, Mumbai-WSF2004, POA-WSF2005, Bamako-WSFP2006, Caracas-WSFP2006, Barcelona-FSMed2005, Quito-ASF2005, lead to three phenomena:

a- An increase in the number of languages (from 3-4 to 12-15) and a real participation of “local” languages next to or even instead of the usually admitted “international” languages. With this, not only more and – more importantly – different participants will be able to hear and make themselves heard, but this will also effectively mean the true democratization of the WSF process by acknowledging the importance of local languages for the maintenance of peoples sovereignty.

b- An increase in the number of rooms (events) with simultaneous interpreting capabilities, allowing not only the few big main rooms to provide translation for the speakers and the audience, but also smaller ones normally devoted to less visible events, but essential in a SF in order to allow work and active exchanges to happen: rooms increased from around 5 to around 30 (if you speak about events from 60 events during a 4-day-Forum to 360 events);

c- An increase in the size of certain delegations because volunteers are included within the SF teams, because their languages are officially part of the SF, and because means are shared in solidarity with all through languages and volunteers. For example Korean and Japanese delegations doubled as compared to estimates, which was directly linked to the fact that Japanese and Korean were official WSF2004 languages and that 4 volunteers came from Japan and 4 from Korea in the general pool of WSF volunteers (other examples are possible, we just studied this case very closely at the time).

Therefore we discussed a WSF2007 with 100% volunteers allowing around:
- 30 rooms with translation;
- An average of 3-4 booths (or 3-4 languages) per room;
- A number of languages around 12.
This represents around 500 volunteer interpreters and around 60 volunteer technicians.

We feel the need to be very close to the organizing committee in its planning process. We stress on a very close collaboration with the organizing committee because we suffered from a lack of information in Bamako that strained our planning process in order to serve the forum at the best of our abilities

2- Budget

Translation/Interpretation has a cost whether because you pay interpreters and pay technicians to install the different rooms and pay the equipment rental, whether you call for volunteers or not. From a general point of view it has the same cost, the only variable being the number of rooms (and events) with translation and the number of languages.

In order to give a figure we talked about 300,000-400,000 euros/dollars which is not linked yet to an actual budget from us nor an actual budget and expression of needs from the OC. Mainly it means that it is far under 1,000,000 euros/dollars and even under 500,000 euros/dollars. We will of course provide a full and detailed budget when the OC is able to choose between the two options: 100% volunteer work or paid work.

We count on the WSF2007 organizing committee to make the necessary arrangements with the Kenyan immigration/Ministry of Foreign Affairs as early as possible to avoid the inconvenience some of us suffered before traveling and upon arrival at the Bamako airport. Arrangements should be made early enough. Visas are part of the budget and the committee should therefore strive to have it sufficiently minimized for the good of all participants.

Regarding the budget, an important issue raised by previous SFs, is the cash-flow. Because 80% of the Babels budget is trips to Nairobi and because concerning equipment they need to be built or shipped to Nairobi before the Forum, the cash-flow is a serious issue. In previous Forums we calculated that we lost at least 50 to 100% of the budget because tickets were taken too late, which means that literally the budget literally doubled at the end. In order to avoid this issue and to give money away uselessly to airline companies, we are stressing that, if not all, at least 80% of the global budget be ready to use 90 to 60 days before the Forum. Regarding the cash-flow issue and due to our past experience of it we advocate, for instance, that:

a- Part of the received funds from diverse organizations, to the general budget of the Forum should be secured well in advance for these budget lines;

b- The WSF2007 should start a registration campaign as soon as possible through their website allowing people to pre-pay registration and/or make donations at least 6 months in advance, informing people of the situation and making them aware of to the issue;

c- The OC start talking to big NGOs and/or to Solidarity Economy Banks and Financial Institution in order for them to grant 0% interest loan over duration of 3 months.

3- Languages and Mobilization

Languages are directly linked to the mobilization for the Forums, which means that mobilizing volunteers for translation/interpretation and their language is also popularizing the Forums in many places. When we are talking about translation, we are talking about two realities:
- The language a speaker is able to speak: This depends totally on the passive understanding of an interpreter in the conference room;
- The language the audience is able to hear in a conference room (of course any one is also able to speak it): This depends totally on the number and nature of the translation booths actually present in a room.
In this brief we are tackling solely the second aspect because it is the only one difficult to organize.

After the informal discussions held, it seems (but this needs further discussions and formal decisions at a later date) that the WSF2007 will have 3 more predominant languages: English, French, Kiswahili and a number of less predominant languages: Arabic, Lingola, Luhya, Luo, Kikuyu, Kirundi, Massai, Portuguese, Somalian, Spanish and probably some others.

Mobilization is a key issue in order to succeed in bringing quality interpreting in all these languages to the Forum. Our project is, as all the other Forums, to bring 80% of the people from the African Continent and 20% from elsewhere corresponding to people with experience in previous Forums in order to develop knowledge transmission at all levels and to bring “live-memories” from other Forums in other continents to this Forums.

It is clear that most of the volunteers, the closer to 50% as possible, have to come from Nairobi itself and from Arusha (from which buses can be organized): around 250 persons. Our experience in different cities and regions where no previous mobilization existed, is that it is possible to achieve if mobilizing start as early as possible. (When the OC will make a formal decision, we will immediately start to draw a mobilizing plan)

For some of these languages, we have, with the help of the OC, to mobilize through the organizations participating already to the WSF2007 dynamics. Without their help and their capabilities to identify few persons within their activists, we will probably not succeed in bringing their language within the WSF.

4- Equipment

There are two types of equipments we brought to Bamako WSFP2006, which are highly compatible and complementary to each other.

- The Whispering Machines. These small devices allow linguistic groups of around 15 people to gather around the interpreters thanks to a microphone and a small amplified box and wired earphones. The box is very light and the whole equipment fits into the size of an A4-500page-capacity box and can be carried around and set by the interpreters themselves. There are only a few of them exists (around 15), which are owned by the FPH (Fondation pour le Progrès de l’Homme). We will put the schematics online for a similar device in order for technicians around the world to be able to build them freely.

These Whispering Machines are very useful for small rooms and/or small linguistic groups in big rooms in particular. They can help greatly in a Forum, because they are very easy to set up and to move around. (the actual number of these devices needed will have to be set after we know more about the WSF2007 needs)

- The FM Translation System. This system is based on emitting in a room thanks to FM airwaves the voice of the interpreters. The power of the emitters is determined by the space covered, which means that it makes no difference if in a given space, there are 100 or 1,000 persons listening. The receivers are regular FM receivers which means they are cheap (less than 2 euros for small FM radios with earphones and batteries) and easy to find everywhere in the world. We advocate that the cost of the radios be included in the registration fees and that everyone receive a radio with their registration. These radios can even be personalized for the WSF2007 and therefore like t-shirts or other goods be kept by people as a memory of the Forum. Depending on the size of the attendance expected the number of radios should match more or less the number of people in order to avoid problems during conferences. Of course at the same time people should know upon registration that can also bring their own radios or an information release could be sent before the Forum in order for people to be aware of this.

The FM Translation System is currently being developed by ALIS for the ESF2006. Therefore after a positive evaluation of the possibility of shipping it, we advocate strongly both the ESF2006 Greek OC and the WSF2007 Kenyan OC to work on a political agreement in order to reach a decision as fast as possible and to publicize it as a solidarity action between Forums, which is, at this level, a premiere and should be acknowledge as such if it was to be agreed upon.

Also, there is the issue of the recording and archiving of the conferences. The plan is to use one computer per room, with multiple inputs, that will record all the languages. A software tool for this job is being also developed by ALIS for the ESF2006. That leaves the cost of the computers themselves to be covered.

5- What’s next?

The WSF International Council planned for March in Nairobi should be the opportunity to further discuss these issues and to reach agreements in a number of essential points. Without formal agreements on the 100% volunteer work, on the solidarity between Forums and on some of the needs including a first budget agreement, we might lose valuable time and could already jeopardize the success of this project.

We would like also to re-iterate our proposal for the WSF2007 OC to identify two people able to come to Athens in the beginning of April in order to directly experience, for one, the Babels’ organization and, for the other, the ALIS’ organization, which will enable then to have the beginning of a team directly informed, trained and in charge in Nairobi.

Furthermore, after the WSF2006, there is a network of volunteer interpreters and technicians in Bamako that has worked very well. So, it is important to create a link between those people and the ones in Nairobi.

6- Jumping-in for Nairobi

Some of us after the last debriefing when it was, once again, confirmed that we would all want to jump-in for WSF2007, decided to start have our shirt wet :-)

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