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 Home > Event-related > World Social Forum

[ en es fr ]

Babels will not participate in WSF 2016 : notification letter to IC & OC of WSF 2016

(Date: 4 July 2016)

Dear Comrades in the WSF IC and WSF 2016 OC,

As you know, Babels had been asked by the local OC and had agreed to participate in organising the interpreting for the WSF 2016 in Montreal.

Unfortunately, due to a series of breakdowns in communication with the OC and some political, strategic and procedural decisions of the OC itself, we now believe that there is no space for us to participate in the forum in a meaningful way as activists.

As such, Babels regrets to inform the Organising Committee and the International Committee of the WSF that we collectively decline to organise interpretation for the WSF 2016. Our decision is informed by the below issues.

* The forum will only offer interpreting into three colonial languages (FR, EN, ES), a first in the WSF experience.

* Interpreting and equipment will be confirmed and available for large conferences only, while the only offer of formal provision of interpreting for self-organised events is on a “fee for service” basis.

* There has been no meaningful provision for a solidarity fund for interpreting, through which interpreting could be distributed more equitably across geographic regions and forum thematic axes.

* As you know, one of our core objectives as an activist network, as per our charter ( is to affirm the right of everyone to express themselves in the language of their choice and to contribute to discussions on the part language plays in the mechanisms of cultural domination and in the circulation of ideas between the various social and citizens’ movements.

* We fear that deciding to hold the entire WSF in only three colonial languages, and the lack of a solidarity fund, will silence a number of grassroot indigenous voices as well as voices from the Global South.

* A few weeks ago, the OC had started an interpreter pre-selection process without the involvement or knowledge of the Babels coordination team. As of now, some budget details and the possibility of obtaining pre-paid tickets for interpreters are still unclear.

* As you know, Babels works as a team, and selects activist interpreters for each event following a number of criteria, which ensures the presence of committed, reliable, professional people close to the social forum movements.

* Babels always strives to ensure transport, food, lodging and equipment conditions that enable babelistas to be at their best in facilitating effective cross language communication.

* Given negative past experiences with some events, Babels always requests activists’ travel expenses be pre-paid.

We have engaged in a number of exchanges with the OC in the last few weeks
regarding the above issues. While we believe that the OC is working hard to ensure a successful event, we feel that the planned arrangements will not allow Babels to live up to our principles as an activist organisation, and not as merely a free service provider.

Given Babels’ decision not to organise the interpreting for the WSF due to the above issues, we trust that Babels’ name will be removed from all WSF communications, including the recent email sent from the Montreal ground interpreting team ( on July 2nd to those responsible for self-organised events.

We remain committed to our mission, which is to strengthen language diversity in the processes and events of social movements, including future instances of the World Social Forum.

We look forward to being able to more fully participate in the organisational processes of the forum in the future, to ensure all voices can be heard and understood as we strive to build another possible world.

In solidarity,

Babels Coordination for WSF 2016
Babels Coordination
Contact :

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