The conditions in which the Tunisian “steering committee” is attempting to prepare for WSF 2013 has us worried enough to keep silent. The failures of its working methods have been obvious. The organizations and movements, signatures below, are for this raising the alarm before it is too late. We ask the International Council to take urgent note of our text and to adopt the necessary measures. We ask the truly existing and active social movements and organizations that they support our initiative to save the WSF from the drift. We think that it is still possible to save the event.
Note from one of the signatories: Following document was sent [in december 2012] to many networks and people connected to the WSF, including members of the International Council and of the Steering Committee in Tunis. It raises very important questions. It remained unanswered by those in charge of preparing the WSF in Tunis 2013, as well at local as at international level.
Association Culture Without Frontier
CADP (Citizens’ Association for Democratic Participation)
The WSF Charter of Principles is not being respected
The current situation is no longer acceptable: there are four people deciding in the name of others, a deplorable practice, creating a real cult of secrecy and they are adopting an arrogant, insulting and dictatorial behaviour.
The cult of secrecy
The steering committee has not provided details of any of its meetings nor considered it useful to justify even minor decisions. Regarding spending, we know from third parties that some associations receive money to organise events detached from the commissions, that some have decided, without even consulting members of the steering committee, to realise an event on the Manar Campus and that wages are being offered without any prior announcement and that members of this “diehard nucleus” have named coordinators (like the self-declared coordinator of the culture commission). The financial report of the Monastir Assembly was not disseminated in the Tunisian committees, not even through e-mail lists; we have obtained it through our links abroad. We have discovered that the financial audit has been annulled.
We asked that a member of the Communication commission be present in the secret meetings, closed even to some members of this committee, with the aim of doing our work, already delayed, and we were told: “No, this is not so one enters the steering committee”.
This answer raises another question: who has nominated the members of the steering committee? What is the length of their mandate? What does this mandate consist of?
Two members of the steering committee have been prevented from being present at the meetings.
We would like to remind all that no horizontality can exist without real time transparency.
Behaviour that alienates
These problems of behaviour have even forced many motivated people in the working commissions to leave, disappointed by these occurrences or rather that of the “organisers”. In this case, including within the steering committee itself, the OTC and the UDC do not consider it useful to insist in participating in decision-making in these working conditions and, in any case, are not consulted.
Extract of the act prepared by members of the mobilisation commission:
“It is unacceptable that the meeting of the above-mentioned committee (the “steering committee”) is held amid total confusion, with people shouting at and insulting others. Moreover, during these closed hearings, none of those present has considered it necessary to stop the meeting or to take a position against violent conduct, which has led one member of the caravan to say that the level of the meeting was very poor.”
Work deliberately done badly and the blocking or even sabotage of the work of others
As of now, the number of registered activities is insufficient for the success of the event. The commissions see their work blocked by receiving information at the last minute, or not receive any at all, which impedes them from exercising their roles and taking decisions. It is a useful pretext for four people to decide for everyone else, invoking the urgency of taking one decision or another.
The Theme of an open and transparent Resources/Finance Commission
The organisation foresees 9 active commissions. The steering committee, not content with not playing its part in creating the commissions, has also decided that these commissions will be kept in abeyance. When we asked a steering committee representative, who was member of the Resources Commission – as we have a willing financial expert – he responded by saying: “It is being looked into”. We asked: “Why has there not been announcements or accounts of the meetings?” We didn’t get any answer.
- The experience of the FSM caravan
An extract: “The local collaborator with whom we coordinated the Kasserine stage aborted it after receiving a call from a member of the steering committee, who asked him not to collaborate with us because we do not work with the Forum, that we were only a group of young people on bicycles, in what clearly was act of sabotage, unfortunately successful.”
- Of the nine commissions that should be working only three have been holding meetings and everyone is irritated with the behaviour of this “diehard nucleus”
Recently, the steering committee, aware of our determination to sort out these grave failures, has decided to name a coordinator and restart the meetings of the inspection committee with representatives of the commission. Unfortunately, these measures, while useful, are totally insufficient to mend the host of problems.
It is high time that each one of us assumes our responsibilities; this situation cannot be allowed to go on. The event will be a total fiasco if we do not sort out the problems, in particular those related to confidence and conflict. The steering committee should be reconstituted, as much in its composition as in its way of decision-making.
For this, we would like that the following five proposals be studied and taken up to resolve these problems. We demand a clear and precise answer to these problems. If not, we will have to concluded that the International Council is complicit with the situation and legitimises it without considering the opinion of a large part of the Tunisian organisers and that of the international participants at the WSF Tunisia 2013.
We therefore ask for:
1- A real steering committee with a clear role: that is to say, that which plays an intermediary part between the members of the national commissions and the international actors, which implies reconsidering its composition.
With this end, the committee should be composed of:
A majority of members admitted through a wide consensus in the commission and invested with the capacity of group work.
A member capable of moderating the horizontal assemblies so that the decisions are taken in a truly transparent manner and with the participation and consent of all
Of a person qualified at the linguistic level, capable of and entrusted with divulging ALL THE INFORMATION that is sought, without questioning and without omitting anything.
2- Regular and transparent meetings of the steering committee, with a planning of meetings and work, with events and their broadcasting in streaming
3. Establishing an open and transparent Resources/Finance commission
At this point, funds are being collected to finance a series of events and to pay wages. We are not looking to overturn earlier decisions but the Resources commission should be established from now iteself so that everyone can verify the ethicality of the decisions taken, as also to have a space to defend their point of view. At least, we should have real-time access to the decisions taken and understand their reasons. How can it be that we received Monastir’s financial information from abroad when we are here? How can it be explained that there have not been any control on spendings?
4-Clarity on who decides and what is decided
None of us has been consulted regarding where the event will be held. We have known through third parties about the participation of the Tunisian government in the WSF, and above all through the renovation of the Manar Campus as the place of the event, when it could have been realised in a large provisional space created for the occasion in the heart of Tunis, nursery of the revolution, having the numerous local residents work in this, and this could later have been converted into a permanent centre for meetings at the local level. It would have been enough to organise transfers in buses to the locations. This would have avoided what was witnessed in Dakar (the activists from the North in hotels, the activists of the South in tents). If, dear revolutionary militants, it is possible to have a world different from the five star hotels.
Every part of the discussions should be precise and clear and the important decisions are not to be taken in executive style: everyone should be able to question them.
5- We call for the establishment of a sovereign general assembly of the active members of the commission as soon as possible.
It should be composed only of those already present in the commissions for at least three meetings.
We do not want a repeat of the experience fo the second meeting of the Culture commission, at which a large number of people were brought in, who knew nothing of WSF, in order to exert pressure at the time of electing a coordinator.
This sovereign assembly will be directed by people with necessary experience in moderating horizontal assemblies (document attached); it should be able to reorganise voluntarily the rules of the commissions and the steering committee of WSF 2013. None of the alarm signals will be missed, contrary to what has been happening till now.
It will also be tasked with launching or relaunching urgently the WSF commissions, calling on those who have left and explaining to them that that their work will be respected within the framework of the WSF charter.
It should, above all, watch over, the work of all the commissions to verify that these are being done within the framework of the Charter of Principles of the World Social Forum: from the International Commission to the steering committee, we should all be subjected to the same principles.
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