World Social Forum 2013: Where? In Montreal?

by Teivo Teivainen, 9 March 2011

Some busy time has passed since the International Council meeting of the World Social Forum, held immediately after the WSF in Dakar in February 2011. One of the key open questions for the future of the process is where to organize the WSF 2013. It was mostly assumed that the process has gotten new energies with the Dakar experience and that there should be a global WSF event in 2013, maintaining the two-year periodicity we have had for a while.

As could be expected, no decision was made on this question during the IC meeting. There were some “candidates”, and even if it is somewhat uncomfortable to talk about the process as if it were a question of choosing the site for Olympic Games, we are now facing a process of proposals and assessments.

The key possible sites that were mentioned were Porto Alegre, Galicia and Montreal. Other places were also mentioned in informal discussions (example included “new Tunisia”, Barcelona, somewhere in East Asia, India, and the United States), but the three seemed the most serious proposals, with some preparatory work behind them. One new thing is that we are now seriously discussing the possibility to organize the WSF somewhere in the global north.

The Expansion Commission of the IC, in which I have been relatively active over the years, was given the task of preparing a report on the question. As I will be visiting Canada a couple of times this Spring, including the International Studies Association meeting next week in Montreal, I was assigned some of the responsibilities for following the Montreal proposal. I have agreed to meet some of the key proponents of the WSF 2013 there (e.g. from the organization Alternatives (, and also people critical of the proposal (from anarchist/autonomous activism).

For the time being, I do not have any personal position on where the WSF 2013 should be organized. I would be most grateful for all proposals on what kinds of things we should take into account when assessing whether it might be a good idea to organize the WSF 2013 in
Montreal or somewhere else.

This text was originally part of a message to the e-mail list of the Network Institute for Global Democratization on 8 March 2011

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One Response to World Social Forum 2013: Where? In Montreal?

  1. mikaelbook says:

    A lot of books have appeared, or are coming, about WikiLeaks and Julian
    Assange. I read one of them, namely, “WikiLeaks and the Age of
    Transparency”, by Micah L. Sifry (OR Books 2011,

    This author, who is a social entrepreneur and who seems to have some links
    to the risk capitalists, does in my opinion quite successfully present the
    WikiLeaks as an important and positive phenomenon in the development of
    the internet. As the title says, Sifry sees the Net as a movement towards
    “transparency”, which, of course, he links to global (although mostly only
    American) democratization and democracy. “Transparency may be the best
    medicine for a healthy democracy”, he writes, “but the problem with the
    WikiLeaks revelations from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, plus the State
    Department Cables, may well be that they expose too much”. One of Sifry’s
    peers, Clay Shirky, has compared WikiLeaks to the secret pact, known as
    “UKUSA”, which the USA, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand formed after
    World War II:

    “Since each country’s intelligence service was forbidden by local law to
    spy on its own citizens, but nothing prevented each service from spying on
    other countries, the five members of what is known as UKUSA agreed to
    share information on each other’s citizens, essentially going around their
    own local laws.”

    Wikileaks, too, has found a way to route around the laws of the singular
    states. Commenting more specifically on the role of Assange, Sifry arrives
    at the following conclusion:

    “If anything, Assange’s greatest contribution to global enlightenment is
    that the idea of a viable “stateless news organisation”, to use Jay
    Rosen’s phrase, beholden to no country’s laws and dedicated to bringing
    government information into public view, has been set loose in the world”.

    The way of WikiLeaks leads to what one might call the dilemma of the
    ethical pirate, and which actually concerns not only news organisations.
    Big corporations like Google Inc., for instance, also must consider this
    problem. And so must certain institutions, e.g. the institution of the
    library. I have a dream about the librarians of the world acting like
    ethical pirates.

    Sifry does perhaps not have so much to say about how we shall continue on
    the road of WikiLeaks, but he surely points in the right direction when he
    says that

    “What’s needed is a much more robust discussion of how the internet might
    become a genuinely free public arena, a global town square where anyone
    can speak. Or, to be more precise, an Internet whose underlying
    architecture is really free of governmental or corporate control, as
    decentralized and uncontrollable as life itself.”

    We should probably ask whether that “global town square” really differs
    from the “world social forum”. Will the the WSF and the internet be
    genuinely connected to each other by 2013? And which is the missing link
    between them? You may have guessed my answer: the library. But then, how
    can the library be “as decentralized and uncontrollable as life itself”?

    Instead of contemplating eternally whether there can be such things as
    black swans, or ethical pirates, let’s do something together. Heikki
    Patomäki and others, including myself, are going to set up a Citizens’
    Committee to support WikiLeaks and the the principle of public access to
    official records*. Today at 18 pm, at the Old Cable Factory in Helsinki,
    we shall discuus this at the AGM of the cooperative “Katto-Meny”, which,
    incidentally, is also the internet service provider of NIGD. *About “the
    principle of public access to official records”, read more at,8599,2039996,00.html#ixzz1GAyB5avG

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