Saturday, August the 25th
Workshop: Le Droit à la ville: notre pouvoir citadin, 9h00 AM
With 50% of the world’s population living in cities it is important for us all to participate in the making and evolution of cities. Grassroots movements and social solidarity help in representing the people express their voice and we have seen an increase in unions and social movements working together to create stronger leverage points in fighting for citizens rights.
Mondli Hlatshwayo, of Khanya College, explains that cities are fragmented and divided into two parts, Rich and Poor. Johannesburg has had the people divided by apartheid where money and race dictated how one’s life will be shapes. Mondli explains that the minimum that is needed for basic human survival in urban centers is access to education, clean drinking water and the right to vote. The Neo-Liberal government in South Africa is cutting these minimum standards, thus the social movement must react through mobilization to keep citizens rights in the hands of citizens.
Pat Horn, coordinator of World Class City For All and member of Streetnet, explains that as a city evolves, the marginalised population get pushed more and more to the side. The focus that the social movement of South Africa is now to put pressure on the government to improve the general standard of life for South Africans before the country hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2010.
Loraine Guay, member of D’Abord Solidaires, explains that cities are like a business and it is the land owners and the rich that control the business. Loraine goes on to explain that the social movement needs to be strategic in giving citizens a voice. In the end the ideal is to have citizens organize their own communities rather than the top down system that we are in today.
Friday, Augusut the 24th
Ecofest at the FSQ: A volunteer’s view.
If you happened to pass by Parc Emilie Gamilin during the Forum Social Quebecois (FSQ), you would have no doubt seen droves of people enjoying Ecofest. On August 24th, 25th, and 26th Ecofest provided all who were present with free food, musical entertainment, and a festive ambiance. In total, Ecofest’s organizers and volunteers served over 1000 people free sandwiches, salads, and other vegetarian delights. However, perhaps even more impressive than the quantity of food provided at Ecofest, was the ideology underlying this ambitious project. Ecofest’s organizers encouraged all benefactors to recognize the importance of waste reduction and respectful consumption practices.
Composts, reusable cutlery and recycling bins were on-hand to fulfill the objective of a ‘waste-free feast’. The eco-friendly methods employed at Ecofest demonstrate how minor adjustments to our consumption practices can significantly reduce the harmful impact human beings have on the environment; small, concrete, environmentally-conscious’ projects like Ecofest can make a difference. As a FSQ participant, I was particularly struck by diligent spirit of those involved in Ecofest. The exuberance of volunteers who spent hours cutting celery, cooking peppers, washing dishes, and serving veggie pâté was truly inspirational.
About the Social Forum
Last weekend all the interns attended the Forum Social Quebecois at the Université du Quebec à Montreal (UQAM). The conference was well attended by a variety of NGOs, political leaders, students and supporters of social justice movements at international as well as local levels. During my university studies, I attended many conferences and workshops where issues of solidarity, globalization and participatory democracy were primary topics of discussion. So, I decided to go to the FSQ more as an observer than as a participant. In addition, I wished to avoid being intimiately involved in the alter-globalization debate.
Throughout the proceedings, I had the sense of bearing witness to a true socialist gathering, one that presented a real sense of both honesty and hope. At the same time, the conference was quite professional, and I found the majority of panelists and workshop participants to be well-prepared and interesting. I thought that the FSQ, as a whole, suceeded by bringing many important issues to the table. Happily, also, the talks I attended created a sense of optimism and indicated that many positive changes have been made in the realms of social justice and participatory democracy.