The Toronto Social Forum

Another Spirit for a Better World

Tuesday 1 April 2003, by Kamilia BAROUDI

PHOTO: Louis-Serge Houle

By "Mobilizing for a Better Toronto and a Better World," hundreds of individuals, students, academics, community activists, free-thinkers, philosophers, and organizations are getting together at the Toronto Social Forum (TSF) to explore concrete alternatives for our communities to corporate globalization.

Inspired by the sucess of the World Social Forum (WSF), the Toronto Social Forum - a weekend of inspirational speakers, workshops, cultural events, and actions - will start later this week. After a kickoff at The Music Hall on March 28, the events will continue at Ryerson University on March 29 and 30.

"The Toronto Social Forum is an initiative to bring the principles and spirit of the WSF to Toronto. The Social Forum is a space and not an organization or a campaign. It has no particular issues but focuses only on the issues that community groups, NGOs, and social movements think are important. The aim of the TSF is to bring together diverse social justice groups in activity and conversation to develop alternatives and discuss strategies. It tries to link local issues to global issues and in this way participate in the movement to do this," said conference organizer, Ryerson professor, and Alternatives Newspaper columnist Judy Rebick.

The WSF (this year held from January 23 to 28 in Porto Alegre, Brazil), attracted nearly 100 000 delegates representing 5 500 organizations from 126 countries. "The WSF is of crucial importance to the building of a world where people and communities are out first - an alternative world to the one that has been created by corporate-led globalization. It provides an open and democratic space for exchange and development ideas. Our first event in January had over 400 participants and we are expecting about 1 000 people to attend the March event," said TSF spokesperson Pauline Spencer.

According to Spencer, the goal of the TSF is "to work with the principles of the WSF, to promote social justice movements in Toronto and Canada, to focus on local issues with global connections and to provide space to discuss issues, seek alternatives and celebrate the successes."

The broad themes of the TSF are based on four areas: a City with Human Rights and Justice for All, Popular Democracy and Public Control, a Green Toronto and Green World, and a World Without Violence or Colonialism - Against War and For Peace. The workshops, on the other hand, will cover a wide range of issues.

"There are 90 workshops on every topic you can imagine which are organized by groups and individuals. There are also panels being organized by Co-coordinating committee," said Rebick.

"Successful local social forums have already been held in Victoria and Quebec City and there are social forums being planned in Ottawa, Hamilton and the Atlantic. The social forum idea has been very successful. People are crying out for participatory structures where they can actually start to take control of the agenda to create another world. There have also been social forums around the world - European Social Forum and Asian Social Forum. The next WSF will be held in Asia in 2004," said Spencer.

After the March event, evaluation of the experience and planning for subsequent events will be conducted by the open and democratic assembly, keeping the event’s future in the hands of the wider mass of participants. According to Spencer preliminary meetings have revealed an interest in continuing the TSF beyond this year’s edition, which gives her hope for the event and for the world it is meant to change: "From the energy and creativeness that I have seen come out of the World Social Forum and the Social Forums around the world like the Toronto Social Forum, I do believe that another world is going to come."

Kamilia Baroudi, special collaboration

For more information about the Toronto Social Forum:

PHOTO: Delegations from 126 countries were present at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, including South Korea.

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