Expanded Social Forum of the Peripheries: another world is here!
From February 3rd to 6th 2010, the neighbourhood of Dunas in the Brazilian city of Pelotas hosted the Expanded Social Forum of the Peripheries. The event was organised around four thematic axes - Information and Communication, Culture and Arts Education, Security and Protection, and Environment and Urbanism. Utilising technology in innovative ways to enable participation at a distance, the organisers made the Expanded Social Forum of the Peripheries a truly 'glocal' experience.
Not only was the event streamed live on the Internet almost in its entirety, enabling people anywhere in the world to follow what was taking place in Dunas, many of the activities also included direct participation by activists in other countries via videoconference. Among these activities was a debate on February 4th about the transformatory power of arts and culture, which involved simultaneous participation of speakers from Colombia, Mexico, France and the Amazon city of Belem. During this activity, participants exchanged experiences not only through the usual medium of the spoken word but also through music, sharing songs from different regions of the world with one another.
Adopting its own modified version of the WSF slogan – “Another world is here!” – the Expanded Social Forum of the Peripheries is distinctly local in focus, emphasising that that change has to start from the bottom up in the places where people live. At the same time, it recognises the need to make global connections between people in different localities. "We believe that the empowerment and participation of disadvantaged communities are essential to social transformation, and at the same time we recognise the need to look beyond the local and construct global networks" says Florismar Oliveira Thomaz of the organising committee.
In addition to debates on issues relating to the four thematic axes, the forum also incorporated a solidarity economy fair, a 'Forumzinho' ('Little Forum') with workshops for children, and a varied cultural programme which included a much anticipated performance by local hip-hop heroes Banda CNR on the closing night of the event.
Dunas is a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Pelotas, in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. It has around 30.000 inhabitants, the majority of whom are of Afro-Brazilian origin. As is the case with many of Brazil's favelas, the image that is presented of Dunas in the mainstream media is overwhelmingly negative, associated with drugs, crime and violence. The Expanded Social Forum of the Peripheries makes visible a different reality: that the people of Dunas are welcoming, organised, and have rich cultural traditions. Not only that, it also demonstrates that it is possible for a community like Dunas to organise a successful and innovative event with very limited resources.The 2010 Expanded Social Forum of the Peripheries is an initiative of Uniperiferia, AMIZ and CDD (Comité Desenvolvimento Dunas), and is the latest in a series of social forums organised in Dunas since 2001. It forms part of a wider effort to 'expand' and decentralise the WSF process by enabling participation at a distance, exemplified by the Belém Expanded project which organised over 30 live interconnections with people all over the world during the 2009 WSF in Belém.
Text: Hilde C. Stephansen