25 January 2007

Kenya: Forum Ends With Calls for Social Equity

Nairobi — The World Social Forum (WSF) ended in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital on Thursday, with participants hailing the event as an opportunity for people from around the world to exchange ideas on global social problems often overlooked by capitalist interests they said dominated the world.

Participants at the World Social Forum that ended in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday hailed the event as an opportunity for people from around the world to exchange ideas on global social problems often overlooked by capitalist interests

"The forum provided an opportunity for thousands of citizens and organisations to be together," said Farouk ben Abdallah, a delegate from Tunisia. "It gave them the opportunity to reinforce relationships, to exchange views on what they are doing in the world, to design a new agenda, a new programme together for the future."

Joseph ole Mpaera, a Maasai pastoralist from Kenya, said he was able to exchange views with representatives of livestock-keeping communities from countries such as Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

"I realised that we experience common problems. Our governments lack development policy for pastoralists. Our problems include lack of water and proper marketing opportunities for products like meat and hides and skins," said Mpaera. Members of the Maasai community who attended the forum would be raising awareness in their villages with a view to petitioning the government on issues that affect them, he said.

Wahu Kaara, a Kenyan social activist, urged political and business leaders attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, not to devise policies that perpetuated global social inequality.

"We are watching them and this time around they will not get away with it because we are saying they should cancel debt or we repudiate them. We refuse unjust trade. We are not going to take aid with conditionality. We are saying the world belongs to all of us. We want peace and we are in Nairobi building peace when they are in Davos building circumstances that threaten peace," she said.

The WSF is intended to counter the WEF annual meeting, when leaders from business, politics, academia, the media and civil society discuss how to improve the world economy. Since the poor majority have virtually no voice at Davos, according to the WSF, their concerns are not taken into consideration when global economic and social policies are formulated.

Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai offered encouragement to those who feel powerless. "When you face issues at the grassroots you can get discouraged. But at a forum like this there is encouragement when one meets others from other parts of the world," she said.

Italy's deputy foreign minister Patrizia Sentinelli told the WSF closing ceremony: "We should take advantage of the forum to say to governments that they must be serious in tackling mankind's problems of water, food and land."

The American film star and human rights activist Danny Glover called for the strengthening of local institutions and involving the youth in decision-making.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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