Global Social Movements in Dakar to Forge Unity & Political Path

The World Social Forum (WSF) gathered in Dakar, Senegal February 6-11, 2011 as the systemic crisis of global capitalism intensified and popular uprisings were sweeping North Africa and the Arab world. The social forum was a powerful and inspiring convergence of peoples’ struggles and social movements from below, bringing together about 75,000 participants from all corners of Africa and the world to deepen relationships, to vision another world, and to chart a political path forward.

Goree Island, the strategic site of the Door of No Return through which at least 30 million African women, men, and children were forced into the genocidal violence and terror of the transatlantic slave trade, many destined for the United States, is a short ferry ride from the port of Dakar. This vividly contextualized the significance of the WSF focus on Africa and the Diaspora and the centuries of white supremacy and racism inextricably intertwined with systems of colonialism, neocolonialism, and capitalism on a global scale.

Social movement organizations – Grassroots Global Justice, World March of Women, La Via Campesina, International Alliance of Inhabitants, among many others – came together in the Social Movements Assembly to confront the 21st century realities of global capitalism, poverty, racism, patriarchy, war, and climate destruction and to put forth a declaration of unity of action. It lifts up the “new universality” of humanity in all our diversity – as both objects of capitalist exploitation and oppression, and as political agents of our history, our liberation, and our future.

The Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly, crafted to guide our struggles, declares:

“… [W]e are gathered here to affirm the fundamental contribution of Africa and its peoples in the construction of human civilization. Together, the peoples of all the continents are struggling mightily to oppose the domination of capital, hidden behind illusory promises of economic progress and political stability. Complete decolonization for oppressed peoples remains for us, the social movements of the world, a challenge of the greatest importance. …

We affirm our support for and our active solidarity with the people of Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab world who have risen up to demand a true democracy and build the people´s power. …

Capitalism´s destructive force impacts every aspect of life itself, for all the peoples of the world. Yet each day we see new movements rise, struggling to reverse the ravages of colonialism and to achieve well-being and dignity for all. We declare that we, the people, will no longer bear the costs of their crisis and that, within capitalism, there is no escape from this crisis. This only reaffirms the need for us, as social movements, to come together to forge a common strategy to guide our struggles against capitalism. …

We fight against transnational corporations because they support the capitalist system, privatize life, public services and common goods such as water, air, land, seeds and mineral resources. Transnational corporations promote wars through their contracts with private corporations and mercenaries …

We will continue to mobilize to ask for the unconditional abolition of public debt in all the countries in the South. We also denounce, in the countries of the North, the use of public debt to impose unfair policies that degrade the social welfare state.

When the G8 and G20 hold their meetings, let us mobilize across the world to tell them, No! We are not commodities! We will not be traded! …

We defend the food sovereignty and the agreement reached during the Peoples’ Summit against Climate Change, held in Cochabamba, where true alternatives to face the climate crisis were built with the social movements and organizations worldwide. …

We call on everyone to mobilize together, everywhere in the world, against violence against women. We defend sexual diversity, the right to gender self-determination and we oppose all homophobia and sexist violence. …

We fight for peace and against war, colonialism, occupations and the militarization of our lands. …

Inspired by the struggles of the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt, we call for March 20th to be made a day of international solidarity with the uprisings of the Arab and African people, whose every advance supports the struggles of all peoples: the resistance of the Palestinian and Saharian peoples; European, Asian and African mobilizations against debt and structural adjustment plans; and all the processes of change underway in Latin America.

We also call for a Global Day of Action Against Capitalism on October 12th, when we express in myriad ways our rejection of a system that is destroying everything in its path.

Social movements of the world, let us advance towards a global unity to shatter the capitalist system! We shall prevail!”


  1. Tessa and Kimberley

    Your post is extremely helpful, inspiring, and much appreciated/needed. From the struggles of the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt, to the recent murder of gay activist David Kato in Uganda, to war and violence against women in the Congo, to (alas) the far too many additional examples we could list here…, social movement organizations remind us that another world is possible, and offer real alternatives. Thank you Walda and Jerome for communicating these important messages. ‘Resistance Is Not Futile’: Your words and the words from the Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly make this crystal clear.

    • Walda and Jerome Author

      Joe, at this stage of the political process when social struggles are breaking out here in the US and all over the world, there is a real need for social movements nationally and globally to come together to get clear about vision and the alternative we are trying to create, and about strategy and tactics on specific fronts of struggle – e.g., jobs, housing, food, climate crisis, education, etc., and about larger questions of power and the state. The social forum and social movements assembly offer a process to do that. It’s not a group or organization per se, but a process that many organizations as well as some individuals organize and participate in and take different aspects of leadership in. it’s been developing since 2001, and likely will continue to develop for the near term. The next world social forum will be in 2013 – not sure where yet.

      So yes, there is a future for the social forum. The crisis of global capitalism and all that entails means that the struggles and uprisings breaking out all over will no doubt grow and that forging a political movement from below for the resolution of the crises and for power will deepen and broaden. We think it’s really important that the most determined and adversely affected sections of society and social movements bring leadership and direction to the process. And that was happening in Dakar this year and in the formulation of the Declaration.

      (If any folks are in NYC for Left Forum in March we’ll be doing several sessions talking about the social forum, social movements and the revolutionary project.)


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