World Social Forum in Tunisia discusses TTIP

This video from Britain says about itself:

Stop the TTIP-Dr Paul O’Connell

1/10/2014 in UNITE the union headquarters Dr Paul O’Connell gives the lowdown on the trade agreement between the US and the EU.

By James O’Nions from Britain, reporting from Tunisia:

World Social Forum Day: 3

Saturday 28th march 2015

JAMES O’NIONS reports from Tunis where unjust free trade agreements are under debate

THERE are many workshops and panels at this year’s World Social Forum (WSF) which have a specifically north African focus.

Like every WSF it brings together those travelling from other continents with bigger numbers drawn from the country it is being held in and the surrounding area. So questions of human rights in Tunisia rub alongside discussions about what climate justice means in north Africa.

Other issues, however, can really only be discussed in their international dimension and find a perfect forum in the WSF.

Free trade agreements are one such issue, with various sessions taking place here to analyse these agreements and to share information and strategies about mobilising against them.

Global Justice Now has been one of the organisations leading the campaign against the EU-US trade deal (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP) in Britain.

A year ago virtually no-one had heard of it. That is not the case any more. Nearly 250,000 British people have signed the pan-European petition against TTIP, with 1.5 million Europeans in total having signed it.

It’s hardly a surprise that TTIP garners such public concern, given the threat it represents to environmental legislation, food safety standards and the ability of governments to legislate in the public interest — not to mention the potential to lock in privatisation of our public services.

But it’s not the only international power grab being attempted by big business at the moment. I attended a session yesterday on the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa). It has a number of similarities with TTIP, but also some differences. The first of these is that in addition to the EU and US, a much wider number of countries is involved — some 22 other countries including ones in Latin America and Asia.

Just as with TTIP, the actual negotiations are secret. Fourteen rounds of negotiations have already taken place.

No-one but the negotiators has access to the draft text of the agreement, so what we know about it is based on some leaks and certain countries’ negotiating mandates, plus previous attempts at global agreements on services.

Services proposed for inclusion in the agreement include postal services, telecommunications, education, healthcare, public transport, sanitation and banking. In other words, a huge section of our economies and many things people rely on for a decent life.

One of the main thrusts of the agreement is to prevent governments which have signed the deal from regulating companies in the public interest.

For instance, one of the proposals is to prevent any restrictions on the size of banks. If one of the problems in the financial crisis was that certain banks were “too big to fail” and had to be bailed out to the tune of billions, then Tisa could stop us ever doing anything about it.

The second thrust is towards privatisation. We’ve just heard the great news that campaigners in Jakarta, Indonesia, have won a fantastic victory in the struggle to bring water back into public hands after a disastrous experiment in privatisation led to a fourfold increase in water bills with little improvement in coverage or leakage rates.

This reversal of privatisation is actually an increasing trend in the water sector, but it would be ruled out for water provision and any other sector under Tisa.

Another major area is the buying of services by governments. Tisa would prevent both local and national governments from treating any company favourably when procuring services, whether that’s in order to provide local employment or economic development more generally.

For years, Western governments and corporate lobbyists have been trying to extend the services agreement which is part of the World Trade Organisation to include these kinds of provisions. They haven’t succeeded because of the resistance of some governments in the global south who realise they will lose out, and the opposition from civil society.

Hence Tisa is being proposed by a kind of “coalition of the willing.” The aim is to make Tisa the new baseline which other countries will then be cajoled or blackmailed into signing up to.

But the good news is that Tisa doesn’t exist yet, and we still have time to stop it. There is a global day of action against Tisa, TTIP and free trade deals generally on April 18. The European Commission, along with enthusiastic governments like Britain’s, are on the back foot over TTIP.

If we can stop TTIP — and there is a real possibility that we can — then it could create the kind of momentum we need to push back on Tisa and other free trade deals too.

The message from the WSF in Tunis is that it’s time to stand up and say, “our world is not for sale!”

James O’Nions works for British campaigning organisation Global Justice Now.

World Social Forum in Tunis, report

This video from Tunisia says about itself:

Activists stage massive anti-terror march in Tunis

25 March 2015

People from the World Social Forum gather to denounce terror in Tunis, Tunisia on March 24, 2015 and they march from Bab Saadoun Square in Tunis to the Bardo Museum in the capital’s western district, waving banners bearing slogans decrying terrorism. World Social Forum (WSF) activities kicked off Tuesday in Tunisia – they will go on until Saturday – with the participation of 121 countries and some 5,000 organizations, according to earlier statements by the WSF’s organizing committee. (Footage by Raed Hadj Ali / Anadolu Agency)

By James O’Nions from Britain, reporting from Tunisia:

Day One of the World Social Forum

Thursday 26th Mrch 2015

JAMES O’NIONS reports from the global social justice event in Tunis

THUNDER rumbled as we got off the tram at assembly point for the opening demonstration of the World Social Forum in Tunis.

The skies, which had been drizzling on and off all day, let out a full-on downpour. Before we even started marching we were soaked.

The Global Justice Now delegation has come to Tunisia to take part in workshops with activists and social movements from around the world on energy justice, food sovereignty and free trade deals.

The banner we brought to the demo, now soaking wet, reads “No to TTIP: Stop the corporate power grab.”

Yet inevitably, the events of last week at the Bardo museum in Tunis, where a small group of jihadists opened fire on tourists, killing 21, have overshadowed the event. It was the first attack of its kind in Tunisia and shook the country deeply.

An opening demonstration is normal at the World Social Forum — a chance for the global progressive movement to demonstrate its strength, its diversity and its determination to build a world of democracy and justice for all.

But the demonstration now had to respond to the Bardo attack. The tone was set for a demo rejecting conservative ideologies of both a religious and neoliberal variety.

And despite the rain, spirits were high. We chanted against corporate power and for climate justice. We marched in solidarity with the people of Palestine and of occupied Western Sahara.

Peasants of La Via Campesina marched alongside anti-debt campaigners and rural African women — many nationalities united in saying that another world is possible, and in our wet socks.

The World Social Forum first came to Tunis two years ago. It was a fairly successful attempt to bring the anti-globalisation movement together with the Arab Spring in a country where the revolt against an authoritarian government had had a reasonably successful outcome.

The Tunisian trade union federation and other progressive forces had been keen for the World Social Forum to boost the left in the country in a context where the first free elections had been won by a moderate Islamist, economically centre-right party.

Two years later subsequent elections have brought a secular coalition to power but in a domestic context of growing jihadist activity in the south of the country.

In many countries the Arab Spring is in retreat, with reactionaries gaining the upper hand.

The streets of Tunis are full of police, many of them heavily armed and the university where the social forum takes place is no exception.

Clearly this is a reaction to last week’s attack, but it is also hard for the World Social Forum to feel like a liberating experience with so many guns around.

But for this reason, the forum is needed in Tunisia more than ever, to demonstrate an alternative not just to the violence and oppression of fundamentalists, but to repressive state power which otherwise seems like the only other option.

The Tunisian movement know this, which is why it has put so much effort into it for a second time.

This sense that the 2015 World Social Forum takes place at a crossroads for the world was not lost on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras, who has sent greetings to the event.

He said: “Our common responsibility to build a different prospect for the world is much greater these days, at a time that blind fanaticism, violence and social regression appear as alternative perspectives before the menacing force of the markets … The movements ought to block decisively the way to them by winning the hearts and minds of the poor and the oppressed.”

Syriza is full of people who became politically active as part of the anti-globalisation movement, and in some ways Syriza’s election victory in January has its roots in that movement’s high point around 14 years ago when the World Social Forum first emerged.

A lot has changed since that time but the forum remains a vital challenge to global capitalism as well as a place where movements can plan their struggles across borders for a better world.

That’s what we’re going to be doing in the next few days — whatever the weather.

James O’Nions works for British campaigning organisation Global Justice Now.

World Social Forum in Tunisia

This 2012 video, recorded in Zagreb, Croatia, is called Bernard Cassen – The History of the World Social Forum.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tunis hosts World Social Forum

Tuesday 24th March 2015

CRITICS of globalisation gathered in Tunis yesterday for the 13th World Social Forum, the annual anti-capitalist event which begins today.

At least 70,000 delegates, representing more than 4,000 mass movements and organisations from 128 countries, will participate in the five-day event.

It was originally conceived as a counterweight to the Davos World Economic Forum, where political bosses and business elites meet to carve up the world.

This year marks the second time Tunisia has hosted the gathering.

The event brings together youth, trade unions, environmental and peace associations, as well as various communities from across the globe.

The gathering gives groups space to develop new ideas to fight for a fairer world and put forward alternative ideas for a better society based on the principles of equality, reciprocity and solidarity.

Over 1,000 workshops will discuss a huge variety of issues.

Women’s rights rally in Tunisia

This video says about itself:

First Muslim-Women Nobel Laureate Tawakkul Karman on the Struggle for Women’s Rights.

Dec 15, 2011

TAWAKKUL KARMAN: I came from Yemen, the country of civilization, the Yemen that was led by two women, and it was one of the greatest countries in the world. We were led by a dictatorship regime, a corrupted regime. This regime was founded in killing others, and it’s a regime that its main agenda is spreading violence among tribes so they can fight against each other, a regime that flipped against the democracy that this country was founded upon, which is in 1990. There is a danger—decrease in human rights and also increase in corruption. My country has a lot of poverty, from a lot of diseases, from ignorance. And these are some of the reasons that led us to lead this revolution.

We started our struggle from 2005, and maybe before that, and our struggle was to regain our dignity. And it was under the main headline, which is freedom of speech. We organized a lot of protests, weekly protests, in a place we called the Square of Liberty. It was right in front of the cabinet. And we were calling on the government to allow people to have freedom of speech, and so people can own electronic magazines and online newspapers. We knew and know that the freedom of speech is the door to democracy and justice. And also, part of the freedom of speech is the freedom of movement. And thus we were struggling in that a lot, and part of that struggle was the struggles of our brothers and sisters in the south. And the culture of freedom and protest spread all over. And every time we stand up for our rights, the government will declare more violence against us and against our rights. And there was the first station. The first station was founded in Tunisia, and that gave us the title that we need to follow, which is to overthrow the regime.

From Tunis Afrique Presse (Tunis):

Tunisia: Opening in Tunis of International Rally “Women in Struggle”

26 March 2013

Tunis — Hundreds of women from all over the world have gathered on Tuesday morning at Tunis El Manar campus to protest against all forms of violence and discrimination against women.

The women’s rally whose slogan is “Women in Struggle” is the first great event held as part of the World Social Forum organised in Tunis March 26-30.

Tunisia World Social Forum to blast austerity. Activists say global finance undermines democracy as participants meet to discuss economic and social problems: here.

Financial crisis gendered in its causes & consequences says Sylvia Walby Chair of Gender Research at UNESCO: here.