World Social Forum in Montreal: another world is once again being constructed without Africa

Published on ZNet, by Danica Jorden, Aug 9, 2016.

One day before the start of this year’s edition of the World Social Forum (WSF 2016), to be held in Montreal from 9 – 14 August 2016, civil society representatives from several African nations have announced their intention to boycott the proceedings, due to the overwhelming number of visa denials for members of their delegations. Reports are coming in that participants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East have been denied visas to travel to the international gathering as well.  

After having carefully prepared their applications over the past year, travelled to sometimes distant Canadian embassies and consulates and paid fees to Canada, to the WSF organization (entry fees, site rental fees for their conferences or workshops, equipment charges, interpretation fees, and various other charges), as well as thousands in flight, hotel and other transport and accommodation costs, at least 234 community organization leaders and representatives were denied visitor visas to attend and give presentations at the international conference, including persons who were invited and had Canadian sponsors … //

… Preliminary responses to a questionnaire published on the WSF website show that 70% of visa applications have been refused by the Government of Canada, primarily on three grounds: previous foreign travel, insufficient financial means and likelihood to overstay the visa. On the other hand, Canada’s immigration ministry claims to provide special assistance to organizing visas for large international conferences, such as the World Social Forum. Canada has outsourced its visa treatment process to private corporation VFS Global, founded in Mumbai but now based in Zurich.

Among those refused is U.N. Secretary General candidate Aminata Traoré, who was invited to speak at two of the Forum’s major conferences on August 10. Other prominent persons whose visa applications were rejected include union leaders Rogério Batista of Brazil and Palestinian Imad Temiza. France’s Centre for Research and Information on Development (CRID) issued a statement saying that “partners from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Niger, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire, for example, have had their rights to travel denied.” Ayana Fleur from Congo, already in Montreal, said that 10 of her colleagues were refused and will not be joining her at the Forum.

Writing via skype, Djabi Jalo of the Pan-African Youth Organizations had this to say:

Concerned with rectifying the injustice and discrimination of the WSF 2016 in Canada, African organisations demand that the WSF 2016 Montreal be indefinitely adjourned to another country that will be able to host participants and organisations from all countries in the world without distinction. Alternatively Africans should commit to launching an African Social Forum to compensate for their absence at the WSF 2016, which has become the G8 Social Forum. Because there can be no WSF without Africa. If there is, to use the term ‘World’ would be an abuse of the word.”

Recalling the Forum’s motto, Djabi continues, “‘Another world is necessary. Together it becomes possible.’ This other world once again is being constructed without Africa.”

Many conferences, workshops, roundtables and other get-togethers at the World Social Forum 2016 Montreal will be streamed over the internet on Youtube and via (indépendant pour la justice sociale)

(full text).

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