FAILURE to address global economic imbalances has derailed efforts by developing countries to scale new growth heights and improve standards of living, the World Social Forum (WSF) officials have warned.
The officials cited injustice and inequality as two major stumbling blocks towards the attainment of the above goals.
These, the officials lamented, will in the long run outwit growing economies in their quest for growth and better livelihood for the people.
Speaking in Nairobi yesterday during a media briefing ahead of the 2007 World Social Forum, members of the organizing committee said the forthcoming forum will provide opportunity to the world to deliberate on policies that are injurious to global growth.
The forum will, at the same time, will deliberate on how to attain equity in growth and human resource development.
Committee member Tawfiq Abdalla said this year’s Forum would be the climax of a series of attempts to fight, through negotiations, for a new world cognizant of economic needs and people’s cultural diversities.
“Participants will also take the opportunity to build on propositions of what kind of world they would like to live in and how possible it can be to attain the desired world,” he noted.
He noted that the effects of poverty in developing economies were dramatic and that WSF would be an opportune event for Africa in particular, to amplify its struggle for economic and social growth.
Oduor Ong’wen, a member of the organizing committee of the International Council of the WSF, said ignorance, armed struggles and diseases had altogether reduced the world’s competitive advantage for growth.
He announced that preparations had begun in earnest for the Forum, which begins on Saturday, January 20, in Nairobi.
The event will begin with a peace procession from Kibera slums to Uhuru Park for official opening before the issuance of solidarity statements from all regions.
Ong’wen said the Forum’s programme included a series of self-organised activities, African night, proposals and campaigns and another procession from Korogocho to Uhuru Park.
According to the organisers, between 80,000 and 150,000 participants from around the globe are expected in Nairobi for the five-day gathering that runs through January 25.
The International Council of the World Social Forum said all the logistical preparations including transportation, accommodation and security provisions had been finalised.
This is the first time in the Forum’s 7-year history for it to be held in Africa. It has traditionally been held in Brazil and once in India.
Key international figures among them retired Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, former United Nations boss Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, South African retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, six ministers from Brazil and the Liberian minister for Labour Kofi Wood, will address the forum.
There will also be performances by Africa’s renowned artists including Oliver Mtukudzi, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Eric Wainaina, among others.
Ong’wen said Kenya was well-prepared to cope with the demands of hosting a forum of such magnitude in spite of some infrastructural challenges posed by the country’s “not too good” transport system.
In terms of accommodation, Ong’wen said, all hotels, motels and institutions have been identified and campsites at Jamhuri grounds and Moi Sports Centre, Kasarani expected to accommodate an estimated 5,000 and 1,000 of the participants respectively have been put up.
A solidarity accommodation arrangement whereby 35,000 Kenyan families are to host a given number of participants has also been put up in place.
There will be 13 co-organised activities which are organised and managed by the organizing committee and the African Social Forum Council.
Among the topics to feature prominently at the Forum will include – just trade, common goods for common life, dignified work, demystifying and defeating HIV and AIDS pandemic and discussions on a free debt world, highlighting debt cancellation and repudiation.
Prof Edward Oyugi, another member of the International Council of WSF said the forum would provide an opportunity for slum dwellers and marginalised communities to engage policy makers in discussion on issues affecting them, adding that Government participants would only take part as observers.
Other activities at the forum will include seminars, workshops, conference testimonies, plays skits and a marathon organised by slum dwellers on the closing day, to be graced by Kenya’s marathon greats Paul Tergat and Catherine Ndereba.
According to the organisers, the Forum will be an opportunity to showcase Africa and her social movements, Africa and her unbroken history of struggle against foreign domination and colonialism and neo-colonialism.
It will also spotlight on Africa and her rich heritage of natural wealth, cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity; Africa and her reputation for embracing communities from around the world; Africa and her contributions to world civilization; Africa and her role in the quest for another possible, more progressive global human society.
The theme for the forum is “People’s Struggles, People’s Alternatives”.
Hotels in Nairobi and its environs have reported full bookings as a result of the event. Neighbouring districts such as Kiambu and Athi River have also benefited from the event.