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February 14, 2011

Inspiration from Egypt at the World Social Forum

Friday’s closing ceremony of the World Social Forum began with the news that Hosni Mubarak had resigned from office and led to a resounding cheer and celebration amongst the crowd. Egypt and Tunisia’s people-led struggles had reverberated throughout the forum with intermittent marches of Eyptians and those in solidarity. In between assembly sessions of social movements, climate justice groups and those gearing towards Rio+20, several of us protested outside the Eyptian Embassy in Dakar on Friday to show support to those assembling in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Even as we shouted slogans, news travelled that Mubarak had actually resigned, this time for real. 

Inspiration from Egypt was visible among the Senegalese students, several of whom marched in protest against the current long-time Senegalese president. Other students asked us to sign petitions to end the military action in the Ivory Coast. But clearly, something is bubbling on the African continent as a result of Egypt and Tunisia.

The evening ended with the sun setting on the Atlantic ocean behind the stage and a call to action by among others, the climate justice groups and those organizing to the stop the next Earth Summit in the summer of June 2012 from becoming an “Earth grab” (in the words of Pat Mooney from the ETC Group).  Speaking of the climate summit, he said, “Copenhagen was a tragedy, but Cancún was Treason…we have the next 15 months with a second Cochabamba gathering, the G-8 and G-20 summits, Durban and Rio to turn this around and we can!  They (governments who endorsed the Cancún Climate agreement) have become too greedy and in their greed, they have lost their vision. We can provide it for them.”

The climate justice groups pledged to start a series of local, regional and national mobilizations that will culminate in international stop off points in the 15-month road map from Dakar to Cochabamba, G-20, Durban, Port Alegre in the next WSF and onto Rio. They demanded to set targets to achieve only a maximum one-degree temperature rise, curb greenhouse gases by 50 percent by 2017 and allow no offsets (read: carbon trading and buying the right to pollute in industrialized countries through so-called green projects in the global South). Needless to say, these are ambitious but science-based targets on what is actually needed to curb and reduce devastating global warming for future generations. 

Our governments, and especially the United States, are far from these goals having pledged for voluntary national targets full of loopholes in the hope of some day arriving at an agreed limit of no more than a two-degree global temperature rise.

The real work on helping raise public consciousness and mobilize citizens towards urgent and just action from our governments on this 15-month journey begins now. Nothing short of the future of this planet is at stake.

IATP's Shefali Sharma is blogging from the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal.



Ben Lilliston


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