See also the emails on this to some selected participants of the WSF.

Advice for the World Social Forum

Thomas Colignatus
January 10 & 12 2005






To the participants of the World Social Forum
January 26 to 31, 2005, Porto Alegre, Brazil
 

Dear people,

Allow me to write to you from the Netherlands, a country that is under much stress. These lands once sprouted Erasmus, Spinoza and Tinbergen but the last few years have seen two political murders and much social unrest.

I consider myself to be a sincere and decent person and a capable economic scientist and I would not mention something if I were not convinced of its relevance for and importance to those whom I address. I have to report to you that the recent Dutch Social Forum, held in Amsterdam on November 26-28 with 4000 participants, violated article 7 of the WSF Charter. A direct appeal to those involved did not help and neither a discussion with the evaluating group of organisers. Given this state of affairs, I have to conclude that the Dutch section of the Social Forum movement is very much part of the problem in Dutch society, and that it is wise to address you. I would like to ask you to help Holland to overcome the stress in its society.

The key problem is insufficient respect for science. 

To clarify the issue I will also formulate below an amendment for an "Article 15" to the World Social Forum Charter of Principles, as currently established by the World Social Forum International Council on June 10, 2001. If the WSF would adopt that Article 15, then eventually also the Dutch section of the Social Forum movement would follow suit, and that would be a great advancement.

This is not the only thing, however. I can dutifully remark and propose:

(a) My advice to the world is to boycott Holland till the censorship of science by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) has been stopped. See: http://thomascool.eu/AdviceToBoycottHolland.html. This issue is sensitive partly since this censorship was started in 1989-1990 by Gerrit Zalm, then director of CPB, later liberal-conservative party candidate for prime minister, now minister of Finance of the Netherlands, member of the European council of ministers and also in a responsible position for the IMF. An important role was played by Ad Melkert, who, as member of Dutch Parliament in that period, did not ask questions. Melkert orginally worked at Novib, later was minister of Social Affairs and Employment, became a labour party candidate for prime minister, and now, with the help of Gerrit Zalm, he is at Worldbank. It is important to understand that the problem is not that all these people, or that Dutch people in general, would be bad people. It is only that respect for science apparently is insufficient.

(b) I kindly ask participants of the Social Forum movement to form a committee to investigate the violation of article 7. The issue is sensitive, since key Dutch people and organisations are involved who will have a high standing at the World Social Forum. It is important to understand that the problem is not that these people would be bad people. It is only that respect for science apparently is insufficient. For readers of Dutch, the issue is documented in this link:  http://thomascool.eu/Thomas/Nederlands/TPnCPB/NSF/Index.html. In particular, Mirjam de Rijk censured the discussion on above possibility of boycotting Holland. She is the current director of Stichting Natuur en Milieu, that coordinates the Strategic Council of close to 30 national organizations, including the Society for the Preservation of Nature in the Netherlands, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature. A spokesman of Novib, part of Oxfam International, officially declared that there was no censorship - which is simply false, and it is an untruth with important consequences.

(c) I kindly ask participants of the Social Forum movement to form a committee of economic scientists to investigate the economic analysis that is being censured by the directorate of CPB. A non-printable pdf of the 2nd edition of my book can be found at http://thomascool.eu/Papers/Drgtpe/Index.html. It is important to understand that this is only an introduction to the analysis and that the proper presentation, with model calculations, can only be presented when the censorship of science by the directorate of CPB has been stopped. Note also that I am not so happy with the WSF slogan "another world is possible" since you cannot really say this since you don't have an alternative economic analysis: so that the WSF slogan only amounts to a political statement while there are many people who simply have other political views. If you respect economic science, then you would be forced to follow the neoliberal trend in economic science with only minor variations, unless, of course, you help to stop the censorship of economic science by the directorate of CPB so that economists all over the world can study this new analysis.

(d) With respect to the World Social Forum Charter of Principles, as established by the World Social Forum International Council on June 10, 2001, I propose the following amendment:
 

"15. Organisations participating in the World Social Forum have their own scientific bureau or are affiliated with a scientific institute that can function as such. Each bureau has at least the function for an economic scientist. Each such bureau respects the common standards of science and warrants that it is respected as such in the scientific community. In matters sufficiently important, the organisations let themselves be advised by their scientific bureau, either by explicit request or by initiative by their scientists themselves. Each such advice is open to the scientific community. The functioning of the scientific bureaus is evaluated on a regular basis by the other scientific bureaus in ways that are openly documented for the scientific community."


I have wondered what else I could do to help you help Holland. Important questions for you will be "who is this person ?" and "why should we be serious about this ?". I see only one way to help you get a grip on this. This forces me to become a bit more personal and refer to my great-aunt, sister Jacques Marie. She was one of the "white sisters" who worked in Africa. There is a little school in Mwanza, Tanzania, still named after her and here is a picture of her and Julius Nyerere, visiting her. I can't ask her advice since she died a few years ago but I think she would fully agree with my intentions so that she would gladly give her permission to refer to her, to indicate what kind of background I have and that my intentions are proper. She would agree that if there is scope to improve the world, starting with Holland and then via that economic analysis for other countries, then we should try to do it. She would agree in particular with this appeal: in the memory of Nyerere, please consider the suggestions in this letter.
 

Sincerely yours,
 

Thomas Colignatus
http://thomascool.eu
 

Copy to http://www.ipsnews.net



Addendum January 18 2005

Above I use the term "Social Forum movement". This appears to create some confusion at WSF as some in the WSF try to distinguish the terms "movement" and "space". If one adopts that latter distinction, then I agree that the WSF can better be described as a space, or better, a market place. The "space" can be compared to a newspaper so that the movement is the content of what is printed. The market place or newspaper can be managed by propriatary editors or by the users themselves using some voting mechanism. See my discussion of WEF, WSF and WP. There is the suggestion at WSF that no editing needs to happen so that the space is infinite, but given the economic concept of scarcity it seems likely that some editing is required. The minimal interference would likely be attained by voting by the users - a World Parliament.

PM. I will not be at Porto Alegre.