Another World is not just Possible but has Become Necessary – WSF 2024

A Report on the World Social Forum 2024 in Kathmandu

Dr. Uma Shankari*

I have just returned from Kathmandu, Nepal after attending the World Social Forum that happened from 15th to 19th February 2024. I feel energized and hopeful, that large sections of people from different parts of the world are thinking and voting for a world free from hunger and poverty, war and want; of saving the children from malnutrition and abuse; of demanding people’s rights to live in dignity from racism, casteism and ethnic cleansing; to demand people’s freedom to question authority. They are thinking of doing something about the earth collapsing and imploding from excessive consumption that humanity is imposing on it, oblivious that we are digging our own grave. All these and more happened at the World Social Forum 2024.

What is the World Social Forum?

The World Social Forum (WSF) started in 2001 in Porto Allegre, Brazil as a parallel event to the World Economic Forum (WEF). The latter is the gathering of business leaders of the world and the governments to enhance their business and commerce, increase their markets and profits in the era of neo-liberalism and globalization of economies and world trade.

The World Social Forum, on the other hand, is a gathering of people’s movements from all over the world, once in at least two years if not every year, to voice their concerns about the state of the world, to generate an alternative view of the world where equality, justice and peace are possible. Hence its motto and slogan, “Another World is Possible.” It is an “Open Space” where any individual or organization can participate and organize their event- a discussion, an exhibition, or a cultural performance – on any issue of their concern.

The WSF only facilitates a platform for it, without itself taking any particular position for or against an issue or an opinion, so that a cross fertilization of ideas can happen, as also building solidarity networks among the participants. In the last one or two years there has been an active discussion within WSF about creating a space within WSF to form a more active global assembly by bringing together social movements across the world to make its voice more effective. The WSF is governed by the International Council which consists of many of the original initiators from Brazil and organizations that are elected if they are active internationally. The WSF came to India as Asian Social Forum in Hyderabad in the year 2003, and then as the World Social Forum in Mumbai in 2004. It has been held in many countries spanning almost all the continents.

This year the 19th WSF was held in Kathmandu, Nepal from 15th to 19th February. It began with a colourful procession of participating individuals and organizations through the streets of Kathmandu, with their own slogans accompanied by drums and dances, tableaux and trumpets. It saw a footfall of around 50,000 people, presence of persons from 98 countries, participating in around 400 events and sessions. The logistics at the forum was well thought through with events happening in tents around a large open space called Bhrikuti Mandap and nearby colleges and offices- all made available for free by the Government of Nepal.

The UN Secretary-General extended his best wishes for WSF 2024 for “restoring hope and finding innovative solutions for people and the planet.” At the inaugural session our own Medha Patkar gave a rousing speech, as also Aleida Guara, Che Guara’s daughter who resides in Cuba and works as a doctor.  Walden Bello from Philippines, and Thomas Walgren from Finland, political activists were also present. 

The most important concerns voiced at WSF Kathmandu were:

  1. Genocide in Gaza. Palestine flags were everywhere, condemning the genocide and voicing the slogan, “Free Palestine”. In the evening panel Ms. Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla, a young lady from India who works with Progressive International, took us through the happenings at the International Court of Justice when the case by South Africa against the genocide in Gaza came up for hearing. “With a healthy skepticism” of international institutions, she stressed the need to engage with them all the same.
  2. Militarization and call for end of all wars and disarmament for social justice and progress. Military expenditures are increasing throughout the world and many groups stressed the need to question them and reduce them so that the money could be spent on social needs, such as  providing food, drinking water,  medicines and education.
  3. Climate justice: Several sessions were held on how the climate crisis is playing out in various sectors, and what can and should be done about it.   Especially important for Nepal and India was the focus on the Himalayas, the drying up of rivers and melting of glaciers in the high mountains, their effect on nature and people’s livelihoods in both the hills as well as downstream. The country which would be most affected by glacier melt and drying up of rivers would be India, for, the entire Indus-Ganges -Yamuna  valleys and plains depend on the glaciers and rivers originating in the Himalayas. Antonio Pacor from Italy had been recording in camera the glacier melts in Nepal prior to the WSF. Climate crusader Soumya Dutta was present and spoke in several sessions in spite of his serious health issues. Ashish Kothari of Vikalp Sangham and Global Tapestry of Alternatives stressed the need for building alternatives with local communities and gave several examples of the same. Rajendra Singh, the ‘water man’ of India also spoke about rivers and their status.

4. Peasant protests and movements focusing on how the neo-liberalism in world trade in agriculture, are affecting farmers, pushing them into indebtedness and poverty. Every nation has a right to food sovereignty, a right to provide adequate and nutritious food for its citizens. The world Trade arrangements through the WTO can not question this right, assert the activists of food sovereignty. Farmer leader, Dr. Sunilam of Samyukta Kisan Morcha and National Alliance of Peoples Movements, was there to talk about the current farmers’ protests. Rajagopal of Ekta Parishad was also there with his land army crusaders emphasizing the need for land distribution for the landless poor.

5. “End Austerity”: The Bretton Wood Institutions – the World Bank and the IMF and their sister institutions often recommend and pressurize national governments to   slash expenditures on welfare schemes for the poor in the name of austerity.  Mattie Kohonen from Finland, now working in UK, who has been researching on the tax issues globally since a decade and more, was there with Isabel Ortiz from Global Social Justice, spelling out   the campaigns to end so called austerity measures.

6. Increasing privatization of public services taking them beyond the accessibility of the common citizens were also pointed out. Migration, unemployment, informalization of work without any security loomed large in the discussions. Nepal’s trade unions had a large presence and was addressed by K.P. Oli, ex- Prime Minister of Nepal who stressed that socialism is the only philosophy and ideology that can carve a middle path between imperialist capitalism and welfare of the masses.

7. Rise of authoritarian governments: Authoritarian governments supported by corporate financial power and technology of surveillance are emerging in the world. They are eroding privacy, democracy, human rights and civil society through censorship, repression, illegal raids and unfair imprisonment of progressive citizens and journalists, by the governments in India, Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Egypt, the USA, Brazil, China, Russia, among others. 

8. Violations of human rights of women, Dalits (the ‘untouchables’) and lower castes, LGBTQ, persons with disabilities and different ethnicities, systemic biases against women, demanding enactment and implementation of inclusive policies and strategies to eliminate class, caste, gender and race-based disparities. National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights leader, Paul Diwakar was also there in solidarity with the Nepalese on Dalit human rights issues.

As a senior citizen of India, I have been witnessing the deterioration of morality in politics, the crushing of dissent and opposition, the rise of communalism and humiliation of minorities and Dalits, rise of jingoist religiosity, the lies politicians tell under oath, their naked dance of greed and defections and so on.  It was relief to breathe the air of hope in Nepal that at least some people somewhere in the world are rising against all of it, speaking truth to power and sending love and solidarity to the weak and helpless.


*Dr Uma Shankari who has a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Delhi, has been associated with various social movements since early eighties. She has published a book in Tamil which is about the relation between temples and the Hindu religion and society.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author and do not reflect the views of, which does not assume any responsibility for the same.


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