Global Activists Meet in Nepal, Declare ‘Another World Is Possible!’

The world faces numerous challenges: wars in various regions (Russia-Ukraine, Israel-Hamas, etc.), the climate crisis, a widening wealth gap, rising poverty, the potential failure to meet Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, caste and gender discrimination in developing and underdeveloped countries, questions about democracy, human rights violations, and more.

Amidst these obstacles, people, lawmakers, civil society members, policymakers, and officials from over 92 countries across five continents convene in Nepal for the World Social Forum-2024, held under the slogan “Another World Is Possible.”

While forums like Davos, Munich, Doha, and New Delhi receive significant attention, the 16th edition of the World Social Forum (WSF), held in Kathmandu from February 15-19, went largely unnoticed by the global audience. Despite being co-organized by the NGO Federation of Nepal and primarily organized by socialist actors, the forum raised crucial questions for the global community in this critical period.

The forum featured 402 programs on 13 diverse themes, with 252 participating organizations and attendees from around the world, spanning Latin America, Africa, Europe, South America, and beyond. Renowned delegates included human rights activist Dr. Aleida Guevara (daughter of Che Guevara), Indian activist Medha Patkar, Finnish philosopher Thomas Wallgren, human rights activist Tala Nasir, economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Dalit rights activist Ashok Bharti, farmers’ rights activist Wen Tiejun, and trade union leader Shoya Yoshida.

Daily sessions, discussions, debates, programs, and parallel conferences addressed key issues: economic justice, labor, immigration, modern slavery, caste discrimination, gender-based violence, land, agriculture, food security, environmental protection, peace and security, education, arts and culture, communication technology, democracy, human rights, health, social security, climate justice, sustainable development, women’s rights, children’s rights, youth issues, senior citizen concerns, disability rights, and the future of social movements worldwide.

In his opening ceremony message on February 15, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the WSF’s importance as a platform for amplifying voices, prioritizing the vulnerable, restoring hope, and finding innovative solutions for people and the planet. He emphasized the need for global solidarity to salvage the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reform the dysfunctional global financial system, and tackle the climate crisis. He underscored the importance of supporting countries most affected by climate change and called for renewed social contracts grounded in trust, justice, and inclusion.

“A world of peace, dignity, and sustainability is not only possible, it is necessary. Let us build it together,” he concluded.

The first WSF, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001, served as a space for diverse social movements, communities, trade unions, youth groups, academia, and others to connect and collaborate. The organizers stated, “Two decades ago, the world witnessed massive mobilizations against the destructive impacts of neoliberal globalization, leading to a vital conversation about alternatives to this prevailing development model.”

Netra Prasad Timilsina, Former President of the NGO Federation Nepal, emphasized the WSF’s role in nurturing resistance and constructive ideas. “It stands as an open space, facilitating the exchange of thoughts and experiences, enabling self-organized assemblies to strategize and make impactful decisions,” he said.

One notable program was hosted by the Association for Dalit Women’s Advancement of Nepal (AdWAN). Themed “Economic Inequality and Economic Justice,” the program brought together civil society members, former lawmakers, and others to discuss how a world free from discrimination against women and Dalits is essential for true progress. They argued that such discrimination would only lead to a world where “another world is possible” becomes an unfulfilled aspiration.

Women’s rights activist Bharati Silwal Giri declared, “If discrimination against women and Dalits ends, another world is possible.” She highlighted the persistent issue of discrimination in Nepali society, citing the ineffective implementation of the untouchability law despite its enactment ten years ago, with 88 out of 91 complaints dismissed. This, she stated, showcases the state of law and justice in the country.

Giri emphasized the need for societal change to achieve “another world.” Former lawmaker Laxmi Pariyar, who fought for women’s rights and political, social, and economic transformation, echoed this sentiment. She argued that true equality will only be achieved when women have not just 33%, but 50% of rights.

Man Bahadur Bishwakarma, the first Dalit community member to become a civil service secretary in Nepal, emphasized the need for the state to proceed with rule-making and lawmaking based on proportional inclusion.

Dr. Bishnumaya Pariyar, founder president of ADWAN and a women’s rights activist, traveled from the United States to participate in the forum, showcasing her institution’s contributions to empowering women and Dalit people in Nepal to a global audience.

The international gathering raised pressing issues like climate change, environmental degradation, inequality, poverty, hunger, and information technology challenges, as well as wars and other critical concerns, seeking solutions for a better world. They echoed the sentiment that “Another World is Possible.”