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Embrace More Civic Campaigns, Maathai Urges Forum Attendees

The seventh annual World Social Forum continues Monday in Nairobi, Kenya. Delegates from both the developing and developed world are discussing the problems affecting the world poorest, from trade, poverty, to war, and the environment. The Forum is the first to be held on the African continent.

Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmentalist Wangari Maathai is one of the many prominent people attending the forum. She explained the Forum is important to Africa.

“The agenda of the summit is probably best be explained by the theme, which is it’s possible to have a different world where these issues are addressed. In other words, the current world that we have with all the problems that we face at national level, at regional level, issues such as poverty, issues such as debt, which we have been speaking about for many years, issues such as environmental degradation and now the climate change, that it is indeed possible to have a world that these issues are addressed,” she said.

Maathai said there is a difference between the World Social Forum and the so-called Doha round of trade talks.

“As you know the Forum was actually started, or it was inspired by Davos, the World Economic Forum. What we observed is that when leaders of the business world and political world meet in Davos they speak about a world which does not seem to care about the worlds of the poor, the worlds of the minority, the worlds of the marginalized. So it is almost like looking at looking two different worlds in which we live,” Maathai said.

She said it is wrong for some Western journalists to refer to the World Social Forum as an anti-capitalist gathering.

“I believe that quite often when people talk about poverty, and they talk about the need for economic justice, the need to add corruption among the political elites, and the need to promote equity, I won’t say that people talking about those issues are against capitalism. And that is a very dominant discussion in the social forum,” she said.

Maathai hoped that young people who are attending the forum for the first time would learn something useful in spite of their lack of power in their respective countries.

“I’ve been to many meetings, and I’ve always feel that the one advantage of such meeting is the fact that there is a lot of information sharing, a lot of encouragement and inspiration because there will be people who will be talking about what they are doing, their success, their failures. It’s not always possible to say this is what will be done because you are dealing with citizens of countries and they don’t usually have power, they can’t really say we’re going to do this unless they of course they embrace a campaign,” she said.