Workshop 4: Creating new civic spaces at the global level

Civic Action27 Jul 2009The Broker

Author: Minke van der Sar Chair: Alan Fowler

Cordaid: Shack Dwellers International

Presented by: Nico Keizer and Francois Lenfant

Shack/Slum Dwellers International is an international network of grassroots social movements, supported by NGOs.

  • Objective: A world without slums, through active engagement strategy to negotiate with authorities on all levels
  • Citizens take civic action and exercise their human rights at different policy levels, such as the UN-Habitat and Cities Alliances
  • Successful civic driven change because they have negotiation power due to the possession of- savings- critical mass- knowledge
  • Financing facility owned and controlled by urban poors themselves
  • Cordaid supports SDI because it works with and for the local people

Oxfam Novib: World Social Forum

Presented by Imad Sabi

The World Social Forum is an annual meeting of social movements and organizations.

  • Founded to provide a permanent space and process to build alternatives to neoliberalism, foremost the capitalistic World Economic Forum
  • Initiated in 2001 in Brazil and, with echoes in the left of Europe, followed by numerous editions
  • Main goal: Providing a space for movements from all over the world, working on different issues, seeking to connect to exchange experiences and working in a better way as a civil society to react at a global level
  • Besides forum also seen as a process, which involves other thematic forms and spin-offs like health, city level and environment
  • Key debates: Is it simply a space or is it more a political movement, with an agenda for change? What happens after the annual event?
  • Oxfam is a funder/program officer of WSF but 130 countries participate so it admits to having limited power.


  • Remains abstract what the global level actually consists of. Are it all loose parts or is there a larger global institute?
  • Is labelling important? Some social movements don’t turn into INGOs for the people, but become a movement of the people. Or it is another type of animal that moves in the same space and can no definition cover the entire contents?

Agreement and conclusions:

  • Mainstream agents ask for performance results, removal focus from the roles agents play themselves. Can we use the measures from the North? Not asked by funders only, resources and viability of the political project matter. Accountability remains important, a lot of money and many actors are involved
  • The North is also accountable to the South, as we are all engaged in the same system. Therefore we should challenge the mainstream donor-recipient model into a more intermediary role, which means engaging instead of controlling
  • Similarity between the two cases: local people being part of a global discussion, which shows a reversal to a more bottom-up aid chain
  • This leads to an innovation of identity, the realisation you belong to a worldwide community which offers you a possibility to be associated with, which is intangible but very powerful
  • Knowledge as a distributive phenomena, because knowledge is power
  • Minds are still boxed in; only if we are able to change the conceptual frameworks behind this we can really make a change.