World Social Forum on Migrations 2016: A regional affair?

FSMM logogENG_MaxYou might not have noticed it, but the World Social Forum on Migrations gathered this month in São Paulo, Brazil, for its 7th meeting. According to the organizers, “3,600 militants and activists from 57 countries from all continents” came together at the University Zumbi from 7 to 10 July 2016. Still, from the outside this seemed to me a mostly regional meeting with limited attempts to connect to migrant communities globally. The declaration agreed upon by the participants has now been released and you can find it here:

This is the link to the English Version, other languages see below…


I have participated in the past two WSFMs in Manila (2012)

and Johannesburg (2014)

and at least witnessed the tribunal in Mexico City that was a continuation of a process started at the 4th WSFM in Quito in 2012

So why did I not participate in this years’ event?

One answer can be found in a sentence that popped up regularly on the website of the event: “Content available only in the official language of the VII FSMM’s hosting country – in this case, Brazilian Portuguese”. Since I am not a native speaker myself, I believe I can claim without being accused of language chauvinism that a global event such as the WSFM should be promoted in a language that is widely understood. But the language aspect seems to me also representative of a wider issue: The organizers may correct me, but I was under the impression that the outreach to connect to the global migrant activist communities was very limited (even the social media accounts rarely delivered information in English).

Now, I have to admit that the many, many civil society events I have attended so far are usually to very degrees chaotic and the claimed 3600 participants are an impressive number. But I wonder how many of those were involved in previous meetings/from outside the region? Due to the reporting on my blog I got several requests regarding information about the forum. One of them came from Southeast Asian activists who were very interest in going. As a result, I contacted the organizers and offered to distribute information in English, but no reply. The migrant activists did not receive any info either, so decided not to go.

Now for the declaration. It refers to global trends, mostly imperialism and capitalism, and national events such as opposition to the coup in Brazil. It then sums up workshop results of the 6 themes, or “axis” of the meeting, among them xenophobia, solidarity with Palestinians, gender, climate and human rights.

There is certainly agreeable staff in here but frankly nothing we have not heard before. This brings me to my main issue with the process as a whole: There is hardly any continuity. There were some links between Quito and Manila and the latter’s resolution actually led to the “5-year- 7 (later 8) point-action plan” that had quite some impact. But this continuity was broken in Johannesburg because of infighting amongst the local NGOs involved. The resulting WSFM was still a worthwhile event, but it seems there were again hardly any connections with this years meeting. Let’s see if the International Committee will move the process forward until the next meeting which will be held in Mexico City in 2018, under the coordination of the International MIREDES and the International Network on Migration and Development.

Until then, you can read the declaration in Portuguese:


and French

And check out the comprehensive reporting by the Migra Mundo blog on the event (in Portuguese)



About Dr. Stefan Rother

Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute at the University of Freiburg -- Freelance journalist -- You can find my CV at the links below:
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