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PDHRE's vision for the World Social Forum


A vision for the WSF

One of the main sentiments coming out of Porto Alegre was of power to act - with no united action platform, In other words, without a vision. Not a unifying vision, which will erase all differences and individual characteristics of societies, communities and persons, but a united, all-engulfing vision which will weave together all issues of human life into one tapestry – colorful, varied, dynamic and constantly growing and changing tapestry – of modes of life, actions, and human relations, dialogues and productive exchanges.

Alongside theories and methodologies explaining, interpreting and offering ways of survival – personal and collective – of, and in, history, the 20th century gave the world yet another set of axes along which humanity can structure itself in a way which will promise, create, and sustain equality, dignity and freedom – personal and collective: human rights.

The previous century, though, did not complete this mission: human rights remained the prerogative of the few, and never came to be in the possession of the many, as part of the knowledge of all, a component of the class consciousness or the revolutionary tool of the masses. That can be achieved only through human rights education, i.e., through enriching humanity with the learning of the interconnectedness of all human rights, their interdependence, their basis in equality and dignity, and their power to change life on earth even as they give power of change to the unprivileged.

Human rights education starts with the understanding of patriarchy as a mode of oppression and of creating power, embedding power in culture, internalizing the rights of the powerful only, and maintaining power via gaining – and keeping – hold on economy, consumerism, distribution of sources and of goods, and manipulating matter and mind. Understanding patriarchy through its work in gender relations as a powerful oppressor of women will then grow into understanding its use of specific apparatuses and ideologies to create this oppressing power.

Thus, there cannot be in the age of globalization one, unifying vision, but there will always be a multiplicity of visions. What we need to strive to, therefore, at this WSF is not a united, unifying statement but a declaration of unity around one axis, which will be the backbone of transformation of consciousness – and the world. This axis will come out of minority discourse, especially gender discourse as it describes patriarchy and its modes of operation. We should look for a platform offering transformation by exposing, undermining, resisting and changing the apparatuses serving patriarchy in its goal to rule the universe.

This platform will be based in human rights, and will become a revolution not by the force of arms but through the force of education: of human rights to all, to the people, who will then demand, take, and hold on to their human rights, understanding not only what they are but their interconnectedness and the powers that can undermine them and that should be fought back.


PDHRE’s Human Rights Cities Global Program – a practical vision for the WSF

There was no one declaration or statement coming out of Porto Alegre so as not to repress or erase any group, minority, issue, or goal. Today, with the growth of civil society, there are many NGOs working on each of the issues of interest to the WSF, which, in fact, cover all human interests, needs, and ambitions. But instead of looking for an external, enforced unifying platform, which will become a base for a common statement, we need to work with the common agenda to all NGOs, regardless of their main topic of interest and work, and that is human rights. Whether be it an NGO fighting for national recognition, for return of land, for clean water or against rape or trafficking, they all are, in fact, human rights NGOs.

Based on this understanding that all civil society and its organs of actions, the NGOs, are human rights bodies, and on the understanding that at the core of oppression is patriarchal apparatuses, political, economical, cultural, religious, national and global, which are exposed by the work on gender and on women and men human rights, we need to discuss what we believe to be the method of change based on all of the above: the creation of human rights cities.

"City," in itself and as the center of larger, less urban and agricultural areas, is where all human rights are enforced or taken away. "City" is were education is structured and then offered; where financial forces are built and from where they stretch out; where water go to and where pollution comes out of; where legislation, morality, norms, and ethics are presented to the people to create a model to follow – and from where laws, morality and behavior are monitored, controlled, enforced, punished or congratulated; where migrant workers come to, and where racism is legitimized; where work is to be found, and labor is exploited; where refugees find themselves and look for help. It is the city which then structures the life of its surroundings. Feminist theories also taught us how we can expose through the study and the modeling of cities the falsity of the division between "public sphere" and "private sphere" which informs the structure of human life, especially in the city, and show how this dichotomy becomes in itself an oppressive patriarchal force.

"City" is where the "public sphere" is most in action, the domain of the powerful: male, white, heterosexual, and from the North, and where the "private sphere" is being created in order to limit the disadvantaged: female, colored, homo-bi-transsexual, and from the South. These two spheres become, then, arenas of power struggle and of creating power through the control of rights. All rights, interconnected and indivisible by definition.

The city is a smaller unit then the nation, and is not under the kind of attack nations are put by both revolutionary forces and – on the other hand – liberal globalization powers. The city, even more than the nation, is where human rights are active, and where human rights education can be implemented. The city is both the public sphere of the powerful (being a financial center, a political center both in and of itself and of the region, nation or united nations, and a cultural, legal, and moral center) and the private sphere of the powerless (it is, in fact, similar to the structure of the family, the domain of women, in that it deals with educating the young, dealing with the garbage, caring to the old and disabled; it is the political domain of women and minorities, who retreat to municipal politics – again, similar to their "rightly owned" roles inside the house – when prevented entrance into national politics; and it is an "enlargement" of the private sphere of the family into a community of several families running a certain structure of human life, and of power struggle). Thus, the city is not only a model to look at when working towards a transformation from patriarchal power structure of oppression to human rights system of equality and dignity, but is also the playground for implementing the very works of the revolution.

The city is where human rights should inform and model structures of education, division of power, division of budgets, law enforcement and changes, gender equality in politics, finance, labor, pay, legislation, education, security and sex, and ownership of natural sources and control over the labor force. This is the human rights city, the vision for the future of humanity. More on www.pdhre.org


For more information, please contact PDHRE:
The People's Movement for Human Rights Education, 526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025
tel: 212.749-3156; fax: 212.666-6325; e-mail: pdhre@igc.org