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Report on the World Social Forum 2013 in Tunis

Mamadou MBODJI, NFI Vice-President and Chairman of the African Naturefriends Network, reports for the NFI from the World Social Forum at Tunis, Tunesia

In my capacity as chairman of the African Naturefriends Network (RAFAN), I attended the World Social Forum 2013 on behalf of NFI. It took place from 26th to 30th March 2013 in Tunis, the birthplace of the Arab Spring. The week was full of fruitful dialogue, discussions and agreements on the subject of “Another world is possible”.

On 27th March TAMADI, an organisation committed to alternative tourism which brings together French and Belgian structures and African partners, organised a workshop to exchange experience on “rural tourism and social change”. Experiences from Mail, where rice producers established a federation to represent their interests, and from Madagascar, where farmers’ organisations work together in a tourism cooperative, show once more that rural tourism is a factor of local development.

On 28th March, the Tourism European Network – TEN organised two workshops on the overall topic of the WSF “Another Tourism is possible”.
-    In the morning, the problems of child abuse, land grabbing and lacking access to the sea were discussed under the heading “Tourism and Human Rights”.

The tourism industry − citing legislative deficits − shows a lack of sustainable commitment, thus harming the culture and environment of autochthon populations.

Therefore it is the task of NGOs to use all available communication media to raise awareness at all levels. It is up to them to influence tourism businesses so that they take their social responsibility. And finally NGOs have to ensure that extraterritorial laws come into effect where the Code of Conduct is not respected.

-    The workshop "Local initiatives and changing tourism power structures" took place in the afternoon. It was pointed out in which areas tourism competes in an unfair way with other economic sectors, as it is the case for example in the fishing sector where the problems of overfishing and water pollution become apparent.

Despite its excellent potential (1300 km of beach and 800 hotels), tourism in Tunisia struggles with tremendous structural problems. Compared to “irresponsible” tourism, alternative tourism (which is almost inexistent) could definitely be a growth factor at the local level.
NFI’s and RAFAN’s positive experience with responsible tourism, which benefits the local population and respects the environment, were successfully communicated to the participants.

On 29th March, two interesting workshops on “climate” were held:
-    “Energy, development and climate”: this workshop focussed on the problem of the global energy crisis which ruins every endeavour for development, especially in developing countries. To avoid further jeopardising the global climate by the use of fossil fuels, renewable energy is still the outstanding alternative.

-    In the second workshop “Global campaign for climate justice”, the participants underlined the importance of a global alliance to fight climate change and to achieve climate justice – here and now.

Global Tourism Interventions Forum-GTIF, an alliance of initiatives and organisations with the aim of changing international tourism mechanisms, held two meetings and tried to find sustainable solutions in view of the lethargy which has reigned in this area for years now.
It was thus suggested to establish regional networks instead of a global one, as regional networks provide a platform to discuss local problems more legitimately and more transparently.

Prior to the WSF in 2015, a new meeting of the Forum of Asian and European countries is planned in Durban in 2014. This will provide the opportunity to make the structure more dynamic by connecting it with other movements and thus find a better working strategy for the years to come.

As the WSF is a place for encounters of different actors of civil society, it is of interest to NFI to participate actively, to contribute to the fight for “Climate justice – now” and share its experience and its expertise on alternative tourism. NFI should seize the opportunity of the forum to make its philosophy, based on solidarity and commitment for Sustainable Development, known to a broader public.

Mamadou MBODJI
NFI Vice President
RAFAN Chairman

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