Ideas for the Construction of a Peoples' Dialogue that Answers to Key Questions Identified in the Exchanges

07 Septiembre 2004

Portuguese version


Within the issues and questions posed in the debates as its frame of reference, the dialogue among movements and organisations within and between the regions will comprise various types of interlinked activities. Common to them all will be a commitment to abide by the following fundamental motivating principles:

  • Citizens' democratic participation, respect for diversity, solidarity among peoples;
  • The centrality of people's rights and human rights, the right to gender equity and inclusion for all, human security;
  • Environmental and economic sustainability and social justice.

Each of the proposed activities meets specific differentiated aims and each requires that certain methodological conditions be met if it is to be pursued successfully. The whole project, however, is conceived in the form of a networked dialogue in different sectors and in various forms spreading outwards as new actors join and participate in the dialogue.

Exchange of Information and Experiences aiming at the Construction of Collective Knowledge

In order to make the dialogue itself possible, one first requirement is to organize ways to exchange experience and, together, seek a collective understanding of ongoing processes. This entails firstly an effort to construct a shared analysis, which from the outset raises the political problem of "translation". The categories that each movement or organization, each network or coalition, applies in its analysis and action embody socio-cultural identities and political specifics that have to be mutually understood in order to be shared. Certainly, there is a problem in terms of language differences among individuals and groups coming from different peoples, as is the case with the dialogue proposed here. But there is also the political problem of appropriating the categories used in constructing thinking and social awareness - even more so in that the Peoples' Dialogue has never been limited to the same movements and organizations in different regions, but intends to create an understanding out of dialogue among diverse groups, within and between regions.

Here the proposal involves two types of activity:

  1. Thematic workshops and exchange visits. Workshops will be organized on themes of collective interest where more in-depth knowledge is desired, but always incorporating geographical and social diversity among the participants. Two workshops will be organized per semester, one in Africa and another in Latin America, i.e. a minimum of 8 workshops during the project's initial period. Venues will be decided in view of the theme and the existence of a local partner in dialogue able to give support to the group. The workshops will intersperse guided reading and group discussion activities with site visits and exchanges with various movements and organizations, even those not directly involved in the dialogue. The workshops will be specified on the basis of consultations among the group of participants in the dialogue, the supply of existing venues and the availability of animator-facilitators. The executive secretariat to be set up for the project will give the necessary logistical and methodological support to the workshops.
  2. A second type of activity for exchange and understanding, subsidiary to the workshops but conducted complementary to them, are mappings of civil society movements and organisations concretely engaged in producing alternatives for sustainable, democratic development in the regions. The concern here is to equip our workshop discussions to take a broader perspective that contemplates the regions as a whole. The maps will make it possible to identify the social subjects, their proposals, the ways they organize and work, and to evaluate the potential contained in their initiatives. In this connection, the workshops will continue in the form of a concerted research plan based on a dialogue via the Internet. As systematic information is produced, it will be disseminated among the participants as a whole. More thorough evaluation of the maps and their meaning will be undertaken at the meetings provided for in the project.

Formulation of Alternative Proposals and Definitions of Political Strategies for Action

This set of activities is central to the Peoples' Dialogue. Exchange and mutual understanding are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions. The bases have to be laid for agreement among the participants in the dialogue as to the alternatives for regionalisms and regional development to confront dominant capitalist globalisation. Three modalities of activity are proposed:

  1. Researchers will be commissioned to carry out two specific studies on the recent history of the formation of MERCOSUR and SADC, with a view to evaluating their potential for meeting the demands of civil society movements and organizations in their respective regions. This evaluation will consider the internal dynamics, leading actors, hegemonic proposals and disputes present in the regional blocs' formative processes, and also the blocs' relationships with the dominant initiatives led by the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and the WTO, including their negotiations with the USA and the EU and the formation of free trade zones. The same studies on the state of the issue of regionalism and development will consider the specific demands of civil society, its most active movements and organizations. A third study will be commissioned on the IBSA's potential for action, especially its impact in terms of opening up new scope for the exercise of citizens' participation, which is a strategic element in the dialogue intended here.
  2. Another modality will be participatory action research by the movements, organisations, networks and coalitions involved in the dialogue. The research action will be conducted prior to the major seminars scheduled for formulating alternatives and defining strategies. It is intended to identify consensus and divergence among the participants in the dialogue in order to define a platform of citizens' action. The endeavour will not be directed towards the lowest common denominator, but to grasping the potential of each proposal, even if they point to different paths. What is fundamentally important is to equip ourselves with the means to identify where the burning issues are, from the peoples' point of view, and what scope there is for considering them as frameworks for constructing alternatives. The action research is a collective task for all the participants in the dialogue. The Working Conference - will establish the issues and how to handle them, leaving it to the creativity of each of us to decide the specific details and what emphasis is to be given. The action research will be a kind of consultation as to intentions, outlooks, proposals and willingness to participate in constructing alternatives. At each new annual seminar, new action research will be decided collectively.
  3. Annual seminars will be important opportunities to systematise the dialogue. On the basis of what is agreed among the participants, the Reference Group and the Secretariat will make the necessary arrangements to ensure they are workable. Input to the seminars will include the studies commissioned and the action research conducted, in addition to their being strengthened by the ongoing workshops and mappings. Each seminar should be seen as drawing up a balance on the current stage, as a moment for evaluating how and how far the aims of the dialogue are being achieved, and to point to where new directions or greater depth are necessary. The seminars will be reflected in summary documents which will serve to make the proposals widely known.

Promoting Public Debate, Political Activities and Popular Campaigns

The Peoples' Dialogue is fundamentally committed to action to produce change, to strengthening a peoples' perspective in the definition of alternative models of development with equity and sustainability. For that purpose, the whole process of dialogue entails a permanent concern to intervene in public debate with advocacy and lobbying directed to organisations and governments, particularly at intra- and inter-regional negotiation events and at those led by multilateral organisations. These activities can be set out as follows:

  1. Communication strategy. The executive secretariat of the project will be responsible for formulating and implementing a communication strategy, both to facilitate dialogue materially, availing itself of the new information and communication technologies, and to socialize the accumulated gains of the dialogue process among the widest possible range of civil society organizations, among politicians, governments and regional bodies, among multilateral organizations and among the general public.
  2. Giving visibility to the advances in the dialogue at local, regional and world events of the World Social Forum. The movements and organizations participating in the dialogue will be encouraged to take an active part in the various moments of the World Social Forum in order to make the dialogue and what it proposes in terms of alternatives more widely known and to increasingly involve new civil actors in the region in the dialogue process itself.
  3. Intervention in official negotiation processes. Whether by taking advantage of opportunities to participate in one way or another in the negotiating process of regional agreements (MERCOSUR and SADC), of accords to set up free trade zones, of the WTO or the IBSA, or by organizing parallel events and taking part in public lobbying rallies, the Peoples' Dialogue wants to be recognized and heard at the official forums that will be held during the time it is ongoing. For this purpose, the Reference Group and Executive Secretariat will be responsible for alerting to such moments and encouraging participants in the dialogue to exercise their right to participate and to express the positions and proposals being developed collectively.