World Social Forum: No electricity, many talents and an old friend

All photos Elodie Perriot/Secours Catholique

By Martina Liebsch, Caritas Internationalis

The WSF, as I perceived it during the two days I was there, was a “Happy festival”, as praised by Tunisian newspapers and by the taxi-driver from the airport. A time of relaxation after tensions lived during the revolutionary period and a pride to receive the world in Tunis. And it seemed to be very well organised on the campus of the El-Manara University, with a lot of space, places to meet, to observe people and to listen to shouting, singing and intense discussions. And above all the Palestine flag all over the place.

Well organised until this morning when we had our Caritas seminar on Migration and Development. Mysteriously the electricity was not functioning, so no microphone, no PowerPoint and no translation were possible. Moreover, the promised interpreters had mysteriously disappeared. Stress and anxiety could be felt in the room for the many participants from Caritas who had prepared before at home for this moment.

But – this is the capital of our network – we have multi-talented, flexible people. I don’t know how Salim, from Caritas Lebanon, managed. I saw him running, phoning, sweating and running again. As I’m a bit phobic with things connected to electricity, I did not even think to interfere. But at 9:20 a.m. electricity was up and running. But no interpreters to be seen! Again the network intervened. Thanks to the organisational intelligence of some people, volunteers were found among us to do the interpretation from the cabins and take the challenge.

At 9.30 we started the meeting (by that time those who wanted to find us in the vast campus had found us). This dedication and capacity of the network to react, to be ready to help really touched me. And it is a reason to be proud.  Moreover we had the extended forum, meaning that some people could connect themselves from outside, wherever in the world. They were not many, also because we started late, but in the mind of a person who grew up with phones where you still had to call the operator and if you wanted to communicate with people around the world the fastest way was the telex, suddenly this seemed a miracle.

The workshop went on until 12.45 without break. In certain cultures like mine this would have created an uproar. But many people stayed until the end.

It was too long and – as always, too little time for the group work. But it is interesting what a group of people from different continents and cultures, speaking different languages can do in a very short time. They were asked to come up with a slogan, some did, others came up with 9 recommendations on return after 30 minutes group work.

These moments are a great learning for Caritas. To work together even under difficult conditions is possible if we put our talents together. And we should continue to have those moments where we learn together.

What are we going to do about migration and development asked Jacquelina Garcia from JRS Mexico? We have to look into each other’s eyes and work in solidarity for the dignity and welcoming of people was the very simple answer.

The most touching moment for me, was when a young men (not from Caritas) intervened and looking at him, I realised, that I had spend an evening together with him and another Caritas colleague in Dakar, at the very beginning of my Caritas Internationalis life, listening to his life and migration story. He was – in spite of his complicated and sad story – still alive and up and running. A great moment of joy this one! And, all in all, another story to remember.

A touching testimony

Elodie Perriot

by Isabelle Fernandez, Caritas Europa

I would like to mention as part of the workshop on Migration & Development, the testimony of Eric Romeo, a migrant that in 2006, left Cameroon. He described many of the problems of this migration journey, namely those related to the expulsion of different countries by local police. He mentioned he was one of the successful ones because many of them died in the journey. After a very long journey of more than 4 years he managed to arrive to Mali (not in his plans), where he decided to raise awareness about the difficulties migrants suffer in the migration path He is now director of his own NGO where the host & help more than 150 people a month.  His commitment and humility touched me a lot and I wish him a lot of success in his future endeavors.

Caritas capacity to act and react

By Gabriella Chiroiu, Caritas Bucharest/Romania

For me, Tunis WSF experience reconfirmed the strength of Caritas and its capacity to act and react as a network in front of a diversity of challenges.

What I mean is that Caritas network members can easily arrange the chairs, move the tables, distribute flyers, fix the electricity but also prepare meaningful content presentations and materials on the very complex issue of Migration & Development.

What I was really impressed with was the numerous participation in the workshop (panel & workshop’s debates), mainly due to the way the Caritas’ team managed to bring forward the importance and relevance of the topic for our work and for those that we serve and are affected by migration.

The most importance challenge I realized was to link Migration & Trafficking under the Migration & Development framework. This challenge is to be further developed, debated, and clarified in terms of concepts, mechanisms, practical tools of intervention and politics to be implemented to reduce the negative impact of Migration.

As Caritas with its international network, we have the capacity to make a difference.

Recommendations on the WSF-2013 “Migration and Development” Workshop

FSM Tunis - Mars 2013By the Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino – Kyrgyzstan” (a partner of the Secours Catholique/Caritas France)

We are thankful for the opportunity to take a part at the workshop and we emphasize a great job that was done for organising this discussion.

As for recommendations, we suggest:

1. At the European level, to recommend to the European Union within different meetings and dialogues with national governments to raise and promote migration issues through designing and implementing national concepts for protection of rights of migrants and their families.

2. To recommend that initiatives of the civil society to discuss important issues like migration and development should involve a wide range of civil society organisations and individuals in order to listen to voices of migrants and their families. We strongly believe that by involving as many organisations as possible, the impact on decision making process will be more and more comprehensive and legitimate.

3. Stigma that migrants are bad can be changed only through a comprehensive approach involving migrants, their communities, new media and NGOs and through changes in government policies in order to provide access to basic resources and services like water, food, security, living place.


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