4. Looking Forward: The 2012 Forum
AWID will dedicate its next international Forum to contribute to the search for feminist alternatives for just, sustainable development, prompted by the current financial crisis and economic recession. Clearly, the neoliberal economic model is collapsing under its own weight, and the world is in search of an alternative. Unfortunately, past experience indicates that at such times, the alternatives tend to take two forms: a return to past formulas, revamped slightly but without fundamentally questioning the power dynamics at play; or, bold new designs that completely ignore the perspectives, role, and contribution of women to the economic life and wellbeing of their societies. Can we, as feminists, seize the moment and offer genuinely feminist alternatives? Can we help governments, multilateral institutions, and societies create a new economics where people, and especially women, really matter? Feminists everywhere—activists, economists, researchers—have a unique opportunity to meaningfully contribute in the shaping of the world’s economic future.
The rich experience, insights and lessons generated during the 2008 Forum have stimulated a bold and exciting vision for AWID’s next Forum—one that positions the Forum not only as an event but as a broader process. Forum 2012 will have a revised structure and format that we hope will contribute to making it the most politically informed and substantive Forum yet, while also continuing to expand the diverse and inclusive nature of the space. An important difference will be the use of key “sub-themes” as an organizing structure for the Forum. We want the Forum to be a space for feminist popular economic education for those who want it, and for others, a space that indulges not just in analysis of the problem, but in advancing alternative approaches and gaining strategic and political support for these.
To prepare for and facilitate more substantive and strategic engagement of participants at the Forum, AWID is designing a comprehensive preparatory process that will include many of the aspects of our traditional Forum planning (such as the establishment of an International Planning Committee, a call for session proposals, and of course key program components like the plenaries) as well as:
- Alliance-building with groups doing work related to the Forum theme, to help us frame content around particular Forum “sub-themes” and identify other meetings or opportunities in the lead-up to the Forum where related conversations could be advances and so that the Forum builds on many of the debates in progress.
- Special outreach to allies in other social movements to broaden the analysis and experience informing the Forum’s conceptualization, motivate their participation in the process, identify complementarities in our agendas and prepare key conceptual inputs for the Forum.
- Prepare select background papers as part of an intentional knowledge-building strategy leading up to the Forum, so that key analytical materials and strategic possibilities are available to participants before the event, allowing the Forum itself to become a space for debating these and building consensus around shared advocacy and action agendas in the post-Forum period.
- An economic education process: Economics and finance are themes often perceived by women’s rights activists as either too complex or too distant to be part of their spheres of action (for the 2008 Forum, only 30 of the more than 1,000 session proposals received related to economic development themes.) AWID will work with allies to host specific training sessions on economics and development from a women’s rights and feminist perspective, in key international venues (such as the CSW B+15 reviews for example), disseminating periodic materials and information in different languages through our e-lists and website, among others. This process will also be supported by specific skills-building sessions organized at the forum.
- A working group to take a closer look at how feminist pedagogy and methodologies can shape a more effective Forum, and contribute to improve the quality of the break-out sessions and other key program components.
The work of AWID’s Influencing Development Actors and Practices (IDeA) initiative will play a strong role in shaping the next Forum. IDeA will lead the development of the pre-Forum economic education process and is already engaging partners on debates around development paradigms and feminist approaches, commissioning papers to understand the impact of the current crisis on women around the work, as well as sectoral papers related to the impact of the crisis in key sectors.
In addition to the refinements being made to the Forum preparatory process and program, AWID is making a significant change in the Forum timing. Traditionally, Forums take place every three years, towards the end of the year. Under a normal schedule, the next Forum would have been in October 2011. However, we have decided to change the date of the Forum, responding to a long-standing timing conflict with the periodic Feminist Encuentro, a vital regional meeting of Latin American and Caribbean feminists which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in late 2011. We believe this date change carries significant advantages for the Forum—giving us more time for the preparations, but also by shifting the Forum to the northern spring of 2012, we hope that participant schedules would be less packed than they invariably are at the close of a year.
At this time, Forum 2012 is about two years away. There is much to be done to fulfill our vision of what this space, and the process leading up to it, can accomplish. It is again a privilege and an honour to organize such an event. We look forward to your engagement in the process and hope to see you in Turkey in 2012!