The World Social Forum (WSF) originated in 1999 out of the Battle of Seattle when the global justice movement shut down the WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle. The battle of Seattle brought together many representatives from global south social movements including Brazil. The Brazilian group organized the first ever World Social Forum in 2001 in Porto Allegro, Brazil. The WSF organized to provide an open space’ for all political forces involved in global social movements to gather. It was meant to be pluralistic and diverse. The idea and hope was that only together could we discuss alternative directions for our world and society. The Social Forum grew from 20,000 participants in the first forum to 200,000 in later forums. It has proved itself to be a powerful movement-building process.
But what was missing was a plan for action. If we're going to leave the Social Forum with stronger dreams, visions and directions for our world, then shouldn't we also leave with stronger plans for action? This question led us to the Social Movements Assembly Process (SMAP).
A number of community leaders came together and decided it was not enough to interpret the world, but it was also necessary to transform the world through collective action. From these discussions a 'social movements' assembly was added to the Social Forum process. The Social Movements Assembly became an essential part of the WSF and regional forums such as Social Forum of Americas. The Global Action to Stop the Iraq War on February 15, 2003 mobilized millions and was the result of a direct call to action from the Assembly process at the 2003 WSF held in Brazil.
The US Social Forum (USSF) process started in 2003 Miami at the Jobs With Justice gathering where a meeting of the International Council of the WSF was held and where Grassroots Global Justice first presented a proposal for a US Social Forum. In 2004 a consultation meeting was organized by GGJ in Washington DC to ask do we have the political will and commitment to organize a first ever United States Social Forum? The result was a unanimous endorsement of kicking off a long journey to organize the USSF I in Atlanta, Georgia in 2006. The date of the USSF I was moved to 2007 after the devastation of the Gulf Coast communities by Hurricane Rita and Katrina and the US government’s neglect and abandonment.
As part of the organizing road to Atlanta for the first ever US Social Forum, in June of 2006, the Southeast Social Forum was organized in Durham, North Carolina by Project South and numerous other social movement organizations. Building on this experience and adding to the organizing work on the road to Atlanta, Southwest Workers Union and numerous other social movements organizations from the Southwest US and from northern Mexico held the Border Social Forum in CD Juarez, Chihuahua in Mexico across El Paso, Texas. The Border Social Forum held a social movements assembly on the last day and after summarizing all the resolutions presented developed a synthesized statement, the final declaration of the Border Social movements’ assembly. The process leading to the USSF I included the Peoples Freedom Caravan that connected communities from the Southwest and the South of the United States.
Important building blocks of the struggle for global justice in the United States include the following dates and events that consolidated the social movements for global justice in the US;
Bi-national (US-Mexico) and mobilizing against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) where SouthWest Organizing Project and Southwest Workers Union in US and CISO in CD Juarez and Frente Democratic Campesino were lead groups and organized the Southwest Network for Environmental & Economic Justice.
Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico.
Building global north & south social movements alliances and solidarity with exchange tours organized by Southwest Network for Environmental & Economic Justice via Environmental & Economic Justice Project in Los Angeles, California.
Set back of 9-11
Bi national block the bridges campaign on US-Mexico border to fight against NAFTA and for migrant rights organized under Southwest Network for Environmental & Economic Justice
Hemispheric Gathering against Free Trade La Habana, Cuba
WTO fight in Cancun and the role of Via Campesina in the fight against the neo-liberal program and the claim for food sovereignty and the dramatic self-immolation by Park.
First massive delegation to WSF from US social grassroots movements (100) organized by GGJ
The battle of Miami against FTAA and the Root Cause March organized by Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Miami Workers center and POWER U. This was a political moment that galvanized and consolidated the global justice movement of people of color, indigenous and grassroots across the board.
Miami meeting of the International council of the WSF and the first proposal presented for a US Social Forum
Consultation meeting organized in Washington DC by Grassroots Global Justice
Grassroots Global Justice becomes a member-based alliance with founding meeting on May 1, 2005 in San Antonio, TX
US Southeast Social Forum
Border Social Forum
Puerto Rico Social Forum
In 2007, at the first ever US Social Forum in Atlanta, Georgia inspired by the assemblies held at the WSF, and by our own practice at organizing the peoples movement assembly, we organized the Peoples' Movement Assembly (PMA) on the last day of the USSF I. Through the PMA process, we developed and brought together all the resolutions and called for large-scale action in this country. Over 50 groups presented Resolutions on the last day of the USSF I. The PMA at the USSF I created spaces for horizontal movement building that strengthened and broadened social justice movements across geographies, issues, and communities.
But People's Movement Assemblies did not only happen at Social Forums. In fact the assemblies that did occur on the road to Detroit made us all the stronger because our communities were organized coming into the USSF II. Because we held pre-USSF PMA’s we were more prepared to share our dreams and collaborate on our plans for action. By holding a pre-USSF II PMA’s we mobilized our community for Detroit, connecting our local struggles with those of other communities on the Peoples Freedom Caravan II. When we leave Detroit having experienced the 2010 USSF II we'll be all the more connected by the National peoples Movement Assembly to took place in Detroit, more connected both to our local communities, and to the rest of the country, and thus stronger and more prepared to mobilize for local and large-scale actions.
The 2010 USSF II proved that we could organize a first US Social Forum and then a second US Social Forum and still come out stronger as social movements. The success of the USSF II is marked as a qualitative development because of the deeper political understanding by the social movements and quantitatively with 18,000 participants with nearly 1,200 organizations and 1,500 self- organized sessions.
The Peoples Movement Assembly process for the USSF II 2010 offered the organizing of pre-USSF II PMA’s and 45 pre-PMA’s were organized with over 2,500 people participating in the road to Detroit. The PMA’s registered under the USSF II program included 50 PMA 4 hour sessions, and four were added in the days of the US Social Forum with 6,000 people participating in them. All of the nearly 100 PMA funneled and culminated in the National Peoples Movement Assembly held on June 26, 2010 with 4,000 participants.