PSI at World Social Forum 2024

PSI, affiliates, and other like-minded organisations came together to hold activities and events during the recently concluded World Social Forum in Kathmandu, Nepal  

The 16th World Social Forum 2024 (WSF) served as a platform for more than 30,000 people, to share about their struggles against neoliberal capitalism and build bridges with movements around the world. With 1,200 organisations representing nearly 100 countries, the WSF, held from 15-19 February, discussed alternative responses to crucial challenges such as climate change, peace, migration, and social justice. Amidst its myriad discussions and workshops, an important theme was Universal Social Protection, to which PSI primarily contributed.  

Along with the affiliates, PSI joined the solidarity march on 15 February at the opening ceremony that kickstarted with the theme Another World is Possible. Trade unions from across the globe, with 12 from Nepal, came together demanding Decent Work for All, Gender Equity and Social Justice.  

PSI organised a hybrid workshop on Impact of Privatisation on Social Services, with a focus on challenging corporate power and prioritising people over profit. The speakers included Dr Isabel Otiz, Director, Global Social Justice; Julien Poisser, Union Advisor, Centrale des syndicats du Québec; Bruno Deceukelier, Continental Coordinator, World Social Movements; Van Thi Thu Ha, Asian Roundtable on Social Protection (AROSP); and Banaani Deka, PSI-South Asia. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Godsen Mohandoss from PSI. The workshop saw an enriching discussion on privatisation including erosion of social protection due to austerity measures. Privatisation had led to similar impacts and outcomes everywhere, be it in the global north or the global south. Panellists noted that interference of international financial institutions fosters privatisation of public services under the guise of efficiency and public savings, regardless of the country and its development matrix. Unions in a developed country like Canada are fighting to keep education in public hands. 

Speakers at the workshop on Universal Social Protection
Speakers at the workshop on Universal Social Protection

The workshop also discussed the alternatives that trade unions present against privatisation. Re-municipalisation is one such alternative. It benefits the workers and the communities availing public services. Trade unions play an important role in reclaiming public services. 

Representing union voices, PSI affiliates spoke in workshops on maternity protection and gender equality. These sessions provided a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities in ensuring social protection for all. 

The organisers of Universal Social Protection theme issued a joint statement calling for access to comprehensive social protection encompassing housing and civic services, education, healthcare, unemployment allowance, maternity cash assistance and pension for the elderly. It asked for a special focus on addressing the needs of people with disabilities and informal economy workers. The statement noted that discussing universal social protection is challenging amidst war and conflict situation that has resulted in loss of lives, injuries and displacement of millions of people from their homes, depriving them of essential rights.  

In addition to these workshops, PSI undertook two direct actions aimed at advancing its agenda. PSI joined the Labour Forum within the Joint Trade Union Coordination Centre (JTUCC), reinforcing its commitment to collective action and solidarity among workers. Furthermore, PSI has been at the forefront in campaigning for the rights of Community Health Workers in South Asia. While there have been some wins in the countries of the region, a number of other demands remain unmet, and it is important to continue the struggle. In this spirit, PSI organised a stall at the WSF, showcasing the Charter of Demands, and posters and postcards advocating for their rights. It underscored the organisation's dedication to advocating for the rights and dignity of all workers, including those at the frontlines.  

PSI banner at WSF 2024
PSI banner at WSF 2024

PSI's Sub-Regional Secretary of South Asia, Raman Kannan, spoke at the high-level discussion on Nepal Labour Forum with the theme Another World is Possible. Kannan's address encapsulated PSI's core values and vision, emphasising the need to challenge corporate dominance and prioritise democratic principles. He underscored the imperative of organising workers locally to empower them at their workplaces while fostering collective action at national and international levels to confront global challenges. The speech emphasised the importance of solidarity among workers, urging unions to resist co-optation by management and instead prioritise building genuine power from the grassroots level. 

Kannan also drew attention to the alarming trend of unchecked corporate power, exemplified by the announcement of a massive global fund by OpenAI, a tech conglomerate. He questioned the democratic legitimacy of allowing a single corporation to wield resources surpassing the GDP of entire nations, highlighting the urgent need for multilateralism and accountability in shaping global industrial policies. 

As the global community continues to grapple with pressing social and economic challenges, gatherings like the WSF give hopes that another world is, indeed, possible. PSI is committed to participate in such forums and build solidarity across the globe to achieve decent work for all workers.