No-Vox was founded in Florence during the first European social forum (2002) in order to ask the organizing committee to take into account analysis and participation of the movements representing the most deprived peoples. It became worldwide in january 2003, during the third World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. It then made connexions with movements in India, Mali and during the last WSF Kenya when local grassroots organizations had been denied participation by the local organizing committee. What came after more difficulties for the poorest to access the Forum in Brazil, Mali and India.
Although we consider like an achievement that this Africa-Europe Forum finally happened in a context indeed of a lack of material and human resources, it could only have been a success with the full participation of the social movements from Africa, in due respect to their autonomy. And we condemn that some of them have been facing the same kind of paternalist attitudes against which the have not movements in Europe have been struggling.
Their autonomy of decision has not been respected. They had to beg for support to their visas applications. They have raised and spent funds by themselves in vain. They have been put into danger of Schengen banishment by the Portuguese Ministry through silly and unilateral decisions like cancellation of support for visas already delivered. It became even difficult for No Vox, which was supporting visas application, to know if we were really dealing with civil society or with the Portuguese Ministry. Organizing committee seemed to speak with the voice of the Ministry through arbitrary statements and requests, with never a piece of justification clearly expressed. At that point, it is even difficult to denounce the refusal of visas by the Ministry. We actually gave to it what it wouldn’t have dreamed of to disguise political arbitrariness into well founded decisions. And we knew of course that authorities had no interest, to say the less, having grassroot Africans taking part in political meetings with social movements of Europe! Maybe they were not the only ones…
We all knew that the road to real international solidarities is a difficult one and maybe an impossible task. That we are facing the terrible violence of states with very few resources to oppose.
But what we have learned these last months during the organization process of the Lisbon’s counter-summit, is unfortunately that the Schengen Wall is also embodied into us. At a point that we are pushed to suspect our comrades from illegal immigration before giving them support, when they are fully committed to their local struggles. The logic of Schengen is turning us into a border police for our own comrades. And is drawing the borders of our struggles.
And that, coming after the WSF in Nairobi, and so many unacceptable attitudes, is very bad news comrades !
No Vox will continue the struggle so that the voices of the oppressed ans dispossessed will be heard and their movements be fully respected, also in the left, also in the global movement. And we know that that struggle will be quiet harder for the rights and respect of the social movements of the so called south, and specially African ones. We have to support them and banish the postcolonial habits which alienate our movements.
Confronted to oppression and precariousness both sides of the wall our Alliance is more than ever necessary. We have the same enemies and we have the same kind of « friends » trying to control us.
Lacking of everything except our determination and creativity, our self-organization capacities, it’s obvious that we have few resources and time to shape global real solidarities. Networking is so easy when it only means organizing a international conference with only one delegate from each country, usually the same ones, with no real connexion with, neither understanding of, local movements and peoples.
So we could have the temptation to say : Stop! It’s too difficult. Too expensive. Too deceptive. It takes too much of the energy we need for our struggles on the local fields, both sides of the wall. The risk of predictable betrayals is too high.
But we won’t. We’ve tasted the promises of real global solidarities. Whatever the difficulties, we will do it. We won’t let the wall of Schengen colonizing our minds. We will attack it from both sides. And whatever side of it we stay, we need also to attack it into ourselves.
As for now, No Vox will of course not speak in the names of the Africans comrades who are missing because their freedom of going was violated.
The No Vox Network protests strongly against the attitude of the Portuguese Ministry. We ask all the movements to make sure that these comrades won’t be blacklisted as political activists in the Schengen area, under cover of a war against immigration, which is every day more racist and inhuman. We are very afraid about that at the time we are speaking. We have actually put them in danger and they will need our full solidarity and determination to be, that time, effective. They don’t have to pay with banishment our failures and lack of consideration.
In the same time, we are asking all the movements and civil society to be fully conscientious that we are naturally reproducing Northern imperialism in our relations with movements in the South. Including those of us who are the most committed to shape global solidarities.
If we don’t change that, then there is no hope. Be sure we will be committed to that struggle.
Changing the world begins with changing ourselves. (Keny Arkana)
Lisbon, 9 december 2007