Another Iraq is Possible with Peace, Human Rights, and Social Justice - Iraqi Social Forum

Basic information:
Many Iraqi individuals and organizations have contributed to the World Social Forum Movement and to the Forum’s work since its establishment in 2001. Now, to support the vital, on-going expansion of social justice movements in Iraq, members of the Forum Working Group are organizing to establish an Iraqi Social Forum that will be an open space for movements, organizations, and individuals, who believe in the principles of social justice and human rights as universal concepts, to gather together in Iraq.
We who are working for an Iraqi civil state reject ambiguous relationships between religion or religious institutions and the state. We support separation of religion and the state.
Iraq will protect individuals’ freedom of religion, thought, and belief according to the principles of full equality and non-discrimination by sectarian membership, race, color, or sex. All Iraq’s citizens will enjoy their freedom, and the public interest will benefit from social justice that will be real and not merely a slogan.
Recent world developments have greatly affected Iraq, her citizens, and all the people of the region:
1. The world economic crisis has exposed the workings of the neoliberal system that increasingly dominates our world, promoting ever-increasing consumption while denying the fact that the resources of our planet are limited. Crisis looms concerning the prospect of having our world’s future determined by the forces of an unrestrained market and a few masters of capital.
2. The region, particularly Arab countries, witnessed a spring when the masses, particularly young people, regained their will and declared that it is time to turn the page on dictatorships and fascist regimes. They agreed: corruption must end; through the power of the people we will build democracy and respect for human rights; we must provide food and work for our youth.
3. There have been concerted efforts to establish a Social Forum for the Maghreb and Al Mashriq, in Tunisia, in July of 2012, as an alternative forum for the Arab countries and their principal cultural components: Kurds, Amazigh, Arabs and others.
4. There is universal desire to hold the World Social Forum (WSF) in our region in early 2013.
5. Momentous events have occurred in Iraq, including the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops and the end of foreign occupation. This opens the way to complete the struggle for Iraqi independence with full sovereignty, and to face the regional challenges related to protection of Iraq’s borders, and safeguarding our water, earth, and air.
6. The Iraqi state is experiencing a political crisis, linked to confusion about its identity. Our desire is for Iraq to be a civil, democratic state based on respect for Iraq’s different cultures. In the current moment, which is dominated by disputes for power, not enough attention is paid to dialogue, building partnerships, and fostering cooperation in order to find solutions to Iraq’s outstanding problems. Now is the time to end the violence and terrorism for which Iraqis have paid and continue to pay an extraordinary price.
7. There is widespread unemployment and poverty, and Iraq’s people face a growing problem of lack of basic services and infrastructure, including electricity, health, and education. Inadequate security means there are continuing waves of violence.
8. While the Iraqi budget and the nation’s imports continue to grow, we see few concrete improvements or real development. A key aspect of the current political crisis is that those in power are engaged in conflicts over money, influence, and sectarian quotas, and the resulting corruption is wasting Iraq’s wealth and undermining our governmental institutions.
9. We have full faith in the principle of justice and the rule of law that allows no impunity. We fully respect international standards concerning fair trials and the principle of an independent judiciary, which is free from political pressure and interference.
We are seeking to build an active Iraqi Social Forum that provides strong support to Iraqi civil movements working for political, economic and social reforms. The Forum declares its support for a democratic and civil state in Iraq, which respects the separation of religion and the state. The Forum is not a network or an alliance, but rather it is an “open space” for all who share and work with us to further these values and concepts. We want to make it possible for all committed people and organizations to contribute to this effort, working together horizontally and equally in order to achieve alternatives to the frustrating and exhausting political situation that we are currently experiencing.
Principles and Values of the Forum:
We have all benefitted from the human experience and its continuous struggle for human freedom and dignity. This struggle has seen concrete victories on many levels, especially the recent experience of the World Social Forum where people can seek clear and concrete means to address their problems, benefitting from the rich experiences and valuable learning of people in other places. With its horizontal organizing frame, the “social forum” in each country, protects our independence and uniqueness but still allows us to unite our social movements. Through the Iraqi Social Forum we will become part of the civilized world that affects us, and vice versa. Our culture is a part of human culture, and we have a right to drink from its rich wealth, especially those human values embodied in the World Social Forum principles issued in 2001 Porto Alegre, Brazil, where they declared the World Social Forum to be an open place for meeting:
 Think interactively and engage in a democratic dialogue of ideas.
 Form proposals and freely exchange experiences.
 Make links and partnerships for effective action.
 Struggle for a more just world.
 Establish fruitful relationships “human to human”, and between “humansand the earth”.
 Fight against poverty, hunger and need.
 Eliminate illiteracy and underdevelopment.
 Address health needs and the provision of free medical care.
 Promote the culture of humanity, with respect for unique cultural identities.
Based upon their participation in the World Social Forum, the Iraqis have identified the following shared aspirations and goals:
1. Participants in this Forum believe that Iraq should be a civil, democratic, federal state, in which there is no discrimination by sex, color, religion, race, ethnicity, or nationality.
2. We believe in nonviolence as the only option for reform and change. We will defend this belief with all methods of nonviolent struggle against any attempts to dilute or undermine our commitment.
3. The Iraqi Social Forum is committed to cooperation and voluntary work, and rejects lavish expenditures for events and unneeded spending for any post.
4. Civil society must be a key, not a secondary, partner in building a democratic Iraq, free from occupation and dictatorship. Individuals and social movements have the right to use all nonviolent means to promote reform and change.
5. We understand civil society to include all the individuals and institutions / activities / organizations that work nonviolently to help the needy, to fight against corruption, violence, and sectarianism, and to promote human rights. Civil society actors perform voluntary work through non-profit organizations that provide services and assistance at the least possible cost.
6. Iraqi social movements arise in the Iraqi civilian communities that reject religious, ethnic and sexual discrimination, and that use methods of nonviolence in its many different forms to promote reform and social justice. Nonviolent means of promoting changes include traditional activities such as rallies and marches, as well as ICT [information and communications technology] to disseminate information and build social networks.
Forum Aims:
A. Finding an open space to stand with democratic civil state projects based on the principles of respecting individuals’ freedoms and advancing social justice.
B. Dealing with the current reality and its developments from a political, social, and economic perspective.
C. Discussing the reality and the role of civil society and its social movements in Iraq and how to make civil society a more effective actor in building true democracy.
D. Discussing the role for international civil society organizations to reaffirm their support for Iraqis’ causes and the development of social movements in Iraq.
Forum’s Next Steps:
A - Holding covenant discussion sessions on fundamental principles in order to broaden the debate and include the largest possible number of individuals, organizations, networks, and social movements that share the values and principles of the Forum.
B - Mobilizing human and financial resources to implement the following activities:
a. The Second Forum of Nonviolence – to be held in southern Iraq in October 2012.
b. The Iraqi Social Forum meeting to be held in Tunisia as part of the agenda of the Morocco and Orient Forum in July 2012, where we will develop plans for the meeting to be held in Baghdad in October 2013.
Forum Methods and Means of Work:
a. The Forum Working Group is comprised of many committees, which are open to all who are interested in holding forum activities, in the contributors to the world and regional forums, and in serving as facilitators to the work of these committees. These committees will be organized horizontally and all member NGOs’ votes will be equal.
The most important committees of this working group are:
1. Strategic Planning Committee: which will discuss and complete the covenant of the Forum and plan the contributions, activities, and financial and human resources necessary for the mobilization of the Forum. It will then issue a statement on the method the Forum and share a formulation of its data. This committee also follows-up the work of other committees.
2. Forum Preparation Committee: which will carry out all tasks related to logistics for the Forum – venue, accommodations, transportations, and other issues.
3. Committee of Information and Documentation: which will organize media coverage and be responsible for documenting the Forum’s work.
b. All committee meetings are open.
c. Members of these committees will vote in order to make their decisionsfollowing principles of majority rule.
d. Committees will hold their meetings either online or face-to-face at the time and place they specify.
Contributions from and mobilizing internationals to the Forum:
a. The ICSSI initiative and other organizations and networks that have an important international presence should take the initiative for inviting their members and international partners to the Forum, and for arranging their travel to and from Iraq.
b. Internationals should produce their own suggestions for discussion and send them to the Forum Preparation Committee.
c. Internationals have a mission to send suggestions and forum documents to appropriate international institutions.

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