OK Conference 2016
‘Towards a Kinder World: Alternatives to Neoliberal Globalization’
The World Social Forum is an annual meeting of civil society organizations, first held in Brazil, which offers a self-conscious effort to develop an alternative future through the championing of counter-hegemonic globalization.
As part of the World Social Forum 2016, a conference was hosted by Operation Kindness Uganda at Makerere University, Kampala exploring the concept of love as an ethical and political resource for the alter-globalization movement and international development, and its transformative potential as a frame of reference to counterbalance the current neoliberal hegemony.
Activists from the region discussed these topics, shared experiences and explored alternatives to neoliberal globalization based upon kindness, altruism and love which deliver:
- Environmental sustainability
- Equality of access to resources and opportunities
- Restorative and redistributive justice
- Universal access to legal rights
- Genuine participatory democracy
Harris Akampurira, Chair of the Operation Kindness General Assembly gave opening remarks highlighting the state of the world economy and arguing that blind faith in a neoliberal model of development encouraging the pursuit of personal profit and enhancement has led our global community into the greatest levels of inequality in human history, and that this market-driven globalization has increased inequalities, injustices, and violations of rights, especially for workers and people in the Global South. He proposed that the ethics of kindness and love can inform a framework of governance which offers the world an opportunity to alter course.
Following a keynote address by Professor Kiiza Byaruhanga which described the central ideas of the neoliberal political philosophy, in particular the extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy, the moderator opened the panel discussion which was constituted by civil society leaders and renowned activists who have shaped public opinion in the region. These included Mr. Nicolas Opio, a leading human rights lawyer and Executive Director of Chapter Four Uganda; Mr. Edgar Tabaaro, Lawyer and Scholar; Sheila Ampumuza, Country Director of Sawa World; Allana Kembababazi, Legal Fellow for the Initiative for Social Economic Rights; Jackie Batalimuza from Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies; Uhuru Sserubiri, Scholar and Researcher; and Araali Kasagama, of the Araali Kasagama Fellowship.
The panel discussed at depth how we could develop values and ideas (in this case from an East African Community perspective) that will help to negotiate our place in an increasingly globalized world. Proposals included addressing unemployment, supporting local markets, innovation, designing a market socialism that works for everyone, income redistribution frameworks to close widening income gaps, and exploring (and actualizing) endogenous approaches to policy design and implementation.
The conference concluded with a joint commitment arising from the process:
“We commit to leading a consciousness revolution that will empower citizens to critique and challenge the current dominant neoliberal worldview and develop strategies towards kinder, more equitable solutions through simple, collective efforts. We come together as a social movement and pledge to organise through community mobilisations, direct action, policy formation and through a range of forums and self-education groups. We commit ourselves to kindness and solidarity.”