Emmaus International

An Emmaus International delegation attended the World Social Forum in Tunis from 24 – 28 March. Emmaus International met with other social movements and organisations in Tunis to champion and discuss the right to water, international migration, democratic transition and climate change alternatives.

Since 2001, every two years the World Social Forum has brought together social movements, networks and civil society organisations from across the globe. “It is the only forum on this scale enabling social movements to meet – social movements that champion alternative ways of building a fair and peaceful world”, explains Nathalie Péré-Marzano, Emmaus International’s Chief Executive.

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The Emmaus International delegation comprising elected members, Emmaus activists and staff from Burkina Faso, Benin, Brazil, Italy, France and Lebanon chose to take part in the forum despite the terrorist attacks in Tunis that happened only a few days earlier. “Civil society activists from across the world wanted to reiterate that the only credible response in this unique geopolitical context, marked by terror and extremism, is to meet with others and have productive dialogue!” explained Jean Rousseau, Chair of Emmaus International.
The decision to hold a second social forum in Tunis following the 2013 forum was particularly significant. The social forums have played a key role in bringing together and training people who were involved in the Tunisian revolution. However, the democratic transition is still ongoing in Tunisia, with citizens continuing to fight to have their social, political and economic rights recognised.

The Tunis World Social Forum brought together close to 60,000 visitors from 120 countries.
“The event gives us the chance to further develop and start to forge links with other activists for our policy and campaigns, especially with regard to migration policy, community water management, the right to healthcare and education, and ethical finance for a socially-responsible economy”, said Nathalie Péré-Marzano.

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Several ideas emerged from the workshops run by the delegation.

Emmaus International first developed the idea of working on this issue with towns and regional councils, so they consider migrants to be full citizens with rights. This network could develop and endorse a charter setting out alternative migration policy in their region. The example of Sao Paolo was raised, as the new team in place there since 2012 has come up with an alternative initiative to encourage migrants to sit on local councils. Links have been forged with the Emmaus Amor e Vida representative in order to see how this initiative could be expanded to include migrants living in the Emmaus group.
Another of the ideas discussed was the need to organise an international conference about migration, with the backing of the United Nations, in order to ratify a new international treaty on migration. The treaty would not simply view migrants as workers, but as people, who have access to their fundamental rights.

The right to water
The presentation delivered by Patrick Atohoun, Leader of Emmaus Pahou in Benin, the group spearheading the Nokoué programme, was particularly hard-hitting. It focused on a successful water management initiative, run alongside the most socially-excluded members of society. Patrick Atohoun shared his experience gained on the ground and his experience of advocacy work. “Emmaus International is unique as it has seen that the poorest members of society can organise themselves to manage water and get involved in the whole project lifecycle. Today, the Lake Nokoué community has become aware of their rights and they lobby the authorities to have them respected. Society’s most excluded people must be the driving force behind the pursuit of their rights,” he said.

Democratic processes in Africa: a large number of grassroots African movements have joined together in the ‘Let’s turn the page’ campaign, brought about by civic action in Senegal and Burkina Faso.

The Emmaus delegation got involved in a variety of other discussions about ethical finance, microcredit, this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, citizen-run campaigns worldwide and their prospects, and the right to healthcare.

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Emmaus International intends to continue its active involvement in these discussion forums to develop alternatives for a fairer world. Alternatives to current migration policy will be discussed at an international conference run by the Organisation for Universal Citizenship* and CCFD-Terre Solidaire on 22-23 May.

*Organisation founded by Emmaus International, France Libertés and the Utopia Movement.