Actionable themes

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"Actionable themes" refers to 21 themes that were debated decided in the Content and Methodology Commission (of the WSF International Council) meeting held in Nairobi from the 16th to 18th Dec. 2006. See 4th_Day_Activities_and_Proposals_for_Actions


General remarks

This classification of the activities of the WSF in 21 "actionable themes" was sanctioned by the International Council of the World Social Forum in December, 2006. The list is short enough to permit a rapid overview of the whole, yet it is fairly comprehensive.

Were the "21 actionable themes" decided only with the Nairobi WSF 2007 in view? Were they meant to last until the next WSF (2009)? Or perhaps even longer? Can the social forum's process have a continuity without lasting "actionable themes" , and without a real effort to follow-up those lasting themes?

The 21 actionable themes are not a classification of knowledge. Rather, they are the taxonomy of things that a contemporary government should be concerned with. (The list shows a rough resemblance with the list of ministries of a modern state.) No government can be perfect. Neither can this classification be perfect.

The 21 themes can be arranged in

20! = 2 432 902 008 176 640 000

ways. Another order is (almost always) possible!

Original and revised version

Version of the Content and Methodology Commission, Nairobi, 16-18 December 2007
1. Water;
2 National /International Institutions and Democracy;
3. Peace / war;
4. Housing;
5. Women�s struggles;
6. Dignity/human being diversity / discriminations;
7. Human rights;
8. Youth;
9. Food sovereignty/land reform;
10. Labor;
12. Environment and energy;
13. Health;
14. Knowledge / Information / communication;
15. Debt;
16. Migrations;
17. Free Trade;
18. Culture;
19. Transnational Corporations;
20. Children;
21. Alternative economies;
Revised version
- to be used at
1. Water;
2 Political institutions and democracy;
3. Peace and war;
4. Housing and human habitat;
5. Gender issues and women�s struggles;
6. Dignity, human being diversity, discriminations;
7. Human rights;
8. Youth;
9. Food sovereignty, peasants and land reform;
10. Labor and workers;
11. Education;
12. Environment and energy;
13. Health;
14. Knowledge, information and communication;
15. Debt, taxation and public finance;
16. Migrations;
17. Trade and transportation;
18. Culture;
19. Transnational Corporations;
20. Children;
21. Alternative economies;

About the revisions

Slashes (/) have been substituted with commas and "and". - Reason: the slashes sometimes seem to indicate opposition, in other cases just conjunction, which may be confusing.

2. National /International Institutions and Democracy

Changed to Political institutions and democracy. - Reason: The political institutions, ion particular, belong here. The WSF-activities concern not only national and international political institutions, but also local, regional and global,and "world", political institutions.

4. Housing

Changed to Housing and human habitat. - Reason: Where does urban planning, for instance, come in, if only this theme is only described with the word "housing" ?

5. Women’s struggles

Changed to "Gender issues and womens' struggles.

15. Debt

Changed to Taxation, debt and public finance. - Reasons: a) from the start, taxation has been a major theme of the WSF. Compare, for instance, the role of Association to Tax financial Transactions to Aid Citizens (ATTAC) in the making of the WSF. b) In order to have public services (Water, Health, Education etc.), we need public finances. At the global level, a new financial architecture and world public finances are needed.

17. Free Trade

Changed to Trade and transportation. - Reason: a) Not only "free" trade, but trade as such is on the WSF's agenda; b) transportation needs to be mentioned somewhere.

Proposed alternative versions of the actionable themes

Alphabetical order?

Sharon said: the classification system choosen is o.k, but for subject classification am suggesting we use alphabetical order also.

Esther Obachi's proposal

"It is quiet in order to have divergent views on this. However, as a librarian, would like to be more realistic on the system of classification we may need to use for clarity. 1st, we must know that the WSF coverage is not static. This means that new subject areas may emerge. 2nd, It would be prudent to group some subjects so as to give us easy accessibility and management. Another Issue is that of Women's struggles. Using the word 'WOMEN' make me feel as if men do not struggle therefore, making it discriminatory. I therefore suggest that we replace it with Gender struggles. How about the following?

1. Water, Environment and Energy
2. Democracy and institutions
3. Peace and war
4. Habitat
5. Gender struggles
6. Dignity, cultural diversity and Discrimination
7. Human rights
8. Youth and Children
9. Food Security and Land reform
10. Labour
11. Education
12. Health
13. Knowledge, Information and communication
14. Taxation, debt, Public finance and Alternative economy
15. Migration
16. Trade and transnational Corporation

What do others think?"

Mikael commented this proposal: "When we have settled on a viable version of the "actionable themes", we shall proceed to the actual classification of the documents and activities. But there is something else, too, which we are then getting ready to do. We shall contact the Secretariat and International Council of the WSF (the WSF-IC), inform these bodies about our project, and make some proposals on the future cooperation between the WSF and the librarians and the libraries.

With that cooperation in view, I think it would be wise not to change the 21 actionable themes too much. Those themes were debated and decided by the WSF-IC in mid-December 2006. They reflect some more or less visible realities of the vast landscape of movements and organisations which form the WSF and its process. For instance, "Water" is the "actionable theme" of a great many organisations and movements of the WSF. During the Nairobi WSF, they formed a a new network (African Water Network). In a couple of weeks, there will be a big conference of these movements in Brussels, etc. Thus it stands to reason to keep "Water" as a theme of its own in our classification. In fact, I would suggest that we keep all the 21 "actionable themes", but with the amendments and with the polishing that we agree upon among us (= the members of this mailing list).

We could try to produce a memo about all the changes and amendments we make to the themes - and submit it to the WSF-IC."

Fredrick Kachero's proposal

"Quite agree with Mikael that the 21 actionable themes should stay in tandem with the spirit of the WSF. Additional changes in line with our experiences may help so long as the picture is not at obvious variance with that envisaged by the forum. I believe that this is an exciting experience to information science workers as it is devoted to a specific entity addressing universal as well as special issues. In line with this, but in view of upheld practice, I first wish to agree with Esther that we better focus on the broader topic of gender and its manifestations with spefic topics such women's struggles coming in as sub-topics; and secondly wish to propose changes in the order of the themes. It has always been held in our classification order that its better to move from generalia to specific, mundane to the more abstract. I wish to suggest that the order be as follows:

   1) Food Sovereignty, Peasants and Land Reform
   3) Environment and Energy
   4) Housing
   5) Health
   6) Labour and Workers
   7) Children
   8) Youth
   9) Peace and war
   10) Education
   11) Culture
   12) Institutions and Democracy
   13) Migrations
   14) Human rights
   15) Gender-based Oppression, Discrimination and Struggles
   16) Human Dignity, Diversity and Discriminations
   17) Knowledge, Information and Communication
   18) Taxation, Debt and Public Finance
   19) Trade
   20) Transnational Corporations
   21)Alternative Economies"
I think Fredrick's order is to be preferred before order that was proposed by the WSF IC. - Mikael --Book 00:04, 11 February 2007 (EAT)

Spanish translation of the Actionable Themes

A translation into Spanish of the 21 actionable themes is found on the page Actionnable_themes_ES essay papers

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