PORTO ALEGRE This city is buzzing as more and more people arrive
each day for the third annual gathering of the World Social Forum (WSF),
being held here January 23-28. Once again, tens of thousands of global
justice movement activists will meet in Porto Alegre to discuss alternatives
to the crisis of the neoliberal system and building global opposition to
the US war drive.
In order to deal with the expected 100,000 participants, the city has
prepared itself with translators, visitor guides, special buses and extra
taxis with drivers who have been given English classes.
The WSF follows a string of regional social forums that have taken place
over the last month as part of the move to internationalise what has become
known as the Porto Alegre process. In India, the Asian Social Forum took
place on January 2-7 in Hyderabad with around 22,000 participants from
42 countries. In Belem, Brazil, the Pan-Amazonia Social Forum took place
January 16-19 with 8000 participants from the nine regional countries,
including a diverse broad section of the Indigenous movements of the region.
The Palestine Social Forum also took place on December 27-31 in Nazareth
and in Tel Aviv. There were more than 400 participants despite having only
40 days to organise it.
Even before the official opening of the Porto Alegre meeting, satellite
events were already underway: the World Education Forum took place from
January 20-22; the Intercontinental Youth Camp, which is expected to attract
30,000 youth from around the world, began on January 18; and an international
market fair is operating until January 28.
The international council of the WSF met on January 21-22. Delegates
analysed how the internationalisation of the WSF process had faired this
year. The council was extremely pleased with the progress. It also decided
that the next WSF would be held in India in January 2004.
With 11 conferences, 30 panels, more than 50 testimonials and more than
1700 workshops canvassing topics including genetically modified food,
opposition to the US war drive, the political crisis in Venezuela and the
Third World debt the 2003 WSF promises to a central networking and organising
event for the world's social movements and activists.
Some of the more notable attendees at the third WSF will be radical
political commentators Naom Chomsky and Tariq Ali, a leader of Brazil's
Movement of Landless Rural Workers Joao Pedro Stedile and leader of Bolivia's
mass peasant movement Evo Morales.
However, the appearance of Brazil's new president, Luis Ignacio Lula
da Silva, on January 24 is the biggest talking point around town. The next
day, Lula will fly to Davos in Switzerland to attend the World Economic
Forum, the annual gathering of the world's biggest capitalists and heads
of state. Three years ago, Lula called the WEF the grand strategic event
Lula's decision to be present at both forums has been criticised by
Brazilian sociologist Emir Sader, president of the Brazilian Association
of Non-Government Organisations Sergio Haddad and by Candido Gryzbowsky
from the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis. All are organisers
of the WSF. We have overtaken Davos. Lula should not go to that banquet
of the people responsible for the misery in this world, Sader said.
From Green Left Weekly, January 29, 2003.
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