Global Policy Forum

Davos? No, Porto Alegre

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By I.R.

Le Monde Diplomatique
August 2000

The organisers of the World Economic Forum, who every winter get together the great and good of global finance and the multinationals (1) in the Swiss resort of Davos, are not sectarian. They have always made sure they invited a selection of intellectuals, artists and researchers, and even trade unionists, to their debates, along with political leaders. These two categories of participants each have a precise function: the first lot are there to give a bit of cultural and social polish, even soul, to a gathering dedicated to the pursuit of profit; the second, ministers and presidents, are most of them there to show allegiance to the new masters of the universe.


In 2001 Davos will have a rival that is far more representative of the real world: the World Social Forum (WSF). This will meet on the same dates (25-30 January), but in the southern hemisphere, at Porto Alegre in Brazil. The people invited there will be noticeably different from those at Davos: union leaders, officials from different foundations, NGOs and associations, representatives of citizen's networks and grass roots movements (dealing with cultural, ecological, feminist, human rights concerns, etc.) from every continent. In short, not just those who were in Seattle or could have been, but many others, too: representatives of small and medium-sized businesses from the South which have been eaten into by globalisation, churches, elected representatives of local and national concerns. There will be 2,000 to 3,000 participants, all reflecting the aspirations of their respective societies.

The WSF will be a place for exchanges and debates on the big choices ahead for mankind - economic, social, cultural, scientific, technological and political - but, unlike Davos, they will be looked at from a civic perspective, that is to say from the point of view of ordinary people, not bankers (1). The intellectuals and creative people invited there will not be there just for decoration: they will be intervening in their own right. Everyone will be able to see what is taking place by way of an emerging, worldwide counter power. And the Davos ministers will have a chance to see that there are other actors in international public life.

It is not by chance that the first World Social Forum is taking place at Porto Alegre, capital of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. The city and, since the 1998 elections, the state government have introduced forms of participatory democracy that many countries are studying closely. These initiatives show, in a modest way, that another world really is possible.

(1) The WSF will have an organising committee bringing together big Brazilian unions and associations, as well as an international support committee. See: http://www.forumsocialmundial.org.br/


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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.