Posted by Alli (220.127.116.11) on January 31, 2002 at 15:38:37:
Published on Thursday, January 31, 2002 by Earth Times
World Social Forum Opens with an Attack on the American-led War on Terrorism
by Robert E. Sullivan
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil -- The World Social Forum (WSF), a gathering of some 10,000 peasants, intellectuals, teachers workers, and social activists of many stripes joining here to join in a fight against "neo liberal globalization" began Wednesday with an attack on the American-led War on Terrorism.
At an organization committee press conference a day before the official opening ceremony Carlos Tiburcio, of the Action for a Financial Transaction in Support of Citizens (ATTAC), told an auditorium packed with reporters from all over the world that the war on terrorism was "an attempt to impose a single line of thought throughout the world."
"That line of thought, one that criminalizes anyone who opposes neo liberal globalization, will not stand," he said. "It will be shattered right here in Porto Alegre."
The Forum, like the first WSF in Porto Alegre last year, is dedicated to the proposition that, "another world is possible," and has been specifically timed in the last two years to oppose the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting, held this year in New York.
In opening remarks for the organizers, Maria Luisa Mendonca of the Brazilian Social Justice Network for Human Rights said "basically the WSF is a chance to articulate the voices of the social movement from different parts of the world who come to Porto Alegre to exchange experiences and views and make concrete actions and campaigns to create alternatives to the neo liberal economic model."
But the discussion quickly became specific. Organizing committee member Oded Grajew strongly condemned the "assassination, the murder--murder of some 4,000 persons" in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but added: "That story made headlines in all of our countries for months. But every single day 40,000 children die, die of preventable hunger. That is 10 times the amount of people who died in the attacks."
"Yesterday 40,000 children died of hunger around the world. Today 40,000 children will die of hunger, preventable hunger; around the world. Tomorrow 40,000 children around the world will die of hunger."
"There are no headlines about this. This is what we want to do here. When this becomes news, that is the point where we will have succeeded."
Joao Pedro Stedile of the landless peasants movement said that after September 11,"The United States has exercise its military power to exploit whatever wealth we still have left.
He said the United States was using the war as an excuse to set up a military presence in Brazil, Columbia and other areas of the world "to suppress social movements."
According to the organizers the WSF will draw up to 14,000 delegates from 150 countries by the time it ends on February 5. The attendees will include four Nobel Prize winners, ministers from several Latin American countries, some cabinet level ministers from Europe--six from France alone--2,000 peasant farmers, and 10,000 youth brigade members who will camp out in a public park provided the city of Porto Alegre, a major sponsor of the event, along with the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The state and city governments pride themselves on being among the most liberal administrations in Latin America, with public participation budget systems rare on this continent. The Porto Alegre police are allowing WSF translators to use their dedicated emergency radio frequencies to broadcast speeches at huge open air meetings that will be held for the delegates and all comers in the city's main parks.
Several demonstrations, including some against the WSF have been licensed, to an average of about one large demonstration and several small ones a day.
Sergio Haddad of the Brazilian Association of Nongovernmental organizations said the organizing committee estimated some 40 to 50,000 interested persons, who are not registered as delegates, would come to hear the debates and crowd the city's hotels and municipal camping ground. WSF organizers have divided the major issues to be discussed into four categories: the creation and distribution of wealth; access to wealth and sustainability; civil society and the public arena; and political power and ethics in the new society. Leaders of at least 700 seminars have booked rooms in the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC) campus and surrounding schools.
Haddad said the volume of attendance, seminars, workshops and major meetings had all doubled over last year's figures, and are about four times higher than the figures expected in New York.
Semi-abandoned because of the sweltering summer holidays, PUC began filling up with delegates and at least a thousand journalists, wearing shorts, sandals and beards. The heat overwhelmed the power plant's efforts to cool selected areas and delegates stripped to what little they could get away with.
The emergence of the war on terrorism as a hot topic was not a surprise. Before the meeting began Haddad told the Earth Times that he didn't expect the meeting to become bogged down with September 11 discussions, but "it is a fact."
"Also after September 11 there has been a growing (world) disharmony led by the North Americans and the delegates are bound to refer to in the course of their analyses," he said.
In an interview about the WSF last month, Strobe Talbott, a former US Assistant Secretary of State, and now director of Yale University's Center for the Study of Globalization, told the Earth Times, " We are moving into an era where the great divide is between those who feel like winners in the process of globalization and those who feel like losers. People like Osama Bin Laden play upon that."
"The perpetrators of September 11 were angry at a lot of things. One of the things they were angry about is globalization, because they think that globalization means infidel and non-Islamic cultures (encroaching)."
On the other hand, Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian philosopher and economist teaching at the University of Chicago told this reporter, "The identification of anti-globalization efforts with Bin Laden is ludicrous. They are not interested in culture or capitalism or globalization, but rather are fighting against US policies in the Islamic world. This is a cheap and shoddy attempt to tar a movement expressing serious concern about a serious topic with the brush of ruthless criminals and terrorists."
The forum aims at no final declaration, because, as all the speakers at the Wednesday meeting said, the idea is spark off continuing collaboration and planning.
Grajew told the sweating reporters, "we are seeking a world of peace and social justice and the globalization of human rights. What we need is a radial change from what the world is today."
Haddad said "no one single document can speak for all of us represented here. This is place for debate, for plans for action. It begins here. It does not end here."
Copyright © 2002 The Earth Times
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