It's Starting at the World Social Forum!
Accumulation of profits through speculation and exploitation of Third World resources, destruction of environment, expansion of poverty... Is this the globalization we want, or do we want another globalization? If the World Economic Forum that was hosted in New York argues the inevitability of the former, the World Social Forum that took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, shows that the latter is possible, that indeed, "another world is possible." 50,000 people consisting of social activists, trade unionists and NGO activists from 130 countries came together from 31st Jan. to 5th Feb. Despite the diversity and differences, the participants, all joining in one voice to say "no to neo-liberalism," "no to militarism" and "no to imperialism," took part in nearly 800 conferences, workshops and seminars, organised under main themes of "production of wealth and social reproduction," "access to wealth and sustainability," "civil society and the public arena" and "political power and ethics in the new society," 12 Korean activists, including myself, flew 35 hours to Brazil, to participate in this exciting and overwhelming event.
This year's WSF was the second, following the first held at about the same time last year. In 1999, Brazilian trade unions and social movements proposed an international meeting in counteraction to the World Economic Forum. The initiation was taken forth by international networks such as the ATTAC and World Social Forum went underway in the symbolic Porto Alegre - where participatory democracy has been experimented for the last 13 years under the rule of the Workers Party(PT) - with 15,000 participants. The spirit continued into 2002, in much larger scope and scale.
Neo-liberal globalisation is a complete failure
Neo-liberal globalization, which is said to bring wealth and happiness to the world's peoples, has completely failed. Instead of wealth and happiness, it has only brought suffering, poverty and exploitation to the people, especially those in the southern hemisphere. This reality was manifested in diverse ways during the Forum.
At the International People's Tribunal on Debt, testimonies were given from 21 countries on how unlawful foreign debt has brought about hunger and devastation of subsistence agriculture and public services, while Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) only contributed to endangering national economy for the benefit of speculative financial capital. Multinational jury ruled the debt to be illegal and that the IMF and other international financial institutions, and governments of both creditor and debtor countries are responsible for the sufferings of the people.
At the series of seminars on the IMF and World Bank, presenters from Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea and Argentina stated that the SAPs not only failed to repay national debt but also failed in stabilizing the economy. The case of Argentina is the perfect manifestation. Close to 800 participants came to the WSF from Argentina, all very much angered at how financial institutions and imperialists had completely destroyed the economy and the lives of the people living in it.
Globalise peace, not militarism
The year 2001 not only manifested the contradictions of financial globalization and liberalization, but it was also coloured by the rise of US aggression and militarism, especially after the September 11th tragedy. The Latin Americans were already familiar with the brutality of the US military in the region - most recently under the name of "Plan Colombia" to promote the much-opposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). For Latin Americans, neo-liberalism, militarism and imperialism always went hand in hand, leaving tens of thousands dead and impoverished. The anger at the US, its international followers and local ruling elites, exploded onto the streets on the 4th of February, when local and international participants poured into the city center for a march against the FTAA.
However, what was much debated was the so-called "War against Terrorism." Not only are basic civil rights being aggravated, but the US is threatening to expand its war to Iraq, Somalia and possibly to the Philippines. It is using the September 11th tragedy to justify its missile defense system and its heightened aggression in the Asian region. Thousands of participants came together to denounce the US and imperialism, and to come up with alternatives. Many renowned scholars, for example Noam Chomsky and James Petras, joined in, and on 4th February, the participants sent a joint statement to the UN calling for its intervention into US aggression and the Israel domination of Palestine.
Another world has already started
Although last year brought many obstacles and setbacks to the anti-globalization movement, WSF participants agreed that nonetheless, the movement has grown larger and stronger. 300,000 people converged at Genoa in July against the G8, and hundreds of thousands of people poured onto the streets to protest against the war on Afghanistan. This development was evident at the WSF. The World Social Forum itself symbolizes the development of the anti-globalization movement.
"We are a global solidarity movement, united in our determination to fight against the concentration of wealth, the proliferation of poverty and inequalities, and the destruction of our earth. We are living and constructing alternative systems, and using creative ways to promote them. We are building a large alliance from our struggles and resistance against a system based on sexism, racism and violence, which privileges the interests of capital and patriarchy over the needs and aspirations of people," states the "Call to Action" of 2002 World Social Forum. Next year, we will meet again in Porto Alegre, and also in other parts of the world for regional social forums. The social forum may merely be a series of meetings, but the spirit does not stop there. It goes on to structuring a new world, based on solidarity of peoples from all corners of the world.
The writer is an activist of Policy & Information Center for International Solidarity (PICIS).
Choi Seung-min firstname.lastname@example.org
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