The Forum at the Crossroads

Focus on the Global South

, by BELLO Walden

A new stage in the evolution of the global justice movement was reached with the inauguration of the World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January 2001.

The WSF was the brainchild of social movements loosely associated with the Workers’ Party (PT) in Brazil. Strong support for the idea was given at an early stage by the ATTAC movement in France, key figures of which were connected with the newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique. In Asia, the Brazilian proposal, floated in June 2000, received the early enthusiastic endorsement of, among others, the research and advocacy institute Focus on the Global South based in Bangkok.

Porto Alegre was meant to be a counterpoint to "Davos," the annual event in a resort town in the Swiss Alps where the world’s most powerful business and political figures congregated annually to spot and assess the latest trends in global affairs. Indeed, the highlight of the first WSF was a televised transcontinental debate between George Soros and other figures in Davos with representatives of social movements gathered in Porto Alegre.

The world of Davos was contrasted to the world of Porto Alegre, the world of the global rich with the world of the rest of humanity. It was this contrast that gave rise to the very resonant theme "Another world is possible."

There was another important symbolic dimension: while Seattle was the site of the first major victory of the transnational anti-corporate globalization movement — the collapse amidst massive street protests of the third ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization — Porto Alegre represented the transfer to the South of the center of gravity of that movement. Proclaimed as an "open space," the WSF became a magnet for global networks focused on different issues, from war to globalization to communalism to racism to gender oppression to alternatives. Regional versions of the WSF were spun off, the most important being the European Social Forum and the African Social Forum; and in scores of cities throughout the world, local social fora were held and institutionalized. Read the article :
The Forum at the Crossroads