A Time of More Complex Global Crises
- News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
WORLD SOCIAL FORUM
A Time of More Complex Global Crises
By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 4, 2011 (IPS) - Neoliberalism and the attendant
financial globalisation were a common enemy that unified and mobilised
activists of the most diverse tendencies who founded, ten years ago in
Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, the World Social Forum (WSF) as a space
to meet, reflect and debate, under the slogan "Another World Is Possible".
But in its 11th year, the WSF is meeting Feb. 6-11 in Dakar, Senegal, at
a time when neoliberal, free-market policies stand out less in a world
threatened by collapse from a combination of crises: financial, climate
change, food and water.
U.S. imperialism, another favourite target of the activists, has seen
its economic clout wane while another superpower, China, emerges with
its own colonial practices, although without militarism or the export of
its belief system and way of life -- for now.
The dynamic growth of the emerging economies has pulled hundreds of
millions of people out of extreme poverty. But inequality in the world
and within countries is still marked, as is the hunger people face on
many parts of the planet.
The climate threat is felt in the rising number of people killed and
displaced by extreme weather events, and the increasing losses suffered
Finance has a strong destructive force, with 860 trillion dollars in
speculative capital circulating around the globe -- 13 times global GDP
-- according to the Bank of International Settlements.
All of which is aggravated by "planetary misgovernance" -- the lack of
institutions capable of dealing with "global problems," according to
Brazilian economist Ladislau Dowbor, who is heading to Dakar to share
the ideas of a group of intellectuals who, under the title "Crises and
Opportunities", are discussing systemic solutions for the "convergent
The growing concentration of wealth that has left two-thirds of humanity
excluded from progress and living on just six percent of global income
is not sustainable, said Dowbor, a professor at the Catholic University
of São Paulo.
Nor is it possible to continue forward on this "environmental Titanic,"
exhausting natural resources, "the soil, the marine life," he added.
The basic document of the group of intellectuals that includes Dowbor,
Polish-French "ecosocioeconomist" Ignacy Sachs, and British futurist and
evolutionary economist Hazel Henderson, rejects "simplified visions of
the social decision-making process," calls for rescuing "the public
dimension of the state," and suggests replacing GDP as the main economic
indicator, among other recommendations.
The WSF is returning to Africa for its eighth global edition just as a
popular uprising has toppled the dictatorship in Tunisia and another one
is threatening to do the same in Egypt.
This year's Forum "will be vibrant, with new people," but it will take
place in precarious conditions, "with one-third of the initially
projected budget," said one of the founders of the WSF, Cándido
Grzybowski, director of the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic
In many of the events, for example, there will be no simultaneous
Some 50,000 participants are expected, one-third of the total who
registered in the last global edition, held in 2009 in the northern
Brazilian city of Belém in the Amazon jungle. "But that figure could
double, with the influx of Europeans," Grzybowski hopes.
Senegal has a population 15 times smaller than Brazil's, said Chico
Whitaker, another WSF founder, who explained that 80 percent of
participants in these events generally come from the host country.
The Latin American presence will be much smaller, partly due to the
financial difficulties faced by non-governmental organisations as a
result of the decline in foreign donor funds, aggravated by unfavourable
exchange rates and scarcity of national financing. And air tickets to
Dakar are costly, because there are no direct flights from Latin
America; flights go through Europe.
The organisational limitations in Dakar reflect the lack of government
support, lending credence to the position taken by one Brazilian current
of activists who held a thematic forum last year in the northeastern
Brazilian state of Bahia and who advocate alliances with progressive
governments, to strengthen WSF events and give them a broader impact.
The WSF defines itself as a civil society initiative in which government
leaders only participate as guests in events organised by social
movements and organisations. However, most of the global editions,
including the five held in Brazil, have received financial support from
national or local governments.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a guest at
previous editions, will now take part in Dakar as a "member of civil
society" in a seminar on Monday Feb. 7, the Africa and Diaspora Day in
the WSF 2011 schedule.
Lula has announced that Brazil's relations with Africa will be a
priority in his post-government activities.
For the next unified global Forum, which has been held every two years
since 2005 -- the others are "polycentric," with different regional
events -- many Brazilians want to bring the WSF back to its origins in
Porto Alegre, while others are pushing for it to be held in Bahia, the
state with the largest proportion of people of African descent.
But Europe, another strong candidate for hosting the 2013 edition, is
focusing on other approaches, such as attempting to have an impact on
the big issues of the moment.
However, it is the new paradigms of "another world" of the future, more
than current challenges, that are of greatest concern to the founders of
the WSF. "Development that is killing life on the planet is a major
problem," said Grzybowski, who ruled out "the green economy" as a
solution, saying it is really just "greenwashed capitalism" that does
not modify the mechanisms underlying the tragedy.
His proposal is "to go beyond the WSF" and take advantage of next year's
Rio+20, the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, which will bring
up-to-date the debate launched at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Social movements should organise a strong presence at the 2012
conference, to forge an alliance with the Brazilian government with a
view to changing the way the environment and development are thought
about, he said.
Global problems are immense and complex, but "the world doesn't stop,
and people make history," as seen in the Arab world in the last few
days, he said. (END)
New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
in charge on this island?
Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"