Original Source Morningstar online.
More than 25,000 trade unionists and social, environmental and political activists from around the globe kicked off the first of nearly 30 World Social Forum (WSF) events that will take place throughout the world this year.
Brazilian human rights activist Sergio Bernardo proclaimed that "the rich have driven the capitalist system into chaos, but the WSF will be letting them know that we can create a world free of exploitation that will help the poor."
Brazilian liberation theologist Francisco Whitaker pointed out that "lingering fallout from the financial crisis is proof that the world economy must be re-tooled to benefit people, not big companies."
Whitaker explained that the WSF was set up to counter the "worldview" of rich nations that hold their annual economic conference in Davos, Switzerland.
"The last Davos meeting was similar to a wake and their attitude this year gives the impression that capitalism is on the downfall and hitting its limits," he declared.
Brazil's CUT union confederation president Joao Felicio urged the WSF to "adopt a declaration containing positions on which a consensus has been reached such as anti-imperialism and the financialization of wealth."
"Mass movements are essential in order to change the world, but the game can only be won if you step out in the field to play," added Brazilian MST (Landless Workers Movement) leader Joao Pedro Stedile.
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva declared at the Forum that rich nations were "responsible" for the devastation in Haiti.
Stating that the Caribbean nation had been kept impoverished by the "developed world," Mr. da Silva emphasized that he hoped that "the earthquake will shame the human beings who govern this planet and we can now do what should have been done years ago."
The president pledged that he would visit Port-au-Prince in February and announced that Brazil was sending another £125 million in aid.
According to the WSF website www.forumsocialmundial.org.br:
The World Social Forum is an open meeting place where social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, to formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action. Since the first world encounter in 2001, it has taken the form of a permanent world process seeking and building alternatives to neo-liberal policies. This definition is in its Charter of Principles, the WSF's guiding document.
The World Social Forum is also characterized by plurality and diversity, is non-confessional, non-governmental and non-party. It proposes to facilitate decentralized coordination and networking among organizations engaged in concrete action towards building another world, at any level from the local to the international, but it does not intend to be a body representing world civil society. The World Social Forum is not a group nor an organization.
In contrast, the World Economic Forum website www.weforum.org/en announces:
2,500 leaders from business, government and civil society are in Davos for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The theme is a call to action for decision-makers to use the opportunity of the five-day Meeting to "Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild". Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, will deliver the opening address in a plenary session following the traditional welcome by the Swiss President, Doris Leuthard. Leaders will participate in over 200 working sessions on topics including Haiti, the Millennium Development Goals, the environment and the economy.
Photo: AP PhotoSilvia Izquierdo Young people gather at a youth camp during the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Jan. 26.