Sunday, February 01, 2009

World Social Forum 2009 wraps up

Solutions to crisis elude 'disorganized' World Social Forum BELEM, Brazil (AFP) The World Social Forum was wrapping up in Brazil on Sunday amid criticism that lack of organization prevented participants from reaching common solutions to the global economic crisis and other issues. Some of the 100,000 participants in the biggest gathering of leftwing groups on the planet said the diverse areas of focus -- labor, the environment, human rights, indigenous rights, education, religion -- meant energies were dispersed and associations had to compete to win attention. Nevertheless, all those who spoke to AFP lauded the six-day forum for the opportunity it gave for networking and for setting the foundations for future international actions, particularly protests. "Everybody hoped there would be analyses of the crisis. But it's clear that that didn't happen," said Lieven Vanhoutte, of La Centrale Generale, Belgium's biggest trade union coordination body. "There was a lot of confusion between aims and methods," he said. He called many of the 2,000 debates that took place in the two university campuses of the northern Brazilian city of Belem "symbolic." Vanhoutte stressed, though, that "the idea of bringing everyone together is a good one," and organizers should not try to streamline future gatherings. Several other attendees, and many journalists, also complained of the "chaos" and "awful organization" of the forum. Venues for activities and debates often changed without warning, groups tried to speak over each other, and the tropical heat along with the crowds and sprawling maze of stands, offices, thematic tents and stages made the experience exhausting. "There's confusion, sure. Organization may not be the best," said Patrick Silva, of the Italy-based Consolata Missionaries. "It's suprising to see so many people here," said Marcia Gomes, an art educator for the education department of Brazil's state of Para. Still, each association felt they had made some progress in pursuing their respective goals. "Boycotting Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestinian land is on the Social Agenda for 2009," Arlene Clemesha, for the Palestinian Movement for All, proudly told AFP. Hector Yesid Vaca, in charge of education for Colombia's Oil Workers' Union, said he learned how counterparts in other countries tackled the problems of the development of biofuels. "The big exploitations are taking big tracts of land and pushing off small landholders" as they expand the planting of crops used to make ethanol, Vaca said. He advocated alternative crops that did not require the same fertile soil used by food crops. Others highlighted causes as diverse as the plight of Amerindians in the vast Amazon rainforest clashing with loggers and ranchers, the benefits of vegetarianism, women's rights, and sustainable development. Through it all, references to the global economic crisis were rife. But few realistic solutions were advanced. Banners set up around the forum by radical leftists berated world governments for their bailouts, saying trying to save capitalism was "barbaric." Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who made an appearance along with the leaders of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, took a more moderate tack, telling the United States and other rich nations "to resolve this crisis so the poor countries can develop." Fatima Mello, part of the organizing committee for the forum, told AFP part of the success of the event was that "a big coalition against the crisis" had emerged. "We will be launching days of action and global campaigns so that the poor don't pay for the fallout from the crisis," she said. ***** Brazil: World Social Forum Tells Davos To Fix Crisis 2009-01-31 19:06 BELEM: Left-wing leaders and groups attending the World Social Forum in Brazil have dealt an ultimatum to political and corporate chiefs meeting at the same time in the Swiss resort of Davos: fix this crisis--or else. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said at the event in Belem on Friday that it was urgent for the rich nations "to resolve this crisis so the poor countries can develop." But he warned against worrying signs of protectionism, saying, "It's not fair that, now that the rich countries are in crisis, they forget their talk about free trade." The presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay echoed his comments putting the blame for the worldwide turbulence on developed nations, particularly the United States. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also urged the forum's 100,000 particpants to "go on the offensive" to counter free trade pacts and other US-sponsored neoliberal economic initiatives in Latin America. Unions needed no encouragement. They said capitalism was on the ropes and that government efforts around the world to revive it were misguided. Mass lay-offs were likely to lead to street violence that could presage a fundamental shake-up of society, they said. "It's obvious the effects of this crisis will be large-scale social conflicts," Martha Martinez, the Americas director for the World Federation of Unions, told trade unionists. Many of the labor, environmental, religious, indigenous and charity groups represented at the World Social Forum felt emboldened by the shifts being felt around the globe. The more optimistic said they expected a fairer world would emerge, one where wealth was more evenly distributed. "I think the future of the planet is socialist," said Sonia Latge, the political science director for Brazil's Workers' Central of Brazil. Others, though, acknowledged that the changes were unpredictable--and brought their share of pain. "There is a very important risk of a cut in public aid," Jean-Louis Vielajus, the head of a French NGO umbrella organization called Coordination SUD, told AFP. "There is a sense of injustice" that so many billions were being spent on shoring up the battered world financial system while so little was going to fight poverty, deforestation, hunger and sickness, he added. Taciana Gouveia, the head of the Brazilian Association of NGOs (ABONG), said Brazil's associations were not yet in need, "but we will probably see problems in 2010 or afterwards--especially if things get worse." Seen as key to the direction of the world's future economic policies was new US President Barack Obama, who is hastening another massive bail-out for his country, which was at the epicenter of the crisis. "He still has to prove himself. But what he's said in his speeches, his actions--up to now, it's a very good sign," Cassandre Blier of the World University Service of Canada, an international development organization, told AFP. The World Social Forum was to wrap up Sunday after a final round of talks, shows and meetings among participants. Despite its sprawling, semi-organized nature, participants lauded the opportunity it presented to coordinate strategies and build partnerships, especially in this time of upheaval. "It's positive that the forum exists and continues to exist," said Gouveia. (AFP) ***** -- Posted by Dan Clore My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_ Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page: News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

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