Anti-Globalisation Movement To Expand Across Asia

Kalinga Seneviratne

The third World Social Forum (WSF)ended Tuesday in an upbeat mood withorganisers vowing to expand themovement all across Asia as it moves toIndia next year.PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil, Jan 28 (IPS) -Thethird World Social Forum (WSF)ended Tuesday in an upbeat mood withorganisers vowing to expand themovement all across Asia as it moves toIndia next year. Though questions wereraised during the closing press conferenceabout possibly losing the momentum builtin South America in the last three years,the organising committee said confidentlythat going to India symbolises theglobalisation of the movement sometimesdubbed as the 'anti-globalisation'movement.

''We are creating a new socialand political climate around the world'',declared Candido Grzybowski of theBrazilian Institute of Social and EconomicAnalysis and a member of the organisingcommittee. The Forum ''is a significantvictory, our process is growing andbecoming a gigantic movement of people.

Organisers were in a jubilant moodafter attracting well over 100,000 peoplefrom Latin America, North America,Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, Middle Eastand Africa.

But Asian and African participation was small, amajor reason it was decided to move the 2004 gathering to India.

Members of the Brazilian organising committee argued that thestrength of the movement is its diversity, which they called asource of wealth not of division. ''It is not the ideology that isuniting us but the differences,'' said Grzybowski, adding, ''weare globalising but not losing our identity''.

''We need to get Asiaand Africa more involved,'' he added, ''to conquer more heartsand minds to build a better world.

''Building that world does not simply mean taking an anti-globalisationstance'', argued Martin Khor, director of theMalaysia-based Third World Network, who has attended forumslike this for the last 15 years.

''We are not against internationalcooperation. In fact, we are championing internationalcooperation,'' he told IPS. ''What we are against is a particularkind of kind of international economic relations where thestrong countries and big companies dominate and create rules toperpetuate their dominance.'' ''So, many of us are calling ourselvesthe movement for global justice,'' added Khor.

''That is a new global relationship between countries thatpromote the weak rather than the strong, and that favour thelocal communities, whether they are farmers, consumers orworkers, rather than favour the narrow commercial interests ofa few corporations and banks, which are ruining the world.''Organisers said the WSF is not an event but a process that takesplace throughout the year, leading up to the next forum.

Duringthe past year, social forums were held in India, the UnitedStates, Europe, Ethiopia and Palestine. Local forums, such asthe Pan-Amazon forum, also took place, along with 16neighbourhood forums in Porto Alegre itself and a nationalforum in Argentina to discuss the impact of the financial crisisthere.

The process is for local forums to develop ideas and strategiesthat can be transferred to the WSF for dialogue at the internationallevel, explained organising committee member FranciscoWhitaker from the Brazilian Association of Non-GovernmentalOrganisations. Organisers hope that various sectors of society,such as unions, youths, the judiciary, peasants and evenparliamentarians, will organise forums at local, national orregional levels during the coming year and then take theirviewpoints to India in 2004.

''We're trying a new method, a new political culture,'' saidGrzybowski, ''to place diversity (of viewpoints) at the centre aswealth, as a weapon to build bridges''. World-renowned Indiannovelist Arundathi Roy told participants on Monday that globalsocial and protest movements like the WSF have forced theambitions of the ''empire builders'', the neo-liberal capitalistinterests, into the open. ''We, all of us gathered here, have laidsiege to the empire,'' she said. ''We have stood up and forced itto drop its mask,'' Roy added to thunderous cheers from theaudience of more than 30,000 people.

While the WSF revealed its ambition plans to globalise themovement, organisers reiterated that no political parties orcurrent politicians would be given a platform at the Forum.

Aspecial exemption was given this year to Brazilian PresidentLuiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, who was one of the initiators of theWSF. But Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, although popularamong many WSF participants, was refused permission toofficially address the WSF and had to deliver a speech tothousands of his supporters outside the forum venue at the localstate assembly building.

''We have never had difficulty dialoguing with politicalparties,'' said Whitaker, ''but we want to make sure that civilsociety will have control over the building of the themes,thoughts and of articulating them''. Organisers said they spentabout five million U.S. dollars organising the event, with mostof the most funds coming from U.S. and European donors andthe registration fees of participants. They estimated that theweek-long event pumped 50 million dollars into the localeconomy.

''People in Davos (site of the rival World EconomicForum) want to hold a referendum to get them out,'' pointed outGrzybowski, but ''people of Porto Alegre are asking us to keepthe WSF here''.