PÔRTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL–In their last full day of discussion and debate, the thousands of delegates attending the World Social Forum were asking themselves not only what they want but how to get it.
“We will not be listened to because we are right,” said veteran Canadian organizer Maude Barlow. “We will be listened to only if we are powerful. What counts now is only what we actually do on the ground.”
Barlow’s sentiment seemed to sum up neatly what one might call the consensus feeling coming out of this weeklong conference–a conference deemed by all to be an inspiring success.
Thousands of activists, students and scholars from around the world who jammed hundreds of workshops and seminars during the week are leaving here with the feeling that something very important was accomplished. Not that a fixed set of marching orders for the global justice movement was fashioned and agreed upon. But rather that the movement is alive and kicking after the setback of September 11; that it is growing in both size and maturity. And that while the road ahead toward some sort of global equity and a better humanity is long, arduous and uncertain, it is, nevertheless, the only route out of barbarity.
“What we are doing at Porto Alegre is not building a new society of governments, nor a new society of nations,” said author and activist Susan George. “What we are building is a new society of societies. That this task should be hard and difficult should come as no surprise, because no one has ever done this before in the history of the world. We have benefited from those who have come before us and fought and lost, just as they have from those who came before them. I will not see what we are building in my lifetime. And there still might be losses in front of us. But you only eventually win by fighting, and that is what we are doing. Nothing will be given.”
Tomorrow morning, the forum attendees will rally in a massive closing ceremony and plans will be announced for the next World Social Forum, the third of its kind. Early word is that a smaller WSF will be held a year from now once again in Pôrto Alegre and that a larger event will be planned for India in 2004.
Now, it’s off to the big march against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which is expected to draw thousands.
Sunday afternoon, February 3
World Social Forum: All Eyes Fixed on Argentina
PÔRTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL–This morning, in a local police gymnasium donated by the leftist city administration, a coalition of hemispheric labor and environmental groups attending the World Social Forum officially launched a coordinated political offensive aimed at defeating plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Tomorrow, tens of thousands are expected to take part in a protest march through this port city in opposition to the hemispheric trade pact.