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1997: History of the Alliance’s International Assembly and Continental Assemblies

The objective of this meeting was to prepare for the World Citizens Assembly and for the meetings of the end of the century. At the time, Allies were still planning this passing-of-the-century event to take place in 1999 and therefore it seemed appropriate to organize, two years previous to this date, a preliminary meeting as a step in this collective journey.

The 1997 Assembly constituted a true prototype for a world assembly as well as for the continental assemblies and the whole of international meetings that were to take place in the 2000-2001 period.

The 1997 Assembly was organized according to the following format: an international meeting in Brazil (Bertioga-São Paulo), accompanied by a series of simultaneous, continental, sub-continental and local meetings. The 1997 Assembly was therefore a set of meetings. A meeting is usually identified with a single activity in a single place, whereas the 1997 meeting was not only a set of simultaneous meetings, but in addition they were interconnected by a system of "Remote Participation" (RP) to avoid the funnel effect that a single gathering in a single place, necessarily limited, would lead to.

This is how in Bertioga the meetings of Kigali, Barcelona, Bangalore, Roubaix, Algiers, and in Finland were linked to it.

We decided to organize the international meeting in a country of the South and to base it on the initiative of a group of Allies prepared to take charge of an initiative of this scope. A few years have now gone by and when we think about this meeting, it seems to us to have been the same type of approach as was later developed for the World Social Forum of Porto Alegre. The pioneering nature of the Alliance, in its way of projecting itself toward civil society, was already the foundation of what would happen later. Following this intercontinental Alliance meeting in 1997, consideration was given to holding the world meeting of 2001 in a country of the South, in fact in India, given the interest and the wealth offered by this country. However, the World Citizens Assembly eventually took place in Lille (France), but the WSF 2004 took place in Mumbai, in India. The singularity of the Alliance was to anticipate this move in the World Social Forums, though not at the same scale.

The 1997 Assembly also constituted a significant step in the theoretical elaboration of the thematic framework of the work of the Alliance because it was then that the 4 thematic workgroups were identified, enabling thereafter a more consistent restructuring of the Workshops. The identification of these 4 workgroups (Humankind and the Biosphere, Values and Cultures, Economy and Society, Governance and Citizenship) was the fruit of collective work: the organizers of every simultaneous meeting were asked to write a memo indicating the priority themes that they intended to discuss in their respective meetings. Articulating the different proposals led regrouping the priority issues identified by the organizers in terms of thematic similarity. To these 4 workgroups was added a fifth one related to the setting in motion of alliances (Agenda 2000, communication, Platform, and Workshop building).

All the meetings were very interesting and rich, even though the Bertioga assembly was considered by some as a "factory of misunderstandings," revealing, indeed, very diverse methodological approaches and cultural visions. Some of the facilitation methods used by the Brazilians were not always well understood or admitted by people who were not prepared to accept methods that were outside of their usual framework. Thereafter, an important effort had to be made to recover confidence, understanding, and relations with some of the participants. However this meeting, because it brought about interesting leads and because it sought a collective elaboration of content, was really a prototype for civil-society gatherings.

Immediately thereafter, an evaluation by an ad hoc team was made through consultation of the participants at Bertioga. Otherwise, the Brazilian organizers had massively organized for the assembly to be covered by the national media and a team of "communicators" found “Alliance21” as a name to shorten the “Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World.”

The 1997 Assembly raised the question of how the Alliance was to be developed and of its autonomy. It marked the culminating point of a process that could project itself as a social and organizational dynamics of a new kind: as a truly socially responsible alliance capable of playing a role of interconnectedness among the various dynamics of the emerging civil society. Evidently that is not what it became. Some of the participants, in particular Chico Whitaker and Cändido Grzybowski, would, a few years later, launch the World Social Forum.

Summaries of all the Bertioga workshops by theme:
Discussions on the Platform for a Responsible and United World
Discussions on the Alliance Workshops
Discussions on the Economy and Society
Discussions on Alliance Communication
Discussions on Humanity and the Biosphere
Discussions on Governance
Discussions on Values, Culture, Science


Manola Gardez
In 2000 she was jointly in charge of the (...)
+ 3 article(s)

Gustavo Marin
Director of the Forum for a New World (...)
+ 26 article(s)


Go !Copenhagen Social World Summit, 1995
Go !First International Meeting of Alliance Facilitators, Barcelona, 1996 - by Joan Ramon Gordo, Marti Olivella
Go !1997: Other Documents Related to the Meetings - by Cécile Sabourin, Gustavo Marin, Maurice Cosandey, Morgane Iserte, Philippe Guirlet, Pierre Calame, Ricardo Gómez, Véronique Rioufol
Go !First Meeting of the International Facilitation Team of the Alliance: 1999 - by Gustavo Marin, Marti Olivella, Nacéra Aknak Khan
Go !March 2001 - China and India: First Steps to a Newly Opened Dialog - by Gustavo Marin
Go !June 2001: Continental Meetings of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World - by Gustavo Marin, Marti Olivella
Go !December 2001 - The World Citizens Assembly: Challenges, Changes, Results - by Pierre Calame
Go !Allies around the World (April 2003) - by Gustavo Marin


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