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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible and United World
Number 6 August 2000

bulletFrom Readers
bulletMohawk people
bulletASSEMBLY 2000-2001
bulletAlliance in Motion
bulletViews on the Alliance
 · What kind?
 · Discussion Paper (Revised)
 · Brainstorming
 · Extra-nationality
 · Security
 · Crime Industry
 · Water management
 · No longer source of life
 · Water famine in India
 · African framework
 · Future of Nation-State
 · Social movements
 · World Social Forum
 · Political renewal
 · Partners
bulletThe Artist
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Social movements: pioneers of a globalisation with a human face

The crisis faced by humanity calls for a multi-pronged strategy that articulates different levels of action where dissemination of novel experiences, social and institutional experimentation and setting up networks are necessary steps. But social movements remain a basic element of social change and the political and intellectual elite has a tendency to neglect or even reprimand them. But historical changes have rarely operated through a universal consensus. Rather, they take place through economic, social, political or religious crises. Stagnant periods were followed by abrupt adjustments in the systems of value and exchange. Often eruption of social movements brings about change and calls for a reorganisation of systems of governance.

The background of current social movements is constituted by phenomena of internationalisation and globalisation that must be carefully distinguished:

- Internationalisation translates the increasingly obvious interdependence between the constituents of humanity. It is a phenomenon of long duration - neither positive nor negative - that makes humanity understand challenges from the local to the global level. Some social movements are among actors who best understand the new situation and invent different and appropriate ways of dealing.

- Globalisation corresponds to current domination of an ideology based on analysis of free economy and promoting an international division of labour for the benefit of some big economic players. Its effects are a combination of circumstances and spectacular in terms of unequal growth and unsustainable development. Globalisation is one of the most important checks to interdependence - accepted by humanity - and yet, ironically, also makes it a part of its agenda.

One of the characteristics that is often evoked from the current period is the supposed end of ideologies. Neo-liberalism could well be one of its last dominant forms. Indeed, social movements submit to very diverse motivations and values. None ideologies seem to emerge from them. It is something to rejoice about as it alludes to the coexistence of various forms of social action. It is humanity's emerging awareness to live in a collective framework in spite of the infinite diversity of concrete situations, experimentation of novel forms of mobilisation and participation, feeling of a common struggle even with diverse view points, that makes these forms of social action cohesive and puts them to practice. The existing context therefore favours the emergence of concrete proposals and articulation of social movements between different levels and scales of action. This is well illustrated by the gathering next january in Brazil of the 1st World Social Forum (see below).


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The first World Social Forum
(Porto Alegre, Brazil - January 25-30, 2001)

drawing of a circle of peopleThe World Social Forum will be a new international arena for organizing against neoliberal policies and for building economic alternatives that prioritize social justice. It will take place every year in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, during the same period as the World Economic Forum, which happens in Davos, Switzerland, at the end of January. Since 1971, The World Economic Forum has played a key role in formulating neoliberal policies throughout the world. It's sponsored by a Swiss organization that serves as a consultant to the United Nations and it's financed by more than one thousand corporations.

The World Social Forum will provide a space for building economic alternatives, for exchanging experiences and for strengthening South-North alliances between NGOs, unions and social movements. It will also be an opportunity for developing concrete actions, to educate the public, and to mobilize civil society internationally.

The World Social Forum developed as a consequence of a growing international movement that has gained greater visibility since the mobilizations against the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI), which happened in Europe in 1998, the demonstrations in Seattle, during the WTO meeting in 1999, and the recent protests against the IMF and the World Bank in Washington, DC, among others.

For decades, these international financial institutions have been making decisions that affect the lives of people all over the world, without being subject to any sort of democratic control. People in Third World countries, as well as the poor and excluded sectors of industrialized countries suffer the devastating effects of economic globalization and the dictatorship of international institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO and the governments that serve their interests.

We need to continue pressuring these institutions to be accountable to our societies. Similarly, our governments must be made aware that this oversight will be exercised with increasing intensity over their actions. Many of us have struggled in our own countries, regions, or cities, thinking that we were isolated. Recently, we have begun to realize that together we can constitute a planetary archipelago of resistance. The World Social Forum represents a new opportunity toward the construction of an international counter-power.

Brazil is one of the countries that has been greatly affected by neoliberal policies. At the same time, different sectors of Brazilian society are resisting these policies, in rural and urban areas, in shantytowns, factories, political parties, churches, schools, etc. The richness of Brazilian grassroots organizations represents a source of inspiration for the development of the World Social Forum.

The Brazilian Organizing Committee* invites international networks of NGOs, unions and social movements to help us build the World Social Forum. We hope to receive support from organizations in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe with a commitment to contribute with this organizing process and to send delegations to Porto Alegre in January. We are asking for a special commitment from organizations in the First World to help funding delegations from their partner organizations in Third World countries, in order to guarantee diversity within the World Social Forum.

The World Social Forum will represent a historic moment for organizing and social change. Let's build it together!


* The Brazilian Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (Associação Brasileira de Organizações Não Governamentais, ABONG); Action for the Taxation of International Financial Transaction in Support of Citizens (Ação pela Tributação das Transações Financeiras em Apoio aos Cidadãos, ATTAC-BR); The Brazilian Commission of Justice and Peace (Comissão Brasileira de Justiça e Paz);CIVES - Brazilian Association of Businesses for Citizenry; The Central Union Federation (Central Única dos Trabalhadores, CUT); IBASE - Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analysis; Global Justice Center (Centro de Justiça Global); The Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST)

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© 2000 Alliance for a Responsible and United World. All rights reserved. Last updated October 29, 2000.