Thousands gather in Belem for the 9th World Social Forum
The city of Belem recently played host to delegates attending the 9th World Social Forum (WSF). Located in the state of Para, this Brazilian city is often referred to as the â€˜gateway to the Amazonâ€™ as the mighty river meanders its way through here to the Atlantic.
Cedric Gina, the President of Numsa and Woody Aroun from the Research department, represented the Numsa at the WSF as part of a wider Cosatu delegation led by the President of the federation, Sdumo Dlamini.
While the WSF continues to provide a platform for debate on a wide range of social issues affecting people throughout the world, its global significance and popularity has grown ten-fold since the first WSF in Porto Allegre in 2001.
While some feel that the WSF is losing its intellectual momentum, others are less sceptical and believe that the WSF still constitutes an important platform for social movement activists to share their ideas and build common struggles around socio-political and economic inequality.
More cynical observers argue that the WSF is nothing more than social movement tourism, but like the fox and the grapes fable, such comments are unlikely to rupture the colour and dynamism that has helped shape the WSF since its inception.
And if there is one thing that is abundantly clear, the WSF is there to promote dialogue amongst competing political positions and doesnâ€™t belong to anyone. If the WSF were to become an exclusive platform for intellectual heavyweights and boring politicians, then the vibrant spirit of the WSF will surely disappear and the World Social WSF will gradually wither away into oblivion.
Social Movements Galore!The opening march attracted thousands of delegates and like all Brazilian marches, brought the city to a complete standstill.
Thousands of banners and flags representing a broad range of political and social movements fluttered in the wind, while the trade unions and a diverse range of civics sent out a loud and clear message that â€˜another world is possibleâ€™ despite the gloomy economic forecast that has dominated world headlines over the past few months.
Brigades of youth took to the streets in their thousands. They called for greater protection of the global environment, affirmation of the rights of indigenous people, the end to hostilities against the people of Palestine and the death of global capitalism.
The call for Socialismo Ja! resonated throughout the streets of Belem while the rain gods showered their blessings on the crowds below. Long live the WSF! Long Live!
What is the WSF?"The World Social Forum is an open meeting place where social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations (including trade unions like Numsa, Cosatu) opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to debate ideas democratically, to formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action." WSF
What the WSF said – "We wonâ€™t pay for the crisis. The rich have to pay for it !"We are facing a global crisis which is a direct consequence of the capitalist system and therefore cannot find a solution within the system.
"The present system is based on exploitation, competition, promotion of individual private interests to the detriment of the collective interest and the frenzied accumulation of wealth by a handful of rich people.
It results in bloody wars, fuels xenophobia, racism and religious fundamentalism; it intensifies the exploitation of women and the criminalisation of social movements.
"In order to overcome the problem we have to grapple with the root of the problem and progress as fast as possible towards the construction of a radical alternative that would do away with the capitalist system and patriarchal domination.
We must work towards a society that meets social needs and respects nature's rights as well as supporting democratic participation in a context of full political freedom…
We must contribute to the largest possible popular mobilisation to enforce a number of urgent measures such as:* nationalising the banking sector without compensation and with full social monitoring* reducing working time without any wage cut* taking measures to ensure food and energy sovereignty* stopping wars, withdraw occupation troops and dismantle foreign military bases* acknowledging the people's sovereignty and autonomy * guaranteeing rights to land, territory, work, education and health for all* democratising access to means of communication and knowledge.
(extracts from the WSF Declaration)