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Monday, 29 January, 2001, 01:28 GMT
'Alternative Davos' to be annual
World Social Forum demonstrators
The forum recognised the importance of protests
By Tom Gibb in Brazil

Organisers of the World Social Forum being attended by about 10,000 activists in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre say they plan to make it an annual event to rival the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The Brazilian forum has been looking at ways of fighting the trend towards free trade and globalisation in the world, but has not been free from its own protests.

French trade unionist Jose Bove joins protest
Forum protesters ripped up plants at a Monsanto GM farm
A press conference by the World Social Forum organisers was invaded by a member of one of the groups attending.

The protester from the United Black Movement shouted slogans demanding greater participation for blacks and complained that they had only had one hour in five days of conferences to express their views, even though they represent 50% of Brazil's population.

Finding its feet

The organisers of the World Social Forum admitted that there were no blacks and only one woman on the organising committee and promised to review this.

Though they are hoping that the forum will become a permanent institution, no date or venue for next year has been set, although it will almost certainly be held to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Despite the bewildering array of diverse interests and protest groups at the forum in Brazil, there is a real sense of a movement trying to find its feet.

Lobbying the powerful

The theme which ties the forum together is fear that the power of multinational corporations is undermining democratic institutions around the world.

The forum wants to become a body that can lobby those with power in the world economy with proposals such as:

  • the cancellation of Third World debt
  • taxing international flows of capital
  • including labour and social conditions in trade pacts.

But almost everyone at the forum also thinks their aims will only be achieved by disrupting future international trade summits with street protests.

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