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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 11:22 GMT
A tale of two forums
The International Federation Terre Des Hommes works for the rights of children and attended both the World Economic Forum in New York and the counter-conference, the World Social Forum, in Porto Alegre.
The foundation's general secretary, Peter Brey, was at the Forum in New York, while his colleague and president, Raffaele Salinari, was in Brazil. Together they describe their experiences.
Children are the most important capital for all countries - both developed and developing.
"Another world is possible", the motto of the World Social Forum 2002, is not just an empty slogan.
The crowds of people that walked down the central avenues of Porto Alegre showed that the words were felt with genuine conviction.
In this lively, and sometimes chaotic, atmosphere, the common aim was to strive for a world where human rights are globalised - and not just the interests of multinational corporations.
Advancing the anti-globalisation debate
In New York we were on a panel, called "The future of anti-globalisation", in which we put forward statements for discussion.
The philosophy that we make this world a better place on the basis of a deregulated economic liberalisation has come to an end.
True globalisation is ethical globalisation in the economic, social and legal aspects. Transparency and accountability will be key words.
We also discussed our assertion that the members of the World Economic Forum are, psychologically speaking, in a state of denial concerning the real damage done by the current form of globalisation.
But the reality in the field shows us that at the beginning of the 21st century the situation for many children has become worse.
Child trafficking, exploitation of children in labour, sexual exploitation and child poverty are all on the increase.
Genuine dialogue is required, but fear and distrust make is very difficult to do this.
In Porto Alegre, the delegates were afraid that they were not being listened to, and there was also distrust that rich countries would ever deliver.
Meanwhile the WEF fears that the anger of the protesters concentrates on an individual company or institution.
Porto Alegre's debate
In Porto Alegre, we were on a panel called the "hidden economic face of the planet", which looked at the criminal aspects of the economy.
It proved to be one of the most debated subjects, as Terre des Hommes explained its experience of child trafficking.
Trafficking is one of the major components of criminal economy, which expands its domain all around the globe.
The major recipients of this trafficking are the rich countries, and they must take responsibility for this.
Isn't it rather hypocritical to think that this problem can be solved by spending 0.2% of the GDP for development?
A comprehensive system of international rules must be enforced to help the fight against the trafficking of children.
Lack of openness at the WSF?
During our debate at the WEF meeting, it also became clear that the prime minister of Belgium, who has engaged in a fruitful dialogue with the anti-globalisation movement during the European summit in Belgium, was not invited to Porto Alegre.
Three entities were refused invitations by the WSF, two terrorist organisations and Mr Verhofstadt. This showed a lack of openness on the part of the WSF.
At the WEF, however, as a result of outside pressure, the non-government organisations (NGOs) felt much more included this year.
During the past few days, both the formal and the informal discussions at the WEF have been useful. The presence of NGOs has proved important.
The contrast with the situation two years ago was striking. The issues relevant to the NGOs were discussed at the WEF.
At virtually all of the workshops, an NGO representative stood up and was taken seriously.
Nevertheless, all the NGOs stress that it is concrete action that counts, not just listening to words.
To change the world we need to have genuine dialogue between the world of social movements (represented by Porto Alegre) and the economic world of the economy (represented by the WEF).
We also need to stop the silly discussion as to whether one is in favour or against globalisation. The issue is about what kind of globalisation we want.
However, the demonstrations and the social pressure that has been applied continue to be important.
We are convinced that is the reason why NGOs are now being listened to, but the question is are we being heard?
And will the world and business leaders act?
If people simply act on the closing address of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan about helping the poor, that would be quite sufficient.
In the end it is a matter of personal responsibility.
Terre des Hommes, works for the rights of the child and promotes equitable development without racial, religious, cultural or gender-based discrimination.
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