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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 16:57 GMT
World Social Forum diary
Eyewitness account
By Atila Roque
Executive Director, ActionAid USA

World Social Forum
A masked entertainer passes through the WSF crowds
The World Social Forum 2004 in Bombay has attracted almost 100,000 anti-globalisation activists from not just across India, but around the world.

Brazilian delegate Atila Roque is one such person.

Here he describes his experiences in so far, and his aspirations for the event.

It is rush hour in Bombay.

Red double decker busses jostle with three-wheeler taxis and green parakeets fly past Bollywood billboards as the latest in a fleet of coaches from the airport unloads social activists from five continents.

The World Social Forum taking place in Asia for the first time.

As a Brazilian involved with the forum's beginnings in the town of Porto Alegre in my home country, I am excited to see the event coming to the other side of the world, creating new opportunities for groups across Asia to attend in large numbers.

As I packed my bags last week, I reflected on this incredible movement we have pushed forward within such a short period of time.

World Social Forum
Activists from Pakistan have even attended the event

When we started talking about the need to build a global space, where people from every corner of the world could come together to express their views, dreams and alternatives to neo-liberal globalization, we could not have anticipated what we have achieved in just four years.

Global gathering

From a first event of about 20,000 people in Porto Alegre, Brazil, participation has grown beyond all expectations to almost 100,000 at last year's forum.

There have also been regional and thematic events, including the recent European Social Forum in France.

Bombay, I believe and hope, represents a major step towards realising the truly international political process dreamt of by WSF organizers from the very beginning.

In many ways, the forum is about the place in which the event is held, with the spice of local culture and political debates expressed in music, theatre and art, as well as workshops, seminars and high-profile panel discussions.

This is a truly Indian World Event, welcoming the rest of the world, but highlighting the incredible wealth of social experience from this region.

As one of 1,000 participants from Latin America, I am prepared to go through a powerful and unique learning experience.

That is what the WSF is supposed to be, after all.

United aims

Neo-liberal free trade policies have aggravated poverty, social exclusion and intolerance. The forum brings together diverse groups, arising from a multitude of struggles and allows new global alliances to be created.

Farmers and landless movements share strategies to challenge abuses of corporate power.

The event unites AIDS activists from across Africa with American anti-war campaigners and Afghan women's groups here to express their opposition to fundamentalism of all kinds.

Few other cities are in a better position to host the forum.

The democratic values of justice, peace and non-violence expressed in the WSF's charter of principles find in Bombay a place where cosmopolitan values bloom.

Looking ahead

It is also an arena of resistance against the ugly tendencies of nationalism and religious sectarianism.

The message from the forum in Bombay is clear and urgent. It cannot simply be ignored by world leaders or the mainstream media. It is a message of peace, tolerance and social change.

Let us listen to what the world's people have to say and take action: Another world is possible.

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