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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 11:08 GMT
Q&A: World Social Forum 2005
Poster for the World Social Forum 2005
The World Social Forum is always a colourful event

While the world's great and the good brave freezing temperatures and luxury hotels at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, a rival parallel summit is about to start in the significantly warmer climes of Brazil - the World Social Forum.

What exactly is the World Social Forum?

Founded in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001, the World Social Forum sees itself as the antidote to the annual gathering of political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Deliberately running parallel to events in Switzerland, it sees the world from a polar viewpoint.

Instead of believing that big business can change the world for the better, it strongly opposes globalisation and wants both the corporations and the governments of the West to change their ways and do more for the people and nations of the developing world.

Often described as a "Carnival of the Oppressed", it aims to fight poverty, disease and environmental damage. It wants globalisation to be replaced by a fairer, healthier, cleaner version of global trade in which poorer countries have better opportunities to advance themselves.

To aid this, delegates have repeatedly called for the 'criminal debt' of many developing nations to be cancelled.

Is it always held in Brazil?

No, last year it was held in Mumbai (Bombay) in India. That was, however, the first time it had been held outside Brazil.

The venue for the World Social Forum 2005
There are no conference centres at the World Social Forum

The plan now is for it to be held in Porto Alegre every other year, while visiting other countries around the world in between.

Who organises the World Social Forum?

The organisation was founded by a coalition of Brazilian trade unions, charities and left-wing political and environmental groups.

Since 2001, it has expanded into a loose coalition of such organisations from around the world.

How many people are set to attend?

If last year's event in Mumbai is anything to go by - a great many.

More than 100,000 attended the 2004 summit in India, and organisers must be hoping for a similar turnout this time around as the event runs from Wednesday, 26 January to Monday, 31 January.

Will any famous names be there?

Deliberately almost none compared to Davos.

While the likes of Tony Blair and French president Jacques Chirac will be joined by pop stars Bono and Peter Gabriel, and actors Richard Gere and Angelina Jolie at the World Economic Forum; the World Social Forum aims to be about real people around the world, rather than the great and the good.

Porto Alegre
Brazil is certainly warmer than Switzerland in January

Delegates will eat food from street stalls, as opposed to canapes and champagne.

There will however inevitably be some reasonably well-known names in attendance at Porto.

Some of those who attended last year's event were Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy, Iranian civil rights activist and Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, UK Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, and Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland.

What is the atmosphere like at the World Social Forum?

Despite the seriousness of the topics for debate, it has always been big, bright, colourful and very loud.

Held in and around a number of giant tents, the event takes on the atmosphere of an independent music festival, with lots of different traditional bands, dancers and singers to entertain delegates.

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