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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 11:32 GMT
Q&A: World Social Forum
Tibetan monks
Tibetan monks rally in support of the World Social Forum in Mumbai
As the World Social Forum opens in Bombay, BBC News Online looks at what it is for.

What is the World Social Forum?

With the slogan, "Another World is Possible', the forum is a conference of groups and individuals opposed to globalisation.

It is held every year, just ahead of the World Economic Forum, a meeting of global business leaders. The forum aims, according to its organisers, to provide a space to discuss alternatives to the 'free-market' policies of the West.

The first forum was held in 2001. Its organisers are hoping to broaden the appeal of the anti-globalisation movement by holding this year's event in Bombay, India.

Local offshoots of the World Social Forum have appeared across the world. There over 300 in 20 countries including Colombia, Japan and the UK.

Which groups are involved?

Forums are attended by a diverse mixture of politicians, non-governmental organisations, trade unions, religious groups and anti-capitalists.

Over 75,000 people are expected to attend including nearly 6,000 from Brazil, 2,000 from Germany and 1,300 from France.

Groups attending this years forum include ATTAC anti-globalisation group, the All-India Trade Union Congress, Christian Aid, the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan and the Via Campesina peasants organisation.

Speakers also include Iranian human rights campaigner and Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi, Indian author Arundhati Roy, French anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove, former Irish President Mary Robinson and Bolivian indigenous people's leader Evo Morales.

What will be discussed at the Forum?

A huge range of topics including militarism and war, sustainable and democratic development, labour rights and religion, culture and identity.

The discussions and meetings will be accompanied by theatre, film and dance events, as well as a travelling exhibition.

Despite the broad agreement of the delegates on many issues, an alternative forum has already emerged. Mumbai Resistance 2004 has been set up opposite the forum by left-wing groups who feel the main forum is not left-wing enough.

What do the social forum's actually achieve?

Some anti-globalisation activists have criticised it for lacking "concrete outcomes" that generate real change. Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, claimed that the last forum was "hijacked" by political parties from the traditional left and that there was little real debate.

Last year's forum also attracted criticism for accepting sponsorship from multi-national corporations such as Ford. No sponsorship is being accepted this year.

Critics of the forum from outside the globalisation movement say that its participants need to be more open minded about development issues.

Q&A: World Social Forum
16 Jan 04  |  South Asia

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