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Reflections World Social Forum Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Augusto C, United Kingdom Feb 20, 2002
Peace & Conflict , Culture , Citizen Journalism   Opinions


My arrival at the World Social Forum didn´t impact me so much. I was expecting to see several people running from one place to another, sometimes not even knowing the exact place they are going, representing their organization, political party or personal ideal. What did impact me was the diversity of thoughts that can emerge when you are in a event against something.

My colleague in the youth camp, workshop or in a simple chit-chat in the garden area was certainly my ally “against everything that is out there” and we only needed to discuss – clamorously if possible – what we were going to develop to replace the actual. Strangely I barely heard about process of transition from old to new, despite some groups in favor of a revolution, the only unique way to delete the cruel reality created by our capitalist society.

In some declarations, in the workshops or conferences, it was acclaimed and sometimes created excitation when someone has raised a word against neoliberal globalization, but it was hooted and strongly criticized when other tried to develop an alternative way. The diversity of the alternative paths found would be a positive point if they could hold at least a common principle: dialogue.

The necessity of groups telling about their importance, independence and specially holders of the best idea to create a truth society was disgusting. Among speeches and conferences, or either taking over workshops promoted by others, representants of the democratic ideal was shouting words of order and most of the time, but not oddly, against something or someone.

I re-learned how it is simple to be against something. There was several groups around me in which I could take a couple of slogans by heart and a word finished by a famous –ism. Done. I was a legitimate protector of... of what? It doesn´t really matter, because I was at least against the neoliberal.

I´m surely not sentencing the organizations and people who were in the WSF to criticize a model they see is prejudicial to a huge fraction of the world´s population, sometimes a fraction that not even include themselves. What I do sentence is the individuality, or the restricted collectivity that the left-wing always fought against and unfortunately was present in several moments in the WSF.

Even considering the act of mobilize the world´s population a restrict and without ambition objective to a forum of this amplitude and possibility, it is sad that not even this mobilizing character of the forum worked properly. The WSF was held in Brazil and most of Brazilians themselves have no idea about what the WSF is and lots of people only relates it to left-wing agitation.

Perhaps the WSF can be represented by a person with his arms crossed, moving his head in sign of reprobation and with a letter containing arguments against something on his hand

This person is possibly young in will and at the same time rich in experience, but every part of his body wants to move towards a different path, only saying that they won´t go forward.

We are not dealing with simple subjects and we don´t expect to see in a couple of meeting days and dialogues about several issues a developed solution – not at least partial – for the proposed problem. Something that we could expect and it is frustrating that the forum had barely explored are practical actions and proposals that a common citizen, inside his/her work environment, can develop to become aware or modify the visible problems we see around the globe.

No one is mobilized or becomes sensitive about social issues looking at protests at television. The citizen that watches protests like the television wants to show him or the citizen who simply is offended or injured in a certain way won´t stay in the manifestant´s side, even if the revindication is noble. Although I believe that people should express their ideas in the way they feel like, we are not exploring the little actions we can make, only leaving space for big manifestations and glamorous speeches.

The WSF was a place of legitim, important and necessary manifestations. So bad that the forum was restricted in those to show the world the reason why we want to change our present society. What a common citizen can do to know this reality and maybe engage to modify it?



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Ha Thi Lan Anh | Feb 3rd, 2003
Thank you so much for update from WSF. Can you share a little bit more abouy Youth activities there? I heard there are many youth coming and even have a youth meeting? How's it going? And what are Youth participation and responses in these whole process at WSF?

lack strategy but still some good things :)
Ha Thi Lan Anh | Feb 3rd, 2003
A report from Day 4 of the third World Social Forum taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil. REPORT FROM PORTO ALEGRE - Day 4 Many events today at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre dealt with media. In a well attended four-hour workshop on "Becoming the Media," members of AMARC (the World Association of Community Radios) dialogued with US-based IndyMedia reporters, Canadian and Swiss labor activists, Argentine documentary filmmakers, Brazilian students of journalism, community radio activists from indigenous communities in the Bolivia Andes, and others about how news production and distribution could be done to counter the pervasive whitewashing of issues in the commercial media. Operating on a tight or non-existent budget, these community media activists have been able to reach out in creative and exciting ways. In Argentina, documentaries are passed from house to house, with accompanying materials to help promote discussions of the content after the pictures are over. They have also started sending along a simple booklet on how to make your own media. AMARC's "Voices Without Frontiers" project combines the technologies of internet distribution with more traditional forms such as satellite and simply mailing tapes or CDs to get the voices of various small communities in different countries out to a global audience. For those people in regions that don't have high speed internet, programs are received by satellite at community stations and retransmitted to audiences in areas that might not even have simple electrification. For those stations that don't have satellite, the programs can be received via the internet, or simple postal mail, and then retransmitted to a wider audience. These simple techniques of tailoring available technology to local capacity are part of what the phrase "globalization from below" is all about. By using the tools and technology of globalization to foster democratic dialogue and participation, these media movements are, to quote one Bolivian organizer, "turning communication into an empowerment process." Maria Suarez, founder of FIRE (the Feminist International Radio Endeavour) based in Costa Rica, who regularly takes a small laptop computer and a dial-up modem to international events in order to stream live radio programming over the internet summed up the model when she said. "What we do at FIRE is combine voice, technology and actions to amplify people's voices worldwide and extend democraticization." But the picture on the global stage is not a rosy one. Renowned South African poet, activist, and former political prisoner Dennis Brutus said in an interview this afternoon, that he had just been speaking via a television link from Porto Alegre to the protests at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "They complained to me that the commercial media did not want to cover the message of the protests at Davos," he said. "I told them, 'Of course not, you're telling them something they don't want to hear.'" But they are hearing it. Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva said in a speech Friday that the Porto Alegre forum had managed to put itself on the front page, and to "put social issues back on the table at Davos." These comments were echoed by Beverly Bell, founder and director of the Center for Economic Justice, when she said, "The World Social Forums in Porto Alegre have really changed the debate, and they are changing the way we organize. A few years ago you couldn't talk about capitalism or neo-liberal economic policies in the US, now these terms are part of the regular discussion," she said, referring to recent articles in the mainstream national US press. But even as efforts to democratize the media are growing and flourishing at the grassroots, corporate consolidation is racing to minimize the diversity of voices people will be able to hear. In a workshop discussing the upcoming WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) an event sponsored by the United Nations scheduled to take place this December in Geneva, participants discussed attempts to keep the voices of civil society at the table. The Bush administration already plans to push for an international treaty on "cyber-terrorism" - which includes many provisions akin to the USA Patriot Act. One French delegate expressed the fear that "they are trying to circle us in, to fence the global knowledge commons." The corporate consolidation of broadcasting in the United States is being echoed throughout the globe, explained panelists in a large session at the Gigantinho Stadium on "Media and Globalization." Many countries do not even have a system of licensing non-commercial radio stations, and pirate stations are being shut down more vigorously now by governments. Earlier this month a pirate station in Austin, Texas was forced off the air, and even right here in Porto Alegre, telecommunications officials last August shut down a pirate station in a poor neighborhood that had been operating for over two years. "The media," one delegate noted, "is no longer merely a source of information, it has become an actor in the efforts to control markets and populations." But in spite of these trends, attendees at the Third World Social Forum continued to express hope and optimism. "Being together with all these wonderful, committed activists is incredibly recharging," said Beverly Bell, "that is what I will take back with me." There is truly a sense among people in Porto Alegre that a new form of social organization is taking place. "People are full of hope here," said Dennis Brutus, "they know that we are making another world possible."

OH the author was
Ha Thi Lan Anh | Feb 3rd, 2003
======= Norman Stockwell is a freelance journalist and Operations Coordinator for WORT-FM Community Radio in Madison, Wisconsin. He is currently in Porto Alegre working with AMARC, the World Association of Community Radio, to produce reports for the website .

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