BRASILIA — Tens of thousands of anti-capitalist militants, including members of Spain’s “Indignant” movement and the US Occupy Wall Street, are due to attend the World Social Forum, which opens Tuesday in Brazil.
The forum is an alliance of social movements opposed to the World Economic Forum, the annual gathering of the world’s economic and political elites being held at the same time in the Swiss resort of Davos.
From Tuesday to Sunday, participants in the World Social Forum will meet in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre to weigh alternative solutions to the global economic crisis.
President Dilma Rousseff is expected to attend the event along with 70,000 other people.
Under the slogan “Capitalist crisis, Social and Environmental Justice,” the forum aims to lay the groundwork for a peoples’ summit of social movements to be held in parallel to the high-level UN conference on sustainable development scheduled for June in Rio.
The World Social Forum has its roots in 1999 street protests in the US city of Seattle during a World Trade Organization meeting but it settled in Porto Alegre as its regular venue 12 years ago when it drew 20,000 activists from around the world.
Since then, it has brought together up to 150,000 people in various world cities under the motto “Another World is Possible”.
“The forum was born to challenge the arrogance of the neo-liberals in Davos. We said clearly that we wanted another world. Now we must build the ways, the alternatives,” forum coordinator Candido Grzybowski told AFP.
This year the forum is opening its doors to other voices and protest groups from around the world, including the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Spain’s “Indignant” group and students from Chile.
“They are movements which have a radicalism that is not old style. They are not molded by the traditional leftist tradition. They have been brave enough to take to the streets and confront” the system they criticize, Grzybowski added.
Yet in recent years, the forum appears to have run out of steam, so organizers hope to revitalize it by identifying alternative solutions to the world’s economic, political and environmental challenges.
The emergence of various protest movements show the limits of political parties and how traditional political and labor leaders are distanced from the grass roots, said Chico Whitaker, a co-founder of the forum.
Summarizing the general disillusionment, Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Souza compares democracy to “a closed house, occupied by a group of extra-terrestrials who democratically makes decisions affecting their interests and dictatorially decide on the interests of the vast majority.”
One priority will be preparing the peoples summit set to coincide with next June’s Rio+20 summit “to give a voice to those who resist the advances of the predatory development hiding behind a green face,” according to a statement.
The forum will open with a march by activists Tuesday, with debates to kick off the following day at the same time as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, inaugurates the Davos meeting of the world’s elite.