By Yana Marull
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Thousands of critics of capitalism meeting in Brazil called Sunday for a worldwide protest in June to press for concrete steps to tackle the global economic crisis.
The World Social Forum wrapped up a five-day meeting in this southern Brazilian city, urging citizens to "take to the streets on June 5" for the global action, which would be in support of social and environmental justice.
The forum also announced a "peoples' summit" of social movements to be held in parallel with the high-level UN conference on sustainable development scheduled next June 20-22 in Rio.
The Rio+20 summit, the fourth major gathering on sustainable development since 1972, will press world leaders to commit themselves to creating a social and "green economy," with priority being given to eradicating hunger.
But World Social Forum participants, including representatives of the Arab Spring, Spain's "Indignant" movement, Occupy Wall Street, and students from Chile, sharply criticized the concept of "a green economy" that would allow multinational corporations to reap the profit.
"The political and economic elites are the one percent who control the world and we are the one percent seeking to change it. Where are the (other) 98 percent?" said Chico Whitaker, one of the Forum's founders.
"There are many who are happy because each time they get more consumer goods, but many are concerned and unsatisfied. The challenge for us is to speak with them."
"If we do not raise the issue of inequality, we won't solve the problems," said Venezuelan sociologist Edgardo Lander.
"If the system is not capable of redistributing and deal with inequality, we have to do it ourselves," agreed Sam Halvorsen, of the Occupy London movement.
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 held at the same time in the Swiss resort of Davos.
Addressing the gathering Thursday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff appealed for "a development model that articulates growth and job creation, battles poverty and decreases inequalities," and advocates for the "sustainable use and preservation of natural resources."
Candido Grzywoski, one of the founders and a coordinator of the Forum, said the urgency of the global economic crisis and the popular indignation around the world "gave us more unity in diversity."
The Forum, which drew around 40,000 participants this year, 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.
Next year, it will be held in Cairo.
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