January 28, 2003

Networking, Strategies as World Social Forum Closes

By Lucimara Nunes

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Far from the huge crowds and fanfare that greeted the more famous attendees of the third World Social Forum — including actor Danny Glover, linguist Noam Chomsky, and Brazilian President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva — groups of small activist organizations from all over the world were busy networking and developing new strategies for social change.

Organizers of the forum, responding to criticism that the event produces lots of talk and little action, cited letter-writing campaigns, new networks for activists worldwide, and a showcase of small businesses.

In the hopes of demonstrating that the notion of a “solidarity economy” has moved from the theoretical to the practical, organizers said that 5,000 workers from 37 organizations managed more than 400 business operations and earned US$1.5 million over the course of the event.

A crafts fair sold goods from small communities in South America, Asia and Africa, and showcased entrepreneurial projects seeking to develop new business opportunities, like Morro Alto Cafeteria Network, a Peruvian food-service group that employs 3,000 low-income women.

A three-day assembly of organizations — including the Indian Center of Trade Unions, the French debt relief and finance reform group Attac, the Latin American economics group Focus on the Global South, and Brazil’s Landless Movement and Central Office of Workers’ Unions — produced a new network to facilitate cooperation and participation in political debates worldwide.

Srilata Swaminathan of the Indian Council Center of Trade Unions said the networking will help build “a strong alliance … we did not know what organizations outside of our country were doing, but now we can exchange experiences.”

Gianni Fabris, an Italian member of the farmers’ advocacy group Via Campesina, said improved communications will strengthen mobilization worldwide.

“We can, for example, promote a world boycott against a multinational corporation through this network of social movements,” he said.

Other new actions emerging from the forum include a letter-writing campaign by education organizations calling for teachers worldwide to increase social-issues education, and a new network of health organizations denouncing the lack of public assistance for medicine.

 

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