The Promise of Porto Alegre


| January 25, 2001


The Promise of Porto Alegre

This weekend, critics of corporate globalization are gathering in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre for the first World Social Forum. Unlike other events of the last year and a half -- in Seattle, Washington, Prague and elsewhere -- this time they won't just be protesting against the injustices of global capitalism, writes Ignacio Ramonet in the left-leaning French journal Le Monde Diplomatique. 'This time,' he says, 'in a positive and constructive spirit, they will be working towards creating a practical and theoretical framework for a new kind of globalization.'

The event is timed to coincide with the World Economic Summit, an annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland, where heads of governments and corporations gather to plot global economic policy. And the captains of capitalism are worried, says Ramonet. 'They take very seriously the citizen protests that descend on them every time there is a meeting of one of the world's major governing institutions. From Seattle to Nice, the World Trade Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Group of 7, even the European Union.'

Activists chose Porto Alegre because in recent years the city has become a symbol of progress in social innovation and sustainable urban planning. 'The key to this success,' Ramonet explains, 'has been its 'participatory budget', which makes it genuinely possible for the inhabitants of any given neighborhood to define concretely and democratically where municipal funds are to be allocated.' This has led to spectacular improvements in everything from housing to literacy to garbage collection.

It is against this remarkable backdrop, writes Ramonet, that 'the World Social Forum will be trying to create an alternative model of globalisation -- one that is not built on principles of exclusion.'
--Leif Utne
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