The Promise of Porto Alegre

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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