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Another World is Possible

"The globe is divided, they write, in two worlds with different values, different worldviews and ideas of progress...Where corporate globalists see the spread of democracy and flourishing markets, citizen movements see a power shift away from the people and local communities to financial speculators and world conglomerates..."
Another World is Possible

The Manifesto of the World Social Forum

By Toralf Staud

[This article originally published in: DIE ZEIT 06/2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.zeit.de/2002/06/Wirtschaft/print_wsf_manifest.html.]

Porto Alegre, February 1, 2002

Lori Wallach loves concreteness. The director of the organization Global Trade Watch from Washington, D.C. had a thick stack of papers when she sat on the stage Friday in the largest hall of the World Social Forum. To the thousand listeners she beat a path through the abbreviation jungle of the world economy in explaining what the IMF, GATT, WTO, NAFTA, GATS and TRIPS mean. Then she raised a printed volume as thick as a telephone book and waved it wildly here and there. This is the WTO or rather the text of the multilateral trade rules of the World Trade Organization. Suddenly the overpowering enemy of all those who came to Porto Alegre was very concrete. "This is merely a collection of rules!" cried Wallach. Then she threw the packet in a high arc on the stage floor so it crashed. "And they don't function!" The audience applauded wildly. "We must make clear to the general public", she pointed to the floor, "that this is only one version how the world can be governed!"

The Social Forum examined in detail the negative consequences of this version, the current world trade order. The rich become ever richer and the poor ever poorer. There is hunger on all continents, unemployment and destruction of the environment. All this is because capitalism is less and less controlled. The supporters of free world trade (if they would have been in Porto Alegre) would presumably argue: the reason for this poverty of the world is that capitalism is still bridled too much. A truly free market would remedy this evil. In addition, corporations and governments can still do many things to relieve the poverty of the poor. "What they do is treat cancer with aspirin", commented Hector de la Cueva of the Alianza Social Continental from Mexico who sat next to Lori Wallach on the podium. Martin Khor, director of the Third World Network with its seat in Malaysia quoted the latest statistics of the UN.

Free world trade has not paid off for Ghana. At the end of the 80s, there were 80,000 industrial jobs in the west African country. Ten years and several reforms later there were only 30,000. Khor: "The same thing can be observed in many other developing countries which opened their markets."

The greatest weaknesses of the globalization critics in the past was that they offered no counter-model. As Lori Wallach lamented: "Our greatest problem is that we are described by the media as anti-globalizers." This time could now be past. The International Forum on Globalization - founded in 1994 with its seat in San Francisco - has written a text that could become the manifesto of the movement. "A better world is possible", it says in old-fashioned almost solemn words. "Society is at a crossroads." On Friday afternoon the report was presented publically for the first time in a thin pamphlet of 20 pages, the summary of a detailed report that should be finished in several weeks.

Some of the most distinguished minds of the movement are among the authors: Walden Bello, Martin Khor, David Korten, Vandana Shiva and Lori Wallach. The globe is divided, they write, in two worlds with different values, different worldviews and different ideas of progress. On one side is the world of mammoth corporations and on the other the world of citizens. "Where corporate globalists see the spread of democracy and flourishing markets, citizen movements see a power shift away from the people and local communities to financial speculators and world conglomerates with short-term profit in mind." After a chapter on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank ("Criticism of Economic Globalization"), "Ten Principles for Democratic and Sustainable Societies" are outlined. This is the core of the report:

1. Democracy
2. Subsidiarity
3. Ecological sustainability
4. The un-privatization of the public inheritance (including natural resources, culture, knowledge, public services like the health and education systems)
5. Universal human rights
6. A right to earn a living
7. Food
8. Justice
9. Cultural, biological, social and economic diversity and
10. Commitment to farsighted decisions

Inanother chapter, supplements and alternatives to the current global institutions are described like an international bankruptcy court, regional monetary fund (instead of a central IMF) and an organization for corporate responsibility under the shelter of the UN controlling multinational conglomerates.

"We must work profoundly on language", declared John Cavanagh, chairperson of the authors collective and director of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. The report arose in a three year discussion process and will need three more years for completion. The International Forum on Globalization will debate the present version worldwide. A regional forum is planned for every continent, the first in Chile in the fall of 2002 and the second in Asia in the spring of 2003. Cavanagh does not believe that the "Ten Principles" will become an official government - or business program anywhere. However that isn't the goal. "We want to enter the discourse", he says. Hopefully the new principles will soon be known and recognized so that no one will pass they by anymore. When a government, an international institution or some business begins with other principles, this should be justified publically.

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