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Thousands of Anti-Globalization Activists Gather in Bombay - 2004-01-14

Thousands of anti-globalization activists are gathering in the Indian city of Bombay for a six-day meeting of the World Social Forum. But the forum will deal with far more than multi-national commerce.

In a Bombay suburb, the walls outside the venue of the World Social Forum's meeting are covered with such slogans as "Resist Globalization" and "Another World is Possible".

Starting Friday, thousands of activists will focus on such issues as world trade, foreign debt, poverty, and unemployment. They say Bombay has been chosen as a venue because it symbolizes the downside of capitalism: it is India's commercial capital, but millions of residents live in slums, do not have access to sufficient water or cannot afford quality health care.

Among those raising their voices against what they call "multinational control and imperialist globalization" is Riccardo Petrella, a social activist from Belgium. He believes that globalization only helps those who are already rich.

"Globalization today means the triumph of the bible of competitiveness," he said. "And competitiveness selects only the best. And we have six billion people who are not the best."

The forum was first organized three years ago as a counterpoint to the annual meeting of government and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland. It has now become an annual rallying point for activists and non-governmental organizations from around the world, which believe globalization hurts developing countries and makes their poor populations even more deprived.

It has also become an umbrella for activists with a wide variety of interests and complaints.

Vandana Shiva, director of Gene Campaign in India, says activists like her oppose privatization and free markets because private corporations focus only on products, not people.

"Corporate globalization, economic globalization is about assuming that everything is a commodity," she said. "Water is a commodity, our genes are a commodity, our seeds are a commodity, knowledge is a commodity. Everything must be transacted through the market."

Activists like Subhashini Ali from India say they want to build public opinion against war.

"War is a very, very important focus because it is the ultimate tactic of globalization, to get markets and to control nations, which is what we are seeing in Iraq and many other parts of the world," said Subhashini Ali.

The organizers say 50,000 delegates have registered for the conference, including the Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.