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Activists at ‘World Social Forum’ Seek World without Capitalism


Activists and journalists wait to see former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade, outside a World Social Forum event attended by the two leaders, at the Place du Souvenir in Dakar, Senegal, February 7, 2011.

Activists and journalists wait to see former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade, outside a World Social Forum event attended by the two leaders, at the Place du Souvenir in Dakar, Senegal, February 7, 2011.

Tens of thousands of activists are in Senegal for the World Social Forum, an annual gathering of anti-capitalists promoting progressive causes.

The 11th annual World Social Forum officially kicked off this week with representatives of more than 123 countries convening in Senegal's capital to highlight the world's problems.

The gathering follows the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, serving as a foil to what activists see as an elitist convention for the well-to-do.

The week's events include a roster of discussion panels to address issues such as gender rights, the environment, democracy, land grabs and sovereign debt.

This is the second time the forum has been held in Africa. It is taking on the theme of “The Crisis of the Capitalist System” in the wake of the global financial meltdown of 2008.

A speech delivered by the popular former president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, underlined the forum's leftist agenda.

Mr. da Silva said after years of being ignored, developing countries are now being called on to solve the biggest crisis of the last decade, a crisis that was born from the centers of capitalism.

A translator at the forum, Abdelaziz Loudiy, was more forceful in his opinion, saying the forum may not change the world but inspires hope for a new consensus to counter globalization.

He says capitalism is a machine of war, and to destroy it, one has to build his own machine.

Critics of the forum say it is this type of fiery rhetoric that has caused people not to take the conference as seriously, as well as to bring up the question of what the forum has accomplished in its decade of existence.

But French activist Marion Abguillerm says the forum is really a place to share ideas and promote grassroots advocacy. “Dialogue is important between different countries. We need intercultural exchange to understand the problems and confront points of views, and propose global solutions,” Abguillerm said.

Many speakers and activists cited the recent revolts in Tunisia and Egypt as proof that people power does work.


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