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Anti-globalization World Social Forum to Meet in Brazil - 2001-11-27

Organizers of the World Social Forum say they expect more than 50,000 participants to attend their six-day January meeting in Brazil, twice as many as this year. The upcoming conference will bring together delegates from around the world to discuss alternatives to globalization.

Organizers say the second World Social Forum, which opens January 31, also will coincide - as did the first conference - with the annual World Economic Forum meeting. Traditionally held in Davos, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum brings together national leaders, top executives, and economists to discuss ways of promoting free markets and free trade.

The World Social Forum was created by non-governmental groups and social activists as an "anti-Davos" meeting to present alternatives to economic globalization.

The first Social Forum, held in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre last January, brought together more than 20,000 people for discussions. Organizers of this second conference - which also will be held in Porto Alegre - say they expect the number of participants to more than double because of the widespread interest generated by the first event.

Speaking to reporters in Rio de Janeiro, Candido Grzybowski of the Brazilian non-governmental group IBASE said this second conference needs to come up with concrete proposals. "The first one was mainly saying 'it is possible to do something', we must believe it is possible'. The second one must be more effective in proposals, and this is a challenge for us," he said.

Scores of seminars and workshops will be held on topics ranging from world trade and intellectual property rights to environmental sustainability and food security. Leading intellectuals and other international figures - such as Noam Chomsky, Portuguese writer Jose Saramago, and Nobel Peace Laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel - have confirmed their attendance at this second Social Forum.

The aim, Mr. Grzybowski says, is to find alternatives to globalization. "The main thing for us is that globalization is linked only to the interests of big, multinational corporations. The problem is to link society to the economy. We must be productive, and open markets are important for that, but we must be more accountable for human rights, participation, bringing equality to the world, these kind issues. For that we are thinking of alternatives," he said.

Porto Alegre was initially chosen as the site for the World Social Forum meeting because it is the capital of a state led by a progressive governor of Brazil's leftist Workers' Party. But organizers say they hope to hold their third conference, in 2003, in India, and the fourth in Africa in an effort to further broaden participation.