Prominent leftist intellectuals and politicians are calling for a new global social and economic order, springing from the ideas and proposals that will be discussed at the second annual World Social Forum. The six-day conference, which gets underway late Thursday in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, has brought together anti-globalization activists from around the world.
Some 13,000 delegates are registered to attend the World Social Forum, along with thousands of social activists, students, and others who have come to Porto Alegre for the event.
The World Social Forum, held for the first time last year, coincides with the World Economic Forum, which brings together leading business executives and political leaders to discuss promoting free trade and free markets. That meeting, usually held in Davos, Switzerland, is taking place this year in New York to show solidarity with the city after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
In Porto Alegre, organizers and participants say they aim to provide alternatives to the free market model, commonly termed globalization, which they say has exacerbated poverty and social injustice around the world.
They will exchange ideas and proposals for creating a world free of war, hunger and poverty at the hundreds of workshops, conferences, and seminars over the next six days.
The Forum is being held as the world's attention has shifted away from the anti-globalization movement, known for its sometimes violent attempts to disrupt international trade talks such as in Seattle and Genoa. Last year's
Social Forum was an attempt by the movement to show its peaceful and constructive side. This year, with the September 11 attacks and the issue of global terrorism now center stage, leading participants at the Forum in Brazil say world peace should be a central issue at the Porto Alegre meeting.
Brazilian presidential candidate Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, of the leftist Workers Party, or PT, made the appeal for peace at a news conference Thursday. Mr. da Silva, who leads opinion polls for next October's presidential election, told reporters what emerges from Porto Alegre will be in stark contrast to the discussions at the World Economic Forum.
"The participants at the Economic Forum will envy what we do here, because they know that part of the reason why there is violence around the globe is due to the insensitivity of those who run the world economy," he said.
Harsher criticism came from Noam Chomsky, a prominent American intellectual, who told reporters Thursday the current free market model is designed to perpetuate global inequality. Mr. Chomsky went on to describe the Social Forum as the expression of what he called a true globalization movement aimed at achieving social justice.
"In my opinion, the World Social Forum is really the first and the most promising realization of the traditional commitment of the left and the workers' movements to an international globalization aimed at the concerns of the general population," he said.
These sentiments were clearly evident among the thousands of people who marched through the streets of Porto Alegre Thursday, singing and chanting slogans, as the World Social Forum conference got underway. One banner carried by the crowd seemed to sum up what these activists hope to achieve at this meeting: Globalize the Fight, Globalize the Hope.