Looking Back: The 2009 World Social Forum

Published on Council on Hemisperic Affairs COHA, research by Michael Ramirez and Orion Cruz, March 20th, 2009.

As hundreds of prominent figures in the global financial and political sectors convened in Davos, Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual gala, beginning on January 27, over 100,000 individuals traveled to Belém, Brazil for the rival eighth annual World Social Forum (WSF) …

… Putting words into Action:

Despite the WSF often being dismissed as a fading leftist’s fantasy, the 2009 convention marks the year that the gathering evolved into a high-minded and highly relevant vehicle. For many of those who attended Belém, the economic crisis was viewed as an enormous opportunity to bring down the current system and replace it with something new, forceful and transformative. There was a general acceptance throughout the forum that change was on the way, but no ascertainable certainty about the kind of change it would be. Instead, there was a focus on discussion about the sort of change that the people wanted to see, which overall was oriented away from the occasional amoralities of a free market system. At the minimum, it was identified that there is a dire need for economic and environmental practices to be restructured, which cannot be predictably achieved by means of the current laissez faire system.

Although the interests represented at the WSF came together with the intention to initiate a movement for social and environmental transformation worldwide, their ability to turn ideas into hard planning will, in part, be measured by the demonstrations at the opening of the upcoming G-20 summit in London. Regardless of the outcome, they will help delineate the world’s future economic woes. President Lula will be introducing a newly formulated manifesto for the development of more responsible financial institutions that more accurately reflect the development and growth of international institutions, aimed at gradually replacing or supplanting the World Bank, the IMF and the World Trade Organization. The degree to which the G-20 countries acknowledge the Belém activists’ appeals will help predict the extent of the role their left-leaning ideas might play in cooperating with most developed economies in order to construct a new type of socially-oriented and just global economy.

If Belém and the protests during the G-20 Summit in London have successfully made a point, civil society groups believe their efforts will result in significant improvements. Although their pursuits may have to be far-reaching to make an imprint, Latin America’s voices have intensified as the hemisphere has emerged as the largest international supplier of raw materials. Feelings of solidarity and a sense of confidence have come out from the WSF, and while they have previously been stymied, this time they were being created within a somewhat more conducive global context. Even if the demonstrations do not amount to everything desired, under the current economic circumstances, the forum’s left-leaning advocates are standing on a much better practical footing than they have been in the past. (full long text).

Comments are closed.