World Social Forum - Day 1: "Another World is Possible"

Photos: Stephen Messenger

On a hot and muggy afternoon, thousands gathered to attend a march today for the opening of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This marks the tenth anniversary of the event which brings global leaders, intellectuals, and enthusiastic spectators from around the world to meet and discuss ways to combat "imperialism, neoliberalism and any form of world domination by capital." Hoping to unify the movements of the far left, the event aims to end the "ideological crisis of the left" and fulfill its motto that "another world is possible." This year, special focus is given to issues concerning the environment that "threaten mankind with extinction."The Forum's Liberal Roots
The World Social Forum (WSF) premiered in 2001 to counter the growth of the neolibral movement at the beginning of the last decade by the far-left. The first event popularized new models of government which sought to include greater participation from even minor social movement. It was sponsored, in part, by the Brazilian Worker's Party and was considered an important platform for their then-presidential candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's rise to power.

The Brazilian President is scheduled to speak at a WSF event tomorrow to discuss the progress he and others have made in advancing the agendas outlined in past forums.


Looking Back, Moving Forward
Ten years later, the 10th WSF is hoping to learn from hindsight of past successes and shortcomings--by "examining the new challenges of civil" in attempt to "design future directions." While the Forum has been the political cradle of at least one major world leader, the most ambitious attendees have long hoped the event would result in the creation of a unified "international" leftist party.

The meetings will take place over five days across Brazil's southernmost state's capital city, and will cover a range of topics including political, economic, and environmental issues--the last of which being of particular import for WSF founder Oded Grajew:

If we do not change the development model, the human species is at risk of extinction in this century. No single organization can go beyond certain limits; challenges today are global.

A March to Mark the Opening
As per usual, the first day of the World Social Forum was kicked-off with a rousing march through the host city, Porto Alegre. Thousands attended, carrying banners, flags, quilts, and signs representing a broad spectrum of social issues to advance: from gay marriage and animal rights, to policies on indigenous peoples and teacher funding.

The march's participants themselves were as diverse as the various issues that brought them to all together this afternoon--a group of doctors carrying silk-screened banners traversed the streets alongside a costume-clad theater troupe--an old Peruvian couple in traditional garb walked in front of a throng of dreadlocked hippies, clapping their hands along with the banging drums.


Many Causes Under One Banner
Some might say the march was a study in contrasts but for the singularity of purpose in recognizing the need for help in advancing one another's cause. Indeed, the WSF aims to unify the factions of the far-left into a more cohesive ideology--one that wields a greater ability to sway the political or cultural tide than does the sum of its parts.

When the WSF began 10 years ago, there was the question: how does society have the possibility to carry out its mission and goals? Each one of us, every organization is very fragile, very little on the task that lies ahead. The challenges today are global, are global. Civil society organizations can not carry out your needs if you are alone. The idea of the WSF is to give an opportunity to strengthen civil society as to facilitate their goals.

Of the People and for the People
Despite the eclectic list of planned events and discussion to be had by global political leaders and noted intellectuals surrounding the WSF, unofficial festivities held by the attendees from around the world are said to be the among the most memorable. After all, the World Social Forum is more a megaphone than a muzzle.

Grajew:

We must revise the way we treat our fellow man. We know how to act without the "parent" of the forum to tell us what to do.

Check out coverage of Day 2 at the World Social Forum tomorrow.

Tags: Activism | Brazil | Communities | Cooperatives | Economics

Best of TreeHugger