World Social Forum Shows Commonality of People's Goals
by Dianne Bady
Vivian Stockman and I traveled to the World Social Forum
thanks to the Ford Foundations 2001 Leadership for a Changing World awarded
to Laura Forman, Janet Fout and I.
The World Social Forum's opening march in Porte Alegre, Brazil, on Jan. 23,
2003. About 50,000 people from all over the globe, representing a huge array of
issues, united to march in the streets as an affirmation of their collective
belief that another world is possible - a world without neo-liberal
globalization and its associated imperialism and militarization. All marchers
beseeched the United States to withdraw from its threatened invasion of Iraq and
instead take all means to work toward peace in the Persian Gulf region and
worldwide. photo by Viv Stockman
Close to 100,000 people from all over the planet gathered in
Porto Alegre, Brazil, in late January to meet, march and celebrate the theme
"Another World is Possible."
It was sobering to hear how U.S.-based extractive industries
are harming other countries, but also inspiring to learn more about how in
Europe, the transition to renewable energy sources is far ahead of the U.S.
One workshop I attended was called "Confronting
Corporations." There were 35 of us from 19 different countries, all talking
about how mining and oil corporations, most of them U.S. based, are ravaging
their environment and making a mockery of democracy.
Here in central Appalachia, where coal corporations are
blowing up the mountains, being an environmental activist during the Bush
administration is no picnic. But we are privileged in this country. Several
folks from poor nations asked me if people in our group have been murdered, as
has happened in their movements.
Activists from Columbia said they believed that the U.S.
military bases there, and U.S.-dominated foreign policy, are part of the overall
strategy to allow oil companies to run roughshod over their country and their
But, just like us, folks all over the world are organizing to
try to force positive change. Austrian and Canadian people told of how mass
mobilizations, shareholder activism, and church involvement resulted in
improvements in oil activities in Sudan.
People from the Pantanal area of Brazil and Paraguay, from
Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Chile and Bolivia, all stressed the importance of working
in international alliances.
Many are convinced that United States groups are especially
important to have as working allies, because, as they say, we are in the belly
of the beast.
Were all facing the same problems the greed and power
of energy and mining corporations who have a disproportionate influence over our
governments and over foreign policy.
(More on the World Social Forum will be in the next Winds