World Social Forum: 'Globalization is destroying itself'

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BELEM, Brazil (AFP) — The world economic crisis spells the death of globalization and action is needed to protect the poor, said organizers of the World Social Forum as it wrapped up in Brazil on Sunday.

"We have come out against neoliberal globalization, and now that this globalization is destroying itself we have to define the world we want," the founder of the event, Candido Grzybowski, told AFP.

Another member of the forum's organizing committee, Fatima Mello, said: "The crisis has forced us to improve our proposals. We have built up a big network against the crisis and we will launch various days of world action and campaigns this year to make sure the poor don't pay its high price."

The forum's leaders hailed the strong participation at this year's gathering, which brought together 133,000 people from unions, religious associations, family organizations, ecologists and other leftwing groups.

A large proportion of young attendees "guarantees the continuity of the World Social Forum," Grzybowski said.

The first major protest to be mounted from meetings at the forum will be on March 28, against a G20 summit of developed and developing nations in London called to evaluate measures to combat the crisis.

Unions and other groups subscribing to that demonstration complain the G20 is not representative enough, and want a body such as a reformed United Nations to take up the task.

They also suggested an international tax on financial transactions and the wealthy to finance global public programs, an end to speculation in commodity markets, and a shift of international monetary reserves away from the US dollar. Although the forum started in 2001 as a leftwing alternative to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, it has become increasingly focused on its own activities.

The presence this year of the leftist presidents of Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay underlined its growing political importance, according to organizers.

But attention was also directed at new US President Barack Obama, with hopes high among participants that he would reverse policies by his predecessor George W. Bush seen as damaging to the environment, Latin America's poor, and the economy.

Many of those attending the forum expressed frustration at its "chaotic" nature, saying disorganization hampered the search for unified solutions and analyses. "There was a lot of confusion between aims and methods," said Lieven Vanhoutte, representing the Belgian union La Centrale Generale.

He called many of the 2,000 debates that took place as "symbolic," but stressed that "the idea of bringing everyone together is a good one." Still, each association felt they had made some progress in pursuing their respective goals.

"Boycotting Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestinian land is on the social agenda for 2009," Arlene Clemesha, for the Palestinian Movement for All, told AFP.