02/02/2009 / BRAZIL

The World Social Forum in Belem. Better than Porto Alegré?

@ http://observers.france24.com/en/content/20090202-anti-capitalist-world-social-forum-belem (external link)

The anti-capitalist World Social Forum is in its ninth year. But while this year's event, held in Belem, has attracted an impressive 100,000 people, the crowds aren't as large as in 2005, when participants in Porto Alegré, Brazil, numbered 155,000. One of our Observers, who attended both forums, compares the two.

"Nothing like the vast international spectrum of causes and activists present in Porto Alegré in 2005"

Nate Cull is a Kiwi visiting the event with his brother, a slum aid worker living in Brazil.

It's much more chaotic and less well-organised than Porto Alegré 2005. The Forum is a more dense, built-up site and UPRA a huge sprawling tract of land that seems to take an hour to walk across. Combine that with 30-degree heat, the afternoon paper-eating rain, lots of shouting people with a stage and a loudspeaker, apparently far fewer international and English-speaking exhibitors, and 100,000 visitors, and it's a recipe for exhaustion. The collection of groups we've encountered so far seems very disappointing. Several banks - which is very odd at an anti-capitalist event - governmental agencies, political parties (of the loud red-flag-waving type... come to think of it, I thought one of the Forum ground rules was 'no political parties or armed struggle groups')... so nothing like the vast international spectrum of causes and activists present in 2005. I think the main reason behind this is because it's much harder to get to. I'm here with my brother because he works doing humanitarian aid in a slum in Brazil and is looking for people involved in similar projects. I joined a workshop run by the American Friends Service Committee which turned out to discuss US-Mexico immigration policy, countering military recruiting, a group developing anti-war films in Armenia, and a journalism student from Rio concerned about favela violence."