Archive | Columns

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM – WINNING THE BATTLE OF IDEAS

Posted on 25 March 2011 by editor

Mario Lubetkin, IPS Director General

By Mario Lubetkin (*)

Rome, Mar (IPS TerraViva) Paradoxically, just as history is proving the World Social Forum right in many of its predictions and analyses, the major media, those “shapers of public opinion”, are not increasing but in fact sharply decreasing their coverage of it. This silent treatment is a clear obstacle to the expansion of the WSF and a cause of real concern for many of its innumerable organisers and participants.

This situation was recognised in the final February 10 declaration by the Social Movements of the WSF, which concluded that the forum must undertake “a battle of ideas, in which we cannot move forward unless there is a democratisation of communication.”

It is curious that ten years ago journalists from around the world flocked to Porto Alegre to cover the WSF debates, which were given broad coverage in print and on television.

It could be argued that this was simply a result of the novelty of the forum and its flood of activists proclaiming, “another world is possible” while the rest of the world careened blindly towards disaster.

The surprise was greater still when the following year, in 2002, certain members of the WSF, where attendance rose steadily, were elected presidents of their countries -like Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva in Brazil.

But these developments, it would seem, were moving contrary to the currents of history. In the same period, with the exception of certain slips -like the popping of the so-called dot.com bubble and the subsequent collapse of 4854 Internet companies between 2000-2003- capitalism, and especially financial capitalism, was charging full steam ahead. It outstripped the real economy, swelled the Gross World Product and international trade, and generated massive earnings for its businesses -insurance companies and banks, especially investment banks- giving the impression that the good times would never end.

From its first years the WSF denounced with tenacity and rigour the elements of the reigning neoliberal ideology that would lead to global disaster: the so-called Washington Consensus that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was imposing on countries of the South, extreme liberalisation, blind faith in the market as the ideal arbiter of the economy, rejection of any regulation especially of the financial firms which were conducting massive levels of speculation. The ruin that resulted is plain to see all around us.

One might think that, since history proved the WSF right, the media might have grown curious about the prescient arguments and predictions of the Forum. But the opposite happened: in recent years, particularly since the global depression struck in 2008, the presence of media at the forum has dropped continuously.

What was more logical was the parallel decline in the media’s coverage of the World Economic Forum, which saw its fundamental postulates proved terribly wrong.

Of course, part of this contradiction has to do with the characteristics and errors of the WSF itself. The analysis of this matter is important given that the Forum constitutes the largest agglomeration of civil society in the world. Four aspects deserve close study:

-The structure of the forums consists of numerous simultaneous meetings on different themes. Thus the journalists must choose which they would like to attend and may find it difficult to make an assessment of the forum as a whole. This is accentuated by the organisational problems of the forum, which were particularly evident in the last meeting in Dakar. This dispersed nature of the event can thus distract attention from the ideas that it generates, including the best suggestions for solutions to the world’s problems.

-In general the journalists who cover the forum are inadequately prepared. Providing good coverage of specialised debates requires a high level of expertise on fields ranging from ecology, finance, minority rights, and philosophical, political, theological, sociological discussions.

-The WSF has thus far lacked a true communications strategy. Despite its extraordinary capacity to draw people from civil society, its management and organisational staff is limited and lacks resources. It could produce better results if it recognised the importance of having and implementing a communications strategy.

-The operation of the mass media has changed dramatically in this decade and requires a rethinking that factors in the new modes of exchange made possible by the Internet and electronic devices, social networks, and major alternative media like Al Jazeera and blogs like the Huffington Post, which have shown serious interest in this subject.

The coincidence of the Dakar Forum and the toppling of the regimes in North Africa has charged the debate and all groups linked to the WSF and challenged them to demonstrate the power and potential of those proposing to build “another world” using new forms of civil organisation and communication.

(*) Mario Lubetkin is Director-General of IPS news agency.

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This World Is Impossible

Posted on 08 February 2011 by editor

Mario Lubetkin, IPS Director General. Credit: Abdullah Vawda/IPS TerraVIva

By Mario Lubetkin (*)

The World Social Forum now underway in Dakar was preceded by a series of meetings throughout the year that confirmed the uniqueness of the WSF as a place to discuss the major problems of the world and proposals to address them. IPS has covered this entire process. (http://www.ipsnews.net/) Continue Reading

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Este Mundo Es Imposible

Posted on 08 February 2011 by editor

Mario Lubetkin, Director General de IPS. Crédito: Abdullah Vawda/IPS TerraViva.

Por Mario Lubetkin

El Foro Social Mundial que hoy se celebra en Dakar ha sido precedido por una serie de encuentros a lo largo del a√Īo precedente que han confirmado su posici√≥n √ļnica como espacio de discusi√≥n de los grandes problemas mundiales y de las propuestas para resolverlos, que IPS ha acompa√Īado en sus coberturas (http://www.ipsnoticias.net/). Continue Reading

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African Dictators’ Club Has Lost a Member

Posted on 06 February 2011 by admin

By Rosebell Kagumire*

KAMPALA, Feb 6 (TerraViva) – Most people in Uganda fall into one of two categories – those that fear the regime and those that fear life after the regime. Continue Reading

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HAITI: January 12, 2011 and Us

Posted on 11 January 2011 by editor

Dark clouds from Hurricane Tomas, which buffeted Haiti in November, loom over a tent camp in Port-au-Prince. Credit:UN Photo/Logan Abassi

By Ericq Pierre*

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 7, 2011 (IPS) – The anniversary of the earthquake is on Jan. 12. Never before had Haiti seen so many victims from a single catastrophe in so short a time. Never had Haitians experienced such solidarity, nor received so much attention from abroad and from the international community.
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Nuevo consenso: Por un mundo habitable para todos

Posted on 06 January 2011 by editor

Credit: Claudia Diez de Medina IPS/TerraViva

Por Federico Mayor, Martí Olivella, Roberto Savio

DICIEMBRE 2010 (IPS TerraViva) – La historia nos juzgar√° severamente si no somos capaces de dar respuesta a los retos y oportunidades que la crisis global nos plantea. En vez de financiar con 50.000 millones de d√≥lares la reducci√≥n de la pobreza, pactada como uno de los Objetivos del Milenio, el consenso gobernante ha dedicado 50 veces m√°s para salvar a los bancos especuladores que son demasiado grandes para dejarlos caer”, contradiciendo su propia doctrina neoliberal de que el mercado se autoregula y que los gobiernos no deben intervenir. Los rescatadores” empobrecidos se ven ahora acosados por las instituciones financieras que, a trav√©s de agencias de calificaci√≥n de dudosa objetividad, llevan la especulaci√≥n al m√°ximo. Est√° clara la necesidad de elaborar un nuevo consenso que sustituya al fracasado Consenso de Washington, principal causante de la crisis m√ļltiple (financiera, medioambiental, pol√≠tica, democr√°tica, √©tica) que vivimos. Continue Reading

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The Decline of Social Democracy

Posted on 15 March 2010 by editor

Ignacio Ramonet

By Ignacio Ramonet (*)

PARIS, Mar (IPS TerraViva) Ideas die too. The cemetery of political parties overflows with the remains of organisations that at one time ignited passions and roused multitudes but are now relegated to oblivion. Who in Europe today agrees with Radicalism, though it was one of the most important political forces (centre-left) of the second half of the 19th century? Or Anarchism? Or Stalinist Communism? What happened to these formidable mass movements that in their day could mobilise millions of workers and peasant farmers? Were they just passing fashions?
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WORLD AT A CROSSROADS

Posted on 14 February 2010 by admin

Kumi Naidoo

By Kumi Naidoo (*)

AMSTERDAM, Feb (IPS) As the new Executive Director of Greenpeace International I am often asked what changes I plan to make for the
organisation. The response I give is one which I believe applies to Civil Society as a whole: I would like us to become even more inclusive in our
membership, even more united with other groups in our work, even more determined in talking truth to power, and even more active all around the
globe.¬†Many of our world’s most important international infrastructures are in¬†shambles, which has both contributed to and exacerbated the current series
of manmade crises: food crisis, oil crisis, poverty crisis, and, of course, the climate crisis.
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THE WORLD MUST BUILD A CULTURE OF PEACE

Posted on 25 January 2010 by editor

Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Anwarul Chowdhury (*)

NEW YORK, Jan (IPS) On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, in December 1998, a group of civil society organisations launched a global campaign for the universal recognition of the human right to peace. They called upon all “to prevent violence, intolerance, and injustice in our countries and societies in order to overcome the cult of war and to build a Culture of Peace”.

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EUROPE MUST REFORGE ECONOMIC APPROACH TO ACP COUNTRIES

Posted on 24 January 2010 by admin

Kader Arif. Credit: Guillaume Paumier

By Kader Arif (*)

BRUSSELS, Dec (IPS)  At a time when many are already thinking about the end of the economic crisis, few pay attention to the dilemma facing the countries of Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific (ACP). Today, harbouring the illusion that their lack of financial development might insulate ACP countries from the global depression, western politicians have not budged an inch with regard to their policy on these areas.

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