World Social Forum - Porto Alegre, Brazil, 25-30 January, 2001


An IPS Publication

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Patricia Made

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World Economic Forum

DEVELOPMENT: 'Anti-Davos' Groups Claim Victory

By Gustavo Capdevila

GENEVA, Jan 30 (IPS) - Demonstrations and conferences in Switzerland and in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in protest of the World Economic Forum at the alpine resort city of Davos, gave the alternative view of globalisation the leg up, according to the groups that led a week of activism.

The Public Eye on Davos and the Porto Alegre-based World Social Forum, held in parallel to the World Economic Forum, ''were a great success,'' stated Miriam Behrens, of Pro Natura-Friends of the Earth Switzerland.

The two public conferences, said Behrens, ''challenged the legitimacy and the policies of the World Economic Forum,'' a 31- year-old institution that has met annually in the Swiss city of Davos to promote greater economic liberalisation, based on the neoliberal model.

The Davos Forum, which concluded Tuesday, once again attracted heads of government and of state, and top officials from developing countries who attend the event in pursuit of foreign investment through contacts made with executives of the world's top multinationals and renowned economists from industrialised nations.

Davos, an alpine tourist destination in eastern Switzerland, turned into a military stronghold for the week as Swiss authorities erected barriers to prevent protesters from reaching the meeting site.

Access to Davos by road or train was completely closed on Saturday, but anti-Davos hostility was reported in protests organised in several Swiss cities and on the border with Italy.

''The World Economic Forum was marked by 'police state' methods which had previously been unknown in Switzerland,'' charged one of the speakers at The Public Eye on Davos, Adam Ma'anit, of the Corporate Europe Observatory, who was arrested and faced deportation by the Swiss police.

Such incidents prove that ''the civil rights of a majority have been violated to protect the rights of a privileged few,'' commented Peter Bosshard, member of the Berne Declaration, one of the groups that coordinated The Public Eye event.

The anti-Davos demonstrations were also deemed a success by ''The Other Davos'' organisation, which held conferences and staged public rallies in Zurich and Davos with the slogan: ''A globalisation of resistance and struggle.'' ''The Other Davos'' involves organisations such as the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens (ATTAC), and Friends of 'Le Monde Diplomatique.'

The Swiss media's assessment about the results of the dispute between the alternative conferences at Zurich, Davos and Porto Alegre, and the neoliberal conference of the World Economic Forum, seemed to coincide with the evaluation of the non-governmental groups.

The 'Tribune de Genéve' newspaper, which has the largest circulation in this city, ran a front-page headline Tuesday saying ''The energy of Porto Alegre reveals the inertia of Davos.'' ''Globalisation is jolted between Davos, which serves the interests of the 'globalised,' and Porto Alegre, which proposes a more creative version of the new economic order,'' commented the Geneva daily. (END/IPS/tra-so/pc/dm/ld/01)



 

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