[OPE-L] 'Porto Alegre Consensus' ?

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Tue Feb 01 2005 - 17:38:51 EST

----- Original Message -----
The Consensus of Porto Alegre?
Debra Anthony and José Antônio Silva*

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil, Jan 30 (IPSTerraViva) - In a bold break with the
concept of the World Social Forum as a horizontal, open space, a
group of personalities draft a programme and urge participants to approve it

The fifth World Social Forum, the giant civil society gathering under
way in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre through Jan. 31, may
mark a turning point in WSF history.

It might have been out of frustration, or perhaps a sincere desire to
help. Whatever the motivation, 19 high-profile WSF activists spent a day
and a half hammering out a Consensus for a conference that prides itself on
not producing any.

They presented the World Social Forum with a blueprint document
outlining main themes and called on the other 120,000 participants
to sign on  to it. The move is likely to unleash speculations of all kinds
about the  purposes of this new group, most of whom are founders of the
WSF and International Committee (IC) members.

Among notable non-signatories are Brazilian IC members Candido
Grzybowski and Francisco (Chico) Whitaker. The latter played down
the importance of the document, likening it to "dozens, maybe hundreds
of other proposals" presented during this fifth edition of the WSF.

He admitted that the Manifesto, endorsed by a group that include two
Nobel Prize winners, carries considerable weight, but "it does not
generate consensus."

But the "G-19" thinks differently.

"Now, nobody can say that we have no programme. Now we have the Porto
Alegre Consensus and we are sure -- we're confident -- that the great
majority of the people of the Forum will agree with this proposal," says
Ignacio Ramonet, editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, president of Media
Watch Global and one of the 19 who toiled to bring this apparent gift of
coherency to the WSF.

Launched late Saturday at the Hotel Plaza San Rafael -- away from the
World Social Territory, a Brazilian official duly noted -- the Porto Alegre
Manifesto is a 12-point document that highlights the main themes
discussed at WSF 2005.

"It's a synthesis of what the WSF is proposing globally," Ramonet

"It's not possible to continue to say 'another world is possible' if
we do not make some proposals about how to reach this other world,"
added  Ricardo Petrella, one of the presenters at the press conference,
referring to the motto of the WSF since its inception in 2001.

The points include debt cancellation, adoption of the Tobin tax on
international financial transfers, dismantling of tax havens, the
promotion of equitable forms of trade, a guarantee on the
sovereignty of a country's right to not only be able to produce affordable
food for its citizens, but also to police its food supply; the
implementation of anti-discrimination polices for minorities and
women, and democratisation of international organisations, which
would include moving the United Nations headquarters far South of
its current New York location.

Journalists were told that despite what it looked like, there was no
change in the methodology of the WSF. Those who formulated the
document "were only trying to help."

"We are only trying to open the debate, to stimulate the
establishment of international cooperative alliances," said Petrella.

Speaking to TerraViva after the conference ended, he did not say when
the ocument was prepared, but noted that the timing of its release
showed that it was not an attempt to force any agenda on the WSF.

"If it had been released at the beginning it would have been
interpreted as a proposal for discussion," he said.

As it is now, as described by its framers, it is merely a base to help
conference participants focus on the matter at hand.

The first signatories to the Manifesto include Aminata Traoré, Adolfo
Pérez Esquivel, Eduardo Galeano, José Saramago, François Houtart,
Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Armand Mattelart, Roberto Savio,
Riccardo Petrella, Ignacio Ramonet, Bernard Cassen, Samir Amin,
Atilio Boron, Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Tariq Ali, Frei Betto, Emir Sader,
Walden Bello, and Immanuel Wallerstein.

Whitaker urged the signatories to join those posting their ideas on
the "Proposals Wall" inside the Forum venue. "These walls are gathering
dozens of proposals, priority lists and actions, some vague and some very
profound and all must be presented."

For its proponents, this Manifesto represents the courageous, bold
step necessary to convert the WSF into an effective political force for
global change. To others, as one Brazilian official told TerraViva, it is
just the same old "celebrities" who cannot swallow being part of the
masses they once led.

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