Tom Atlee: Reports from a global grassroots gathering


Richard Moore


Many thanks for you ongoing work.


Delivered-To: •••@••.•••
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 12:58:20 -0800
To: •••@••.••• (cii-lo list)
From: Tom Atlee <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Reports from a global grassroots gathering

Dear friends,

Over the past weeks a number of people have sent or
forwarded me reports about the remarkable grassroots World
Social Forum in Porto Alegre Brazil in January.  I've
collected and excerpted some of them for you here, including
a taste of the simultaneous confab of the powers that be in
Davos, Switzerland.  I start with some notes on how poorly
reported the WSF was in US media.



_ _ __ __ _

The World Social Forum here in southern Brazil is being
reported around the planet as an oppositional counterpoint
to the annual bash in Davos, where corporate leaders have
been gathering for three decades at their World Economic
Forum retreat. In contrast, the gathering in Porto Alegre is
dedicated to another set of goals, under a banner profound
in its simplicity: "A different world is possible." Five
subversive words.

The unofficial slogan of the Davos elites -- and of
present-day corporate domination -- could be "A different
world is impossible, and we intend to keep it that way."... 
 It's literally impossible at this point for any one person
to fully describe what has been happening in Porto Alegre,
with so many plenary sessions and workshops going on (four
plenaries at a time, for instance, and hundreds of workshops
over the course of the week). But it's safe to say that
something extraordinary has been taking place here, at once
as unpredictable and predictable as what occurred in Seattle
a little more than a year ago. Feel it in the air, wonder if
you're getting carried away, ask colleagues and friends for
their impressions -- and the responses keep coming back:
agreement that the levels of discussion, organization, and
possibilities for follow-up are exceedingly high.

-- Norman Solomon, "Letter from Porto Alegre to ZNet"

As part of the movement to challenge neo-liberalism, about
4,700 delegates and  10,000 other people from 122 countries
participated in the first-ever World Social Forum to share
information and develop strategies....But in the United
States, even the most avid news consumers didn't learn much
about this auspicious convergence.  Don't blame the wire
services. For a week, some of the world's biggest -
including the Associated Press - produced a steady stream of
informative news reports from Porto Alegre. But the day
after the World Social Forum adjourned, when I did a search
of the comprehensive Nexis database, it was clear that the
event didn't make the U.S. media cut." -- Norman Solomon
"From Global South's Side of the Media Looking Glass"

_ _ _ _ __

excerpts from a report by Vicki Robin


From January 25-30 I attended the WORLD SOCIAL FORUM in
Porto Alegre, Brazil. It was designed to mirror the Davos,
Switzerland World Economic Forum, an annual confab of the
leaders of governments and business notorious for embodying
the interests of money and power.  Intentionally held at the
same time, but in the Southern Hemisphere, the WSF boldly
asserted that it's the stupid economy (code: neo-liberalism,
corporate globalization, all policies that value money more
than life) that is creating untold and unnecessary
suffering.  "Another world is possible," the Forum declared
- one run on principles of participatory democracy, social
inclusion, justice, ecological responsibility and respect
for the First Peoples.


On the 6th and final day, freshly minted T-shirts appeared
for sale that said, "I participated!"  I got the T-shirt out
of a slightly giddy sense that I'd been part of an historic
event that had moved me deeply without my really
understanding all that had happened.  So here's one
snapshot.  Every day there were four concurrent morning
sessions and 100 afternoon workshops.  The crowds were
steady at over 4,000 (1,500 non-Brazilians) and swelling for
some events to 15,000.  Almost 1,900 people from the press
showed up, sporting cameras, notebooks and fishing vests
loaded with film; they converged on every famous person or
protest photo-op (I learned to be where "it" was happening
by locating the densest bristle of lenses). Over 120 nations
were represented, as well as hundreds of NGO's.  I
encountered a politically more sophisticated range of
critiques than I'd ever tried to understand.  Most events
were in Portuguese.  I could have just claimed, "I


But for all the challenges of the week, I reveled in this
first post-Seattle/WTO effort to collectively take the next
step towards aligning the full spectrum of voices in this
broad anti-corporate globalization movement.  This time
there was no contention with the local police and power
structure.  In fact, Porto Alegre and the whole state of Rio
Grande do Sul welcomed the participants and even underwrote
the event.  This state has had a Leftist Worker's party in
power for 12 years and prides itself on its participatory
budget where citizens get to say how a portion of the
revenues will be allocated.  The governor opened the event
to a cheering multitude waving Worker's Party flags.  The
police protected us from harm during our huge, carnival-like
march.  The whole city was decked with affirming banners
with the logo - an earth in the shape of a heart - and the
motto, "Another World Is Possible".  It truly felt that way.


As the dust settles, the two main events in the news are


Jose Bove (the French farmer now famous for having bulldozed
a McDonald's), together with 1,300 farmers, destroyed five
acres of genetically engineered soybeans at a nearby
Monsanto farm. He'd aligned himself with the Landless
Peasant's Movement (MST) - a widespread, powerful peasant
group that is closing the rich-poor gap by squatting on, and
eventually claiming, unused land. Transcending the WTO
arguments between developed and developing world farmers,
they declared brotherhood against agri-business and for
redistribution of land, social justice and environmental
protection.  Bove encouraged the MST to reoccupy the
Monsanto farm and turn it into an environmentally friendly
operation.  For this calculated prank (Bove is a seasoned
activist and his actions only appear to be spontaneous and
individually conceived), he was ordered out of the country
on 24 hours notice.  With 1900 members of the press
watching, a federal judge wisely over-rode the order. 
Instantly, someone produced stickers that said "Somos todos
Jose Bove" (We are all Jose Bove), and they were soon seen
on thousands of participant's chests.


The miracle was that Davos and Porto Alegre were both
addressing the nasty by-product of Neo-liberalism - the fact
that the number of global losers is at epidemic proportion.
This was highlighted by the one-million dollar
trans-Atlantic satellite debate took place between Davos
participants (George Soros, Bjorn Edlund from the
multi-national corporation ABB, John Ruggie from Kofi
Annan's office in the UN and Mark Malloch Brown,
administrator of the UNDP) and a handful Porto Alegre
spokespeople, women and men of every race from global
citizen's movements.  While Davos and Porto Alegre both were
apparently devoted to the integration of the poor and
marginalized into society, the worldviews of these two
gathering were so far apart that the debate was more like
two trains whizzing by one another on different tracks. For
Porto Alegre, globalization was a deadly business, leaving
poverty, death, cultural disintegration and ecological
devastation in its wake.  The panel was in no mood for empty
promises and expressions of concern.


In fact, the eminent intellectual Walden Bello opened with,
"We live on two different planets: Davos, the planet of the
superrich, Porto Alegre, the planet of the poor, the
marginalized, the concerned... The best gift that the 2000
corporate executives at Davos can give to the world is for
them to board a spaceship and blast off for outer space. 
The rest of us will definitely be much better off without
them."  And that was a very contained expression of anger
and frustration compared with some others.  Bjorn Edlun
tried to move towards agreement on solutions, but recognized
that the eloquent emissaries of the systematically excluded
were in no mood for negotiating.  They needed to be heard. 
They need Davos - the mentality, not the meeting - to
stunningly see the full implications of their actions. 
Malloch concluded: "We have to find way to overcome this. 
This is not healthy, what we've heard tonight."  Soros
commented: "It showed it is not easy to dialogue...I don't
particularly like to be abused.  My masochism has its
limits."  Yet the very fact that these Davos participants
chose to meet via satellite with Porto Alegre was a victory
all its own. The unrelenting protests of the last year have
shown that the billions who are being left behind as
"progress" accelerates will not shut up or go away. 
Eventually, they will be heard.  I hope, through real

[ Note: A complete transcript and video of the dialogue can
be found at
<> --
Carol Brouillet ]


I visited one of the many rural communes of the MST.  As I
understand it (and remember I missed a lot since most of my
sources spoke Portuguese or gave hurried translations into
Spanish or English) the MST is one of the largest and most
successful peasant's networks in the world. It works for
national land reform movement fights for land equability and
other basic social rights such as education.  Through
skillfully working every aspect of the system, they have
been able to do numerous farmers' encampments on
underutilized (and already cleared) land and, with funding
from the Brazilian government, eventually come to buy the
property from the extremely wealthy owners.  After years of
such successes - which include free housing, cooperative
living, humane animal husbandry, organic crop production and
effective distribution networks - they recently started
taking on big political issues like canceling Brazil's
crushing external debt.  Needless to say, this has made them
less the darlings of the government and there is currently
some backlash against them. The rural commune I visited with
a busload of savvy political and agrarian reform activists
from around the world was a model of order and intelligence
- at least the parts we saw.  I loved being part of the
two-hour discussion which included a barrage of such hard
questions as what's the role of women, who makes the
decisions, what do you do with conflict, how do you keep the
younger generation engaged and what political ideology
undergirds their operation?  Interestingly, they reported
that the Brazilian government is now encouraging individual
ownership of small plots of land, rather than the collective
ownership and governance. The MST is resisting, recognizing
that once individuals own their parcels, they will be
tempted to sell them off for cash and the process of
concentration of land and wealth in the hands of the few
will begin again.  Not only that, they would lose their
growing power to press for change. This reminded me of one
of the ways the West was won here in the US - by insisting
on individual ownership and hierarchical governance among
the Native tribes, ostensibly to facilitate treaty making. 
This cracking open of the tribal identity and bonds was one
of the most powerful forces for reshaping this continent.
Individualism again.  It creates powerful incentives for
innovation - but at what cost?....


....Over the course of days I met a variety of quite
distinct individuals who, it turned out, were all affiliated
with the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United
World.  There was a forest activist, a internationally
recognized feminist, a bunch of high-spirited youth leaders,
a advocate for Palestinian rights, many French humanists -
all merrily banded together in this serious effort to
coordinate towards another kind of "globalization."  This
network of networks describes itself this way:  "A worldwide
collective process inspired by a humanist ideal. It has
taken up the challenge of building a future where people
live in a world of unity and diversity.  The Alliance
dynamics are driven by a colossal ambition: to invent new
forms of collective action at the local and global levels,
and bring them to bear upon the future of an increasingly
complex and interdependent world. Everyone can make changes
to their individual lives, but for collective change,
thinking and action must be undertaken collectively."  Check
out their web site at


A thriving, sustainable and equitable way of life for all
will not happen by accident.  I suspect it won't even happen
through isolated well meaning efforts of many visionary
individuals and small groups.  It needs intention, shared
vision and collective action.  I believe Porto Alegre was a
vital step in consciously, though sometimes contentiously
banding together to do the difficult, thrilling, exacting
work of identifying and upholding the world we the people
collectively want.


Most people were attentive and respectful.  Some were
disgruntled with aspects of the process; even this meeting
protesting the marginalization of billions managed to
exclude some groups from the planning and the plenaries. 
Some subgroups used protest techniques of banner dropping
and drowning proceedings in angry chants to express
themselves.  They were mostly tolerated, sometimes hushed by
the majority and always photographed.  It's this splintering
in the opposition that "the powers that be" tend to count on
to undermine protest - "Perhaps we don't have to deal with
them, perhaps they will just chew each other up."


Yet these ideological skirmishes were few in Porto Alegre. 
It seemed to me that the anti-corporate-globalization
movement is coherent enough and has experienced enough
victories to be entering a new phase of activism.  For want
of a better term, I'm calling it visionary activism -
putting our cooperative muscle into coherently presenting
the philosophies, policies and projects we've been fostering
and creating through dialogue a plausible yet radical vision
for a future we are willing to work on together.  People
like me who have been apolitical will need to enter the
messy fray. Ideologues who've championed single issues or
single historical interpretations will, I believe, need to
loosen up their "hardening of the categories" enough to
respond freshly to the world as it is today.


There is a real battle going on in the world today.  The
community of life is being diminished and is being
increasingly privatized, placed in the hands of the few. 
The momentum in the system is so great that even with
slowing down we are still hurtling towards extinctions and
overshoot. I, at least, feel a painful urgency when I face
these facts. The people on the front lines defending the
boundaries of the wild and the free are serving us all.  So
are the intellectuals fighting with their sharp minds and
lucid analysis - as are the teachers and lawyers and
politicians who are educating in classrooms and courtrooms. 
And so are the lovers and poets and artists and shamans who
are connected with the heart of life and keeping that
channel open for all of us.  Like the sorcerer's apprentice,
we have unleashed a multiplying misery by playing with very
large forces, and none of us can afford to be asleep at this

_ _ _ _ _ _ __

Excerpt from Carol Brouillet's "Report on the World Social

On the first day, the number of delegates (4702) far
exceeded the 2500 person limit of the auditorium. Earphones
were available for translation in English, French, Spanish
and Portuguese. There were short speeches, and welcomes to
delegates from each country- Brazil, Cuba, Argentina,
Uruguay and Mexico were most warmly greeted. When the United
States was named, I was surprised to find myself standing,
almost alone, and heard "boo." I tried not to take it
personally. There were 1509 international delegates,
including 349 Europeans and 39 North Americans. There were
also 1870 press and over one thousand working staff. We were
amazed by the level of support given by the government,
including sixty computers available for journalists.

An indigenous woman, costumed and painted, bare breasted,
made the most eloquent statement, in dance, movement,
gesture and word. There was also drumming, music, a parade
of people, including children, marching across the stage,
slowly changing from downtrodden to active and participatory
while images of the homeless, forgotten, suffering were
flashed on two large screens on both sides of the room. In
the spirit of Seattle, Prague, Melbourne, Seoul, we were all
encouraged to join in a march for life, a march of
solidarity. I just followed some children and a three-headed
hydra, representing the IMF, World Bank and the WTO.
Probably 15,000 marched the whole way to an open air concert
and a beautiful sunset at a large park by the river.

_ _ _ _ _ __ _


Maude Barlow, a leading critic of corporate globalization,
heads the Council of Canadians

"A Different World is Possible"

I said, and meant it, that my heart would have been broken
had I been unable to attend the first annual World Social
Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, last month. It was billed at
first as the "anti-Davos" Summit, as it was deliberately
held at the same time as the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Switzerland, where the world's business and political elite
meet annually to ski, sip champagne, and plan the next
stages of economic globalization. As it turns out, however,
the World Social Forum was much, much more than a
counterpoint to the WEF; it was, in fact, the launching pad
for a global civil society movement that will transform the
world. Porto Alegre was a deliberate choice of venue.....
Porto Alegre was chosen for the first World Social Forum
because of its symbolism of civil society democracy in
action and its stark contrast to Davos, playground to the

The Summit

Here is how the Summit, whose official slogan was, "A
Different World is Possible" was described in the official

"From January 25 to 30, 2001, citizens from all continents
who are engaged in the construction of a new world will
inaugurate the new millennium by participating in the first
World Social Forum in the city of Porto Alegre, state of Rio
Grande do Sul, southern Brazil.

"The forum is a milestone of hope and a new international
arena for reflection and for the organization of those who
question neoliberalism and are building alternatives to
enable human development and to overcome market supremacy
inside each country and in international relations.

"The proposal to create the World Social Forum results from
mobilizations in Europe against the MAI, in 1998; from the
demonstrations in Seattle, U.S.A., during the WTO meeting in
November, 1999; and from the demonstrations in Washington,
D.C. against World Bank and IMF policies. These
mobilizations - and many others - have marked the emergence
of a new worldwide civic movement of resistance to
neoliberalism, that goes beyond national borders.

"Therefore, in January, 2001, while those who defend
neoliberal thinking convene at the World Economic Forum in
Davos, Switzerland, thousands of people who fight for a
world without exclusions get together at the First World
Social Forum in Porto Alegre. Two great themes are the focus
of the forum: wealth and democracy. The theme of world
wealth addresses the formation, concentration and
distribution of wealth and the subthemes employment,
environment, and freedom of financial capital. In the debate
concerning democracy, the democratic limitation of national
states before the ample operating freedom of financial
capital, as well as the power of organs such as the IMF will
be analyzed.

"The World Social Forum provides an environment for
formulating strategies, sharing experiences, and promoting
exchange between organizations, movements, and people whose
challenge is to build a better future for humanity. A
different world is possible. Let us start building it
together in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil."  (See
why I had to be there?)

The event was overwhelming by any one's standards.
Organizers expected 1,600 participants; they had over 10,000
plus over 1,800 journalists. There were probably a couple of
dozen Canadians in attendance; too many to list, but they
included the Council's own Hassan Yussuff (CLC) and Tony
Clarke (Polaris Institute), Patty Berrera of Common
Frontiers, Diana Bronson of Rights and Democracy, Jacques
Tousignant of  the University of Quebec, Dorval Brunelle of
UQAM, Robin Round of the Halifax Initiative, Diane Matte, of
the Women's March, Monique Simard of Alternatives, writer
Naomi Klein, Mark Lee of CCPA, Vancouver and Jessie Smith of

VIPs included former French first lady and human rights
activist, Danielle Mitterand; Guatemalan Nobel Peace
prize-winner Rigoberta Menchu, Chilean writer, Ariel
Dorfman, Uruguayan poet and historian Eduardo Galeano;
Bolivian uprising leader, Oscar Olivera; Brazilian Workers'
Party leader, Lula da Silva, Joao Pedro Stedile, head of the
Landless Peasants' Movement in Brazil, French farmer, and
anti-McDonald's activist, Jose Bove; Portuguese Nobel
laureate writer Jose Saramago; and Algerian liberation
leader, Ahmed Ben Bella.

The opening ceremony, featuring fabulous poetry and
drumming, as well as a true welcome from local and state
politicians, was followed by a huge, colourful march of at
least 20,000, through the city. Police, smiling and
friendly, were in attendance to see that the marchers were
safe from passing traffic; from their windows on the march
route, thousands of waving local residents threw paper birds
that gently circled down upon us like snow.

All events were held at the Catholic University, an amazing
and huge venue. Every morning, four simultaneous plenary
sessions took place (translated into four languages), and
hundreds of workshops were held in the afternoons on every
aspect of trade, agriculture, human rights, the environment,
labour rights, democracy, violence and civil society, to
name just a few topics. At the end of each day,
"testimonials" from writers and activists, many who had laid
their lives on the line in the fight for justice against
repressive regimes, were given to packed crowds.

Each evening, wonderful musicians played to thousands of
delegates and locals at the famed Sunset Amphitheatre
overlooking Guaiba Lake, near the university. As well, all
throughout the week, groups were gathered sharing
information, exchanging names, and planning for protests and
actions, both globally and locally.

I was invited to speak on a plenary panel on the future of
nation states that was chaired by Ricardo Alarcon, the
President of the Cuban Parliament, and it was a hot panel, I
can assure you.  Ricardo Alarcon got into a fierce debate
with some from the audience who demanded to discuss
democracy in Cuba. His answer (the questioners were
American) challenging the recent American election as being
the most anti-democratic event in modern history, brought
down the house. We were virtually pinned down by dozens and
dozens of reporters. In my talk, I said, "Look around you.
This is what democracy looks like. And this is what winning
looks like." A hit of a statement, I can tell you!

There is no way to describe the feeling of being in one
place with ten thousand people from all over the world whose
views you share. Sure, there are huge differences in our
ages, backgrounds, and experiences. But the energy of hope
and transformation that flowed through that place was
awesome. Thirty-five degree heat didn't stop anyone from
sitting through hours-long seminars in stuffy windowless
rooms. People were there at all hours of the day from early
morning to late evening, not wanting to miss one
testimonial, one spontaneous dance, or speech, or

Oh, yes, there were demonstrations - on abortion, on public
education on water privatization, and many other topics.
Most were friendly demos inside what was essentially itself
a great big demo. At one point on the last day, there were
at least a half dozen large demonstrations going on at once,
filling the grand hall with music, chants and shouts of
solidarity. (I mused that things at Davos were likely a tad

But some were pointed at the Summit itself. People of colour
make up half of Brazil's population, but were not
represented on the organizing committee at all or in the
plenaries and workshops in adequate numbers. Organizers
promised to rectify this next year. And France's Jose Bove
was detained by police for, with 1,300 farmers from the
Brazilian Landless Workers' Movement, destroying five acres
of soybeans at a local Monsanto farm.

Never for a moment was there silence; music, extemporaneous
dance, people in their own dress from all over the world:
this was the true United Nations of peoples. The Mothers of
the Plaza, and of the Disappeared from several countries
were visible everywhere; mostly very elderly, bent, small
women, they had embroidered the names of their dead and
disappeared into beautiful little blue and white head
scarfs. Every time I saw one of these women, my throat
constricted and I fought back tears.

Much work was done on the Council of Canadian's main
campaigns during the week. The issue of food security and
corporate concentration in agriculture was a key theme of
the Summit. Genetically modified foods and biotech issues
were front and centre all week. No matter where one went,
people were talking about water, and we were able to tell
them about our Water for People and Nature conference coming
up in July.

We held meetings on our international anti-GATS campaign and
a number of workshops were held by the Hemispheric Social
Alliance to advance our work against the FTAA and to plan
for protests in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Quebec City,
both in April. I got wonderful contacts for my FTAA paper,
which is being translated into Portuguese, Spanish and

In the closing plenary, it was decided to hold the Summit in
Porto Alegre again next year and then it will move to
different venues, but always at the same time as the WEF in
Davos. (Who knows how long Switzerland will want to host
this corporate Summit, given the protests and the police
over-reaction to them in both Davos and Zurich?) As well,
there was a closing statement, the Porto Alegre Appeal for
Mobilization. Peoples and groups around the world are
exhorted to fight the "hegemony of finance, the destruction
of cultures, the monopolisation of knowledge and of the mass
communications media, the degradation of nature and the
destruction of the quality of life" carried out by
transnational corporations and the global trade and
financial institutions that promote them.

The statement called for cancellation of the foreign debt,
reparations for colonization by wealthy countries, a tax on
financial speculation, and a global trade system that
ensures full employment, food security and fair terms of
exchange. Agrarian reform, a ban on GMOs, public control of
food and water, a halt to patenting of life forms; these and
other demands were clear areas of consensus from the Summit.

But more important than any words on paper was the
extraordinary feeling of being present at the birth of a
movement and watching it form the fundamental 
characteristics and values that will guide it. The Porto
Alegre Summit, says Ronnie Hall of Friends of the Earth, UK,
proved several very important things about our new movement:
contrary to the charges against it by mainstream politicians
and some media pundits, it is diverse, peaceful, very well
informed, and not just a northern phenomenon with a northern
agenda. In fact, as another observer noted, the Forum was
nurtured in the logistical, political, ethical and spiritual
context of the civil society project of Porto Alegre and the
liberation politics of the South.

Out of Porto Alegre emerged a movement whose time has come.
An unstoppable force with passion, insight, and an
alternative vision of the future was born in that hot
January week. Just to be there was magic.

_ _ _ _ _ __

What I Learned from the World Social Forum

  by Starhawk
       31 Jan 2001

Although I've spent a lot of the last year and a half at
antiglobalization actions and meetings, many of which
included forums of various sorts, and although in at least
some of my incarnations I am a Respectable Adult with a
college education and books to my credit who even gets asked
to speak at conferences and universities, and even though
some of my best friends work for NGOs, this is the first
time I've actually made it up out of the direct action
trenches and into the conference rooms. I found it highly
educational (although like most university education it had
its moments of airless, deadly boredom.) The amazing number
of participants, thousands more than expected, coupled with
limited translation facilities and a high degree of
confusion meant that I often didn't get to workshops I would
have liked to attend or didn't know about events until after
they happened. What follows, therefore, is an extremely
limited picture of all the immensity of discussion and
debate and strategizing and organizing that went on around
hundreds of issues. In order to get this out, I've limited
my focus to issues that affect groups I'm currently working

WATER: Water is a key issue worldwide, as there is a strong
push from corporate interests to privatize water resources
and water delivery services. The FTAA, the WTO, and a whole
list of smaller bilateral and regional trade agreements open
the door to the privatization of water. For me, this issue
had eerie echoes of the negative society I imagined in my
novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, where the poor could not
afford to drink and people were imprisoned for stealing
water. The antiglobalization movement now must assert that
water is a human right, linked to the right to life.

There is no substitute for water; therefore there must be a
limit to private ownership and control of water resources.

WOMEN'S ISSUES: Are key in the antiglobalization struggle.
There was a powerful workshop on feminist perspectives on
globalization, and many other workshops on women's issues.
The main morning panels, however, tended to be quite male
dominated, and there was much talk of the need for an even
stronger focus on women. I was able to connect individually
with some of the women working on antiglobalization, and
hope that our women's action in Quebec City in April will
bring our issues more to the forefront.  There was great
interest in it among women I met and as soon as the call is
finalized I will be able to get it out to some of the
women's networks I've connected with here.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' STRUGGLES: For me, the most moving and
clear talks I heard in the entire five days were two
indigenous speakers who spoke so heartfully and poetically
(and in such clear, blessedly slow Spanish!) that I felt
like I was drinking cool, spring water after days of stale

There was an encampment of youth, the MST (Landless Rural
Workers' Movement) and indigenous groups, but unfortunately
it was separate from the main campus and also there was no
clear announcement of the fact that there were ongoing
meetings, speeches and presentations of the indigenous
people's networks. Had I known, I probably would have spent
most of the conference there. As it was, I got there only
almost at the end, in time to learn that the situation in
Chiapas is not happily resolved under Vicente Fox, that he
is also trying to outlaw abortion, and that the growing
struggle in Chiapas will also focus on water rights. High on
the corporate agenda is control of the hydroelectric
potential represented by Chiapas' rivers: Bay Area folks,
take note in light of our current energy 'crisis'!

THE FTAA: I knew about the FTAA, I knew it was bad enough
that I'm devoting most of my time currently to organizing
against it, but I didn't know in detail just how bad it is:

PRIVATIZATION OF SERVICES: Education, medical care,
libraries, water delivery - the FTAA would open those areas
to regulation by international trade agreements. It's one of
the things the WTO hadn't quite gotten around to yet.
Presumably, that could mean a corporation that runs prisons
could sue a government for providing its own and thereby
limiting its potential profits. Ditto with water, schools,
health care, etc. Of course, for most countries in Latin
America the World Bank and the IMF have already dealt with
their health care and educational systems. But the FTAA
would make it difficult or impossible for local or national
governments to take control of their own schools, health
care programs, or utilities and run them for the benefit of
their own citizens instead of for corporate profit.

AGRICULTURE - probably the most important aspect for the
South, for farmers and indigenous people. The agreement
would make it impossible to support small farmers, to ensure
biosafety standards around genetically engineered foods and
seeds, to prevent market manipulations and crop dumping that
destroys traditional cultures.

undermine every legislative and regulatory tool for
conservation of resources and environmental protection, from
the Endangered Species Act on down, and override local and
federal laws.

INVESTMENT - remember the Multilateral Agreement on
Investments, that was defeated back in '97 by the opposition
of civil society? This agreement brings it back, opening the
door to 'investors' rights' to control of government
regulations and financial systems.

END RUN AROUND THE WTO: The FTAA, along with a whole lot of
other bilateral and smaller multilateral agreements, are
part of the new strategy of the corporate globalists. Since
the body blow that was dealt to the WTO in Seattle, what
they're trying to do is put in place piecemeal the
provisions they couldn't yet put into the WTO.

The WTO: May or may not hold it's next meeting in Quatar in
November - although the media is reporting it as a sure
thing, it will actually be a couple of weeks before they
confirm the decision. It is less of a priority for corporate
interests, however, because their strategy has shifted to
bilateral and regional trade agreements that essentially put
its noxious provisions into place.


We did do one forum on direct action in FTAA organizing,
with groups from Brazil and Argentina. But in general direct
action is sort of the stepchild of the NGO world. It happens
around the edges: the MST (The Landless Rural Workers
Movement) did a great action pulling up bioengineered crops
on the first day of the conference. Unfortunately we were
still en route and couldn't take part. The Respectable
Adults know about direct action; they often support it, and
some of them actually take part in it. The introduction to
the Forum Schedule credits the movement sparked by Seattle
and DC and Prague. But many of the groups seem to have a bit
of difficulty actually focusing on the direct action
component of that movement or thinking about it as part of
their strategy. Of course, they have funding to protect, so
maybe they're better off not linking to us too directly.

Maybe we don't need joint strategies and these parallel
worlds can just continue to exist semi-separately. But I
can't help but think that we're their best friends - we're
the reason why the World Bank is going to read a letter of
protest with alarm and concern, or look at a petition, or
pretend to have a dialogue. And that it might be nice
occasionally, or smart strategically, for that to be a
little more clearly acknowledged. Our direct action movement
gains a lot when we do work together with the groups which
have a level of sophistication and expertise that paid staff
can develop - for example, in our San Francisco organizing
around the FTAA there are a number of NGOs and also some
union people who bring an incredible amount of knowledge and
sophistication to the issues. But I'd also like to see more
of the high level strategists come down to the convergence
center and actually listen to the anarchists and the
dreadlocked youth and the black bloc who have a level of
radical clarity that can get lost after years of reading
reports and pressing for minor policy changes. Anyway, I
amused myself by tossing out radical proposals: "Great, you
guys send out a joint letter of protest and meanwhile we'll
shut down every major stock exchange on the planet." And
some people seemed genuinely interested.    There are,
however, awesome groups down here that are organizing around
direct action. There are groups in Sao Paolo, Belo Horizonte
and Buenos Aires that did solidarity actions around the S26
protests in Prague and are now gearing up for actions around
the preliminary FTAA (ALCA in Spanish) meeting April 7 in
Buenos Aires. They're serious, determined and radical - the
Argentinians want to make the Quebec City protests
unnecessary by shafting the FTAA before it ever gets to
Quebec. It's a joy and a privilege to be down here sharing
some of our experiences and helping in that endeavor.

Starhawk is a longtime grassroots direct action activist in
the San Francisco Bay Area, and a leader in
socially-conscious Wiccan circles.  She is author of the
utopian novel "The Fifth Sacred Thing", among other books.

_ _ _ _ ___

excerpt from The Guardian Weekly 8-2-2001, page 26

Tony Juniper in Davos and Hilary Wainwright in Porto Alegre
report on  two forums on globalisation

Wearing comedy business suits, complete with fat cigars,
dark glasses and outrageous jewellery, "Franc Suisse", "Mark
Deutsch" and "Dave Dollar" strode purposefully towards the
barbed wire and lines of riot police. Surrounded by
television cameras, they walked straight into the security
zone of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos,
Switzerland. Mingling with the chief executives of the
world's biggest corporations and their invited high-level
political guests, they distributed leaflets that set out
alternatives to the global economy. The police finally
caught on and arrested the Marx Brothers-style executives
and their "lawyer". They were dragged out into the snow and
questioned by policemen deeply embarrassed that their ring
of steel had been so easily penetrated. The action
highlights how symbols count. People wearing jeans could not
get within miles of the Swiss ski resort; yet suits, even
comedy ones, could march straight in. So determined were the
authorities to block out the voices of dissent that the
mighty conducted their discussions behind police barricades
that spread for miles through the valley.

As outside the halls of Davos, so inside, where the meetings
were closed to the public, with just a few carefully chosen
non-governmental groups and individuals invited to address
the WEF delegates, who were mainly male, North American and
European. This year one delegate suggested that if the Earth
were visited by beings from outer space, the elite gathered
in Davos should be responsible for speaking for humanity. If
Planet Earth had a board of directors, this would be it. The
WEF is the deeply influential international club for big
business. Its past political successes include starting the
Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
(Gatt) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

Most of globalisation's leading players were there. Sir John
Browne and Mark Moody-Stuart, of BP and Shell, rubbed
shoulders with the leaders of the main oil-producing
nations. Yet these architects of globalisation were clearly
worried, not so much by the protesters in the street, but
the new ideas emerging from dozens of citizens' movements
from all over the world. The comfort once found in the old
ideas is crumbling, and their rhetoric of growth, markets,
liberalisation and competition - still reassuringly
exchanged between the executives and leading public figures
- was different from previous years. There was a sense that
globalisation is in trouble, and the "board of directors"
was neither asking the right questions nor had a clue what
to do. How are the ecological limits of a finite planet to
be respected in the face of policies designed to promote
never-ending growth? How is the widening gap between rich
and poor to be closed when many of the signals that
companies respond to are designed to reward greed? How can
the needs of the 10bn people who may inhabit this world in
2050 be met without drastic changes to consumption patterns?

These and other critical questions were not on the Davos
agenda. Only Public Eye, a non-governmental group not
invited to participate in the main meeting, had any answers.
It hired an asthma clinic and staged debates on trade
liberalisation, corporate control and financial policy. Its
panels and workshops were open, and the clear message was
that an alternative economics is crystallising from global
NGO networking. It has at its core sustainable development,
environmental protection and social justice. It is gathering
momentum in many places. Witness Porto Alegre, 8,000km away
in the radical capital of Rio Grande do Sul in southern
Brazil. Here, running concurrently with Davos, 12,000 people
met last month for the first Social Forum. If Davos was for
the elite, this meeting of people from 120 countries was the

_ _ _ _ _ __

The World Social Forum Website is

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tom Atlee  *  The Co-Intelligence Institute  * PO Box 493 *  Eugene, OR 97440  *  *