As the world strives to comprehend and adjust to a plunging economy, a debate with a positive spin is emerging around the framework of socially responsible development models. From the World Social Forum (WSF) last month, attended by both Presidents and the penniless, a strong movement has materialized to recognize today’s global economic crisis as a renewed opportunity to pursue different forms of growth and development, with overlapping themes of social and economic relevance.
The Forum was held in the tropical city of Bel√©m, Brazil and included human rights groups, trade unions, environmental and community organizations, as well as political representatives (including 5 Heads of State). The theme of shaping a “post-crisis world” resonated throughout the numerous forums, roundtables, debates, and presentations as a matter of utmost importance to many economies, including the host region of Latin America.
The WSF provides opportunities for a range of stakeholders to debate current issues and propose responses. It is also a forum to establish connections between stakeholders in the quest for building a more socially just and environmentally sustainable world. At the main event during the meeting “Assembly of Assemblies,” leaders called for appropriate responses to the current global crises and demanded a profound transformation in international relations and financial architecture for a sustainable future. Moreover, the 2009 WSF called for us to see that changing our approach to development to pursue more sustainable outcomes is not only a desire of some, but in fact needed by all in the current global climate.
The WSF, since its inception in 2001 however, has suffered widespread criticism. While it has attracted worldwide participation and important socialist actions have resulted from its formation, often the resolutions and proposals are considered extremist, misplaced, or in essence in contrary to the direction of economic development and growth.
The decision of the Brazilian President Luiz In√°cio Lula da Silva’s to attend the WSF, in place of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, which he has previously attended, was a symbol of changed direction and renewed importance of localised issues. Past prosperity offered by world markets has been critically undermined in the region with the themes of the WSF perhaps offering a more pragmatic context for some regional actors.
There are significant overlapping interests between these forums, such as reform of international financial bodies, enterprise protection through the crisis, energy and food sovereignty as well as rights to better work conditions, health services and quality education. So peradaps what we can expect to see, as reported by Folha de S√£o Paulo, is some form of compromise where the world will not turn into the “extravagant” other world dreamt of in Bel√©m, but neither will it continue down the current path of economic ultra-liberalism. In the spirit of pursuing “another world,” perhaps these once polarized movements will now better converge to address the complex challenges of global crises.