Francis Calpotura caught up with Walden Bello at his office at the University of the Philippines where he is a professor of
sociology and public administration.
How did you first become involved in the World Social Forum?
are one of the founding groups of the World Social Forum. When the
first WSF idea was proposed in 2000, Focus on the Global South was
asked to join the process, and we jumped on it. We felt the idea of
bringing together a counter to Davos was very important. We had a very
different view of where the world should be going. We were for
liberation, they were for control.
Some see the World
Social Forum as part of a series of historical initiatives by countries
from the Global South that puts forward an alternative to existing
economic and political arrangements, much like the Non-Aligned Movement
of the 1950s and liberation movements of the past 50 years. Is this an
accurate description of WSF’s roots and inspiration?
I think that the idea of having a site where people who represent a
wide variety of movements that have been alienated by capitalist-driven
globalization could meet and share ideas, affirm themselves, express
solidarity and feel that they are part of a global movement. The
solidarity aspect of the WSF is very important.
aspect is important as well. At the WSF, you have movements who are
concretely fighting the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO—the WSF becomes
the site where the planning for the next moves in the campaign against
the WTO, the IMF, and the U.S. war effort takes place.
inspiring alternatives are coming out of these discussions and what are
the prospects of these taking root in the global arena?
the alternatives—the thinking and the sharing of ideas—about how we
structure economies and states differently at the local, national, and
international levels blossom at the WSF. This exchange is critical in
advancing our collective vision for a new global economic order.
there will be a meeting of the minds about a vision of what an
alternative economic system looks like. But, of course, this rarely
happens. Are there tensions between civil societies from the global
South and those from the North about strategies to employ or visions to
Yes, of course. At the start, there were
tensions between Northern-based civil society groups and Southern
groups. Many Southern groups initially felt that some of the groups in
Europe was driving the agenda too much. There was a sense among many
that the European and Latin American presence in the WSF was too strong
and the presence of groups from Asia and Africa was quite weak. So
people said, “How can we talk about the World Social Forum when you had
very few people coming from Asian and African nations?”
were also tensions between NGOs, social movements, and political
parties—the NGOs and social movements come from different political and
organizing traditions from political parties, many of whom come from
more socialist, communist, or Marxist perspectives of organizing.
People were wary that political parties had too prominent a role in the
WSF. But folks also felt very comfortable that a new type of political
party was central to the WSF, which is the Worker’s Party of Brazil.
Well, there is a sense anyway that the Worker’s Party of Brazil is a
marriage between a political party and social
Article from Colorlines Magazine