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Another World is Possible

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Success as a Brazilian toy manufacturer led Oded Grajew to launch a nation wide campaign to end child labor He has since become one of the world's leading advocates for Corporate Social Responsibility and a champion for people's ability to create change We must not forget that power today is concentrated in governments and a great deal in businesses Now, governments and businesses depend on people In 2001, Grajew founded the World Social Forum An annual gathering of more than 150,000 of the world's leading citizen groups who work together to address some of the world's most pressing issues The World Social Forum is not just an event, an occurance, nor is it an organization It is a process. It is a process of forming ideas of another society, another world, In this program, he describes how the World Social Forum has grown and generated hundreds more gatherings worldwide , each expanding this powerful new model for social action. He offers his experience on how to stimulate systemic change in the way we live, work and govern Why the World Social Forum? What was the idea that mobilized me to create the idea of the World Social Forum? It was the feeling, the perception, that globalization was being done inadequately. I remember that at the time of the World Social Forum event, of the first one, in Porto Alegre, there was a debate, via satellite, with some members that took part in the World Social Forum and others of the World Economic Forum and I asked a few questions about some issues, about, for example, economic issues, how much money today circulates in the financialmarket, issues about exchange, trade, interest, inflation. And the people from the World Economic Forum could answer all of those questions, but when I asked about how many children die each day from hunger, how many unemployed there were, how many people below the poverty line, facts about environmental degradation, facts about issues such as women’s rights, indigenous issues, no one from the World Economic Forum had any of these answers, The world was seen as a great market, and people were seen merely as producers or consumers of products and services, and we needed to look at, and the world must see the state the world is in and think of another globalization. And the idea of creating the World Social Forum is for another globalization to happen. Not the globalization of war, but the globalization of peace. Not the globalization of conflicts and environmental degradation, but of sustainable development and solidarity. That is why the World Social Forum was created. The Founding of the Forum For many years, I have tried to leave room in my life for reflection, for leisure, for inactivity, for creativity, and I’ve always traveled with my wife, my great companion, Mara. And In February of 2000 I was in Paris and it was at the time of the World Economic Forum, And I was always bothered by the ideas, the proposals of the World Economic Forum, with its view of the world, a merely economic view, as though people were in service of the economy and not the economy in service of the people. And always with those ideas that we’ve reached the end of history, and that now mankind has found its path, and that anyone who speaks against this path is someone without purpose, And I was with Mara and I had the idea that something needed to be done to show people that there were other ways, other ways to live, other paths to globalization, that the way that the World Economic Forum viewed the world, and viewed people, would lead the world to a great disaster and there must be a counterpart to the World Economic Forum, and show people that we needed to make other decisions and other choices. and that it was important to have the World Social Forum at the same time as the World Economic Forum, so that people were faced with choices. Where am I going? What is my view of the world? What are my values? Making choices, that was always my view. And I asked, Mara “Mara, is this idea too crazy, too unfeasible? What do you think?” and she said it was a good idea that we needed to explore more. And I have a great friend, Francisco Whitaker, who is a great and long-standing social and political activist in Brazil. At the time of the dictatorship, he had to seek refuge in France, he was in France at that time with his wife. “Chico,” I said to him, “What do you think of this idea?” And he liked it a lot. We knew a journalist named Bernard Kassen, from Le Monde Diplomatique, and it was Bernard Kassen who suggested Brazil and Porto Alegre, because Porto Alegre in Brazil was a symbol of another kind of administration, more democratic, more popular, and within the view of another globalization We agreed that I would go back to Brazil and explore the idea with a few colleagues, with the governments of Porto Alegre and of the State of Rio Grande do Sul. I called a few of my friends, who were part of the social movement, of the union movement for a meeting at Instituto Ethos, there were seven organizations that I called so there were eight people, I put the idea to them, along with Chico Whitaker, and asked what they thought, they liked it so we went to Porto Alegre, we selected a location, saw how many hotels there were, the infrastructure, I went after money. At that time, it cost about two hundred thousand dollars to set up a staff, a secretariat and we gave a green light to the international movement. And in June of that year, in Geneva, we launched the movement internationally and seven months later, in January of 2001, we had the first World Social Forum. So it was a year between having the idea and making it happen, and when the World Social Forum was over I told my wife that it was a gift from God to have the idea and to be able to see the World Social Forum happen. Another World is Possible The World Social Forum has a great motto: another world is possible. So those who are satisfied and content with the world today and think we’re on a good path have no place in the World Social Forum. The World Social Forum gathers those who are not satisfied with what is happening, who believe in the scientists that tell us were destroying the planet and that mankind is in serious risk, who believe research that shows that each day the distance between rich and poor increases, that the risk of war and conflict is ever greater, and that we must have another world. That other world is possible, a world where solidarity replaces competition, where sustainable development is opposed to the wild and predatory development that exists today, where we must have development that preserves the environment, where we need to increase democracy in the world and in world governance, where we must have processes that lead to peace and not to conflict and war, to tolerance and to diversity They are two completely different world views, between the world view that was expressed, and expressed not just by the World Economic Forum, but by several organizations of society, and the view, held by the World Social Forum, of another globalization. And the World Social Forum is not just an event, an occurrence, nor is it an organization, it is a process. It is a process of forming ideas of another society, another world, other world views. To give voice to those who think in this way to promote actions that can transform society into a just and sustainable society. This is the process. What is the basis and belief in this process? The world today has very concentrated power. Very few today dominate and exploit billions and billions of people. And power is concentrated more and more, poverty is expanding more and more. How can that be possible? It is possible because people think, when they are exploited, that there is no other way to do things, that this is the way of the world, that you can’t do it any other way, you can’t react They are too dominated today by their thinking, their ideas, by brainwashing. So, first, we must show people that the world is not like this. This world is made by people and can be changed by people. There are other ways to promote society, to coexist with people and to promote development. Second, these people, and the organizations that think this way, are too disorganized, they can’t get together. But when that majority does manage to get together, it will acquire enormous political transforming power. It is a process of changing people’s minds, but also of gathering people and setting up a great network of change in society and of formulating political strategy proposals for transforming actions. This will only happen when that process is in each city, in each country, in each community. It is a process that is shaping. It is a process without command, or chief, or president. No one speaks for the World Social Forum. It is a process that harmonizes relationships and which is promoted by everyone and together with everyone, within a space that is offered by the World Social Forum. The World Social Forum opens up room for things to be able to happen. So the process is innovative because it is not a top-down process, rather it is a process that gathers everyone around another world vision. A Different Kind of Process To get to another possible world we need for another kind of political behavior to be possible. What is the traditional behavior? It is a hierarchical behavior, It is behavior that directs people. And the idea of the World Social Forum is to have a political behavior that is very much a unification process and that makes room for the immense diversity there is today in society. So the World Social Forum is not a vertical organization that speaks for people, rather it is an organization that articulates a process and makes room for anyone who wishes to articulate an action within the charter of principles there can be various declarations of various organizations, to be able to do so within the space and the process of the World Social Forum. So, within the space of the World Social Forum, various action plans can be publicized, not of the World Social Forum, but of the participants of the World Social Forum process. To give space to those who fight for environmental issues, others fight for women’s rights, others fight for children’s rights, others fight for fair and responsible trade. No one will be able to say that they did not have space and opportunity in the World Social Forum, because one of the values of the World Social Forum process is valuing diversity It is also important, to better understand the World Social Forum, to know the charter of principles of the World Social Forum, which summarizes these ideas and shows the process that the World Social Forum intends to unfold. For example, valuing democracy, valuing peace and peaceful processes. People who are part of the World Social Forum, various organizations, protest, and protested, for example, against war in Iraq not because they think Saddam Hussein is a nice person because they believe that the path to peace goes through peaceful processes, not through war. Like Gandhi says, the path to peace is peace. No violent action, even if for an apparent benefit, in quotes, is justified by the World Social Forum. The World Social Forum, for example, does not include any organization, any association, that professes violence as a form of political action. Democracy, peaceful processes and a world view is the arena in which the process of the World Social Forum develops How it works? The World Social Forum has no President, no directors, no command. What the World Social Forum has is an organizing committee for the Forum’s world events, and an international council formed by over one hundred organizations. Both the organizing committee and the international council have the mission to uphold the process: to increase the process, to enhance the process, to make room so the process can happen. The World Social Forum has a methodology based on the idea that we need to formulate ideas, to promote dialogue between the many organizations in order for this to result in an action plan of social transformation. So the organizations enroll, hold their workshops, their conferences, their debates. We had, for example, in the last World Social Forum, in the last Forums, a few thousand workshops, conferences, lectures, debates, The Forum’s organizing committee based on the organizations’ requests and expected attendance, allocates these activities within the physical space of the World Social Forum, and elects important themes to be guidelines for enrolling workshops, lectures and activities, From the organizations’ enrollment, there is an attempt to connect entities that propose very close themes, similar or equal, so that they can develop joint activities, so for example, if ten organizations propose the theme of water, for instance, to be discussed, they are placed in contact with each other so they can attempt to have a joint activity, which increases the richness and strength of that activity. From this attempt, we finally get to the Forum’s final program. In this final program, there is an open slot at the end of each day for no specific activity, but for meetings and dialogue. Many entities and organizations and people that are in the Forum have never met; and they need the opportunity to meet each other, to talk, to promote future partnerships, to find out what each one is doing, to exchange experiences. And on the last two days, the program encourages organizations participating in the Forum to present action plans. What do they intend to do to in order to ensure what they want to make happen? And this timeslot for presenting action plans also gives an opportunity for all who are there to get involved in one, another, or several action plans. So, for instance, if there is an action plan to democratize the United Nations, and there are proposals for action, I who am interested in the theme, or my organization, can have the opportunity to join that work, that organization and that action plan to promote a form of pressure for the United Nations to actually be a democratic entity. If there is another organization with an action plan to promote peace in conflict regions, I can join those action plans together with those who are interested in the same theme. So there is all this organization to open space, to join, in that space, organizations that deal with similar themes, And a space for presenting action plans and joining forces and strengthening several action plans with the engagement of many social entities. The resources for the process come from several sources. A good part of the resources come from the people who enroll in the World Social Forum events, another part comes from institutional support from foundations, social organizations,international social movements. Other resources come from governments who support the World Social Forum, both at local and national levels, from international cooperation. The resources are very, very diverse, so that no supporter, no sponsor of the World Social Forum has enough weight to influence anything within the World Social Forum. The Forum and Global Governance One example of the World Social Forum process, which is informing, diagnosing, formulating proposals and acting, is the issue of world governance. The United Nations was created after the Second World War to promote human rights and peace in the world. After almost sixty years of existence of the United Nations, we can say that the world is far from peace and far from having preserved human rights. And the United Nations is not an example of democracy in its workings Few people know, for example, how the United Nations’ Secretary-General is selected. He is selected by the Security Council, where there are five countries that for the past sixty years have veto rights. So if the United States, France, England, China or Russia don’t like or don’t want the United Nations to have a given initiative, any one of them, individually even if all other countries in the world wish to do otherwise, any one of these countries can block any action. So few people know about this in the world and the World Social Forum must disclose it. Beyond that, what is the proposal for more democratic world governance? Several proposals are put forward then, as to what kind of political action, for pressure on the United Nations, must be exerted for world governance to be democratic governance. These are the kinds of challenges placed not just before the World Social Forum, I think today for all mankind Growth and Expansion The World Social Forum process began in February of 2001 with a great event in Porto Alegre in Brazil. After that, what happened was that there began a great World Social Forum process, in which we have had up until now hundreds of local World Social Forums. Several cities in the world have held, at different times, meetings within the framework of the World Social Forum. the expectation is always the same, of having opportunity, in each space, of learning the situation, educating people, opening discussions so that more information can circulate between people, so that organizations that work within the world view of the World Social Forum, can meet, exchange ideas,exchange information, build partnerships, articulate actions. We have also had thematic meetings in several places in the world, for example, on the issue of trade, the issue of peace, of democracy, the issue of human rights. So several thematic Forums have been held in several countries in the world, every year we have had several continental Forums, A Forum in Europe, Forum of the Americas, Asian Forums, African Forums. Several Forums happened over time,we have already lost count, there are hundreds of meetings within the framework of the World Social Forum and this is exactly what we want: the expansion of the World Social Forum process An important step was taken in 2004, which was holding the Social Forum in India. The annual, world meeting in India. It has been decided that the annual meeting of 2007 will be in Africa which is a very important space, a very important continent for the movement, in short, the World Social Forum has grown in occurrences, in events. The presence of people and organizations in the World Social Forum, in the annual events is an important fact, although not a decisive fact because the idea is much more for the Forum to expand in several places in the world, but in the first WSF we had about thirty-five thousand people with the participation of fifteen thousand organizations, today we have participation of one hundred and fifty thousand people with forty or fifty thousand organizations. The conferences, debates and activities have multiplied three or four times in each of the annual meetings that have been held. We are not afraid that the Forum will expand and include many more people, because that is precisely the idea, we are afraid of the opposite, that the World Social Forum will be restricted to too few people and too few organizations, But we are not afraid, either, of the World Social Forum, quote, losing control, unquote, because control does not exist over the process. The only control there is, is the charter of principles, the ideas and the world view of the World Social Forum. So I think that in a short time the World Social Forum has really become the great landmark of establishing a world civil society, in a great world-wide articulation of civil society to build a sustainable society, for sustainable development The Forum's Result The results achieved by the World Social Forum process are countless. One example is the very change in the World Economic Forum agenda. The World Economic Forum never talked about social issues, environmental issues. Today the World Economic Forum discusses environmental, social issues, with not much depth, but it does place a different kind of discussion on its agenda. The great mobilization of the World Social Forum against the war, as a way of resolving conflicts. The great protests in Europe against the war caused several countries to decline to commit to war in Iraq, The changes proposed today in the United Nations , to make the United Nations more democratic certainly resulted from several pressures that were exerted thanks to the political actions and debates in the World Social Forum. Today there is, for example, the commitment of Russia, that completes the series of countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol did not become the reality it is today simply through will of the countries, it was thanks to enormous pressure from society and it was and is one of the important themes of the World Social Forum Another important result of the World Social Forum is the concept of fair trade, of sustainable trade, and in this articulation between entities, there is today a unanimity that we should not accept trade based on child labor, on slave labor, on environmental degradation. In short, this pressure from society for a fairer and more sustainable trade, has made several international corporations completely change their strategy for production, for businesses, for marketing products. An important thing is that we have unveiled, we have completely buried the idea of a free market, because that free market does not exist. First, the idea of free market is usually the market where the rule of the strongest applies. Today we need behavior rules, relationship rules and to show that the idea of free market was always posed as an idea of free for you and not free for me. And that the rules of market today are the rules of the strongest that favor the strongest. Another important idea that came up is the issue of the poorest countries’ debts and several efforts are being made today to alleviate those debts, which entirely prevent, if these debts remain, any kind of development in the poorer countries So the idea of debt and the global action against the debts of poor countries was one of the actions, in fact, originated by several organizations that are in the World Social Forum and that has gained strength thanks to the articulation of several entities that address that issue. These are some of the results, among various that have been achieved, through the processes initiated at the World Social Forum. The Potential and the Pitfalls The World Social Forum has great potential to save mankind from the great social and environmental disaster that is on our threshold. If we believe all the forecasts from scientists, universities, the United Nations, and the social organizations we can indeed move towards sustainable development, to a world of peace, solidarity and environmental preservation. This is the more optimistic outlook. Often human beings, people, organizations and countries act after great disasters. After the disaster we begin to think, well, let’s change our lives. Many people in hospitals decide to quit smoking, many people decide after their child leaves home to have a better relationship with their children. Many businessmen, after great problems, decide to change company management. In the case of mankind, if the disaster happens there won’t be actions afterwards because the disaster is a disaster of enormous magnitude. The great challenge, the great risk of the World Social Forum movement is for it to become a movement and a process already known and traditional in the other world, this current world that we already know and not be the movement of another transforming world. This is a great risk that exists for any social organization, any social entity that intends to be a transforming entity. Social organizations, the great transforming social entities are always created by a small group, usually very idealistic, very bold, very creative, that manages to build a transforming organization Often that organization begins to gain recognition, to grow, and the great risk is for the energy that was directed towards that mission, to begin little by little to turn to the actual organization. The question is no longer what is good for achieving that mission, but what is good for the welfare of that organization, the organization becomes an end in itself and the mission ends up being more and more forgotten. Another great risk is to transform the energy that was directed towards the mission into energy for the political struggle to control the organization Another great risk is when the organization grows and is acknowledged, doors begin to open, there is more space and recognition which makes the organization become more and more conservative, more like the establishment, because it doesn’t want to lose its recognition, it loses courage, avoids conflict, does not want to displease anyone and ends up being more a conservative than a transforming organization. They are risks that involve not only the World Social Forum, but I think any social organization, that has the idea and the mission to be transforming and improve the world. The Power of People Power is always a means, actually, it should always be a means for something, to transform society, to improve people’s lives, to promote the well-being of everyone. of people voting for candidates that represent their world view The risk is power being an end in itself having resources, having money, just to have it, just to have power, but not money and resources as means for a better life, a means of happiness. People have the power of transformation, we must not forget that power today is concentrated in governments and a lot in businesses, in fact, businesses, with their economic power, also have great control over the political process, the electoral process. The decisions made today in the world are made by governments and by the great multinational businesses. Now, governments and businesses depend on people. Governments are elected by people, and businesses live on their consumers, the people that buy their products and services. If people decided to vote only for representatives that are committed to sustainable development, to social justice, to human rights, that has great transforming power. If consumers, each of us when we select our products and services, try to buy products and services only from companies that are socially responsible, and don’t violate human rights, that don’t use child labor, slave labor, that don’t pollute, that don’t practice corruption, that don’t support corrupt politicians, that has great transforming power. When we have these movements, we have already had several of them, sporadically in several moments, but when this becomes a permanent part of society, and buying products and services from socially responsible businesses, that has great transforming power and that is what we are counting on, that is what I am counting on.

Video Details

Duration: 39 minutes and 52 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Ashoka
Views: 874
Posted by: fsosa on Oct 14, 2006

Oded Grajew has turned his eye for organizing business towards uniting and empowering the citizen sector. He describes the founding of the World Social Forum, a unique transnational process for dialogue, collaboration, and coalition-building. Each year, the process culminates in a global gathering of over 150,000 people and organizations - who craft campaigns and action plans to bring about peace, development and a better world for all. Here, he explains how the Forum works, revealing the newest civil society organizing techniques and methods. He examines the economic values driving globalization and shows how the market could be reframed for the benefit of citizens as well as companies. He calls for values and voices that drive sustainable social policy.

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