Tribes join global call for change
Activists gather for Brazil's World Social Forum to demand a new economic system.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2009 16:03 GMT

This year's World Social Forum is expected to focus on the struggles of indigenous peoples [AFP]

About 24 hours before the beginning of the World Social Forum in Brazil eight major global companies announced they were cutting another 75,000 jobs - the latest victims of the deepening global economic crisis.

But the mood at the event this year is likely to be: "We told you so."

The themes of the event have changed over the past nine years, since the first World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

But what has not changed is the belief among many participants that the global economic system is in danger of collapse after years of excessive greed and corruption.

This year over 100,000 people, from more than 150 non-governmental organisations and social movements around the world, have descended on the Amazonian city of Belem in northeast Brazil.

Hugo Chavez is among those set to attend
the event [AFP]
The event is held as an alternative to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where global business and political leaders gather to discuss the world economy. 

This year's forum is set to be dominated by issues such as deforestation, development and social responsibility - as well as the global economic crisis. 

There is also a large focus on indigenous issues and racial equality with indigenous leaders from dozens of countries in Belem.

Brazil's Kayapo indigenous people, who are leading a campaign against a controversial hydroelectric dam, are here in large numbers.

Leaders attend

In the past, the World Social Forum has been said to be a gathering of "radicals," "anti-capitalists," or the "anti-globalisation" protesters.

The World Economic Forum was where "decision-makers" met to do business.

But this year Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, is bypassing the World Economic Forum, and is instead expected at the World Social Forum.

It could also be a who's who of Latin America’s left-leaning presidents if, as expected, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa, the Ecuadorian president, and Fernando Lugo, the recently elected Paraguayan leader all attend the event.

Capitalism in crisis

Many hope the meeting will highlight
illegal logging in Brazil [Reuters]
And this year, with global economy in crisis, there is a sense that maybe those attending the event might have been correct all along.  

"We have a crisis in the capitalist system, and that is now being accepted by many of those who will participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos," said Felico Pontes Junior, a Brazilian federal prosecutor attending the event.

But there little gloating here, as most of these participants know from first hand experience, that the global crisis that began in the rich north is having a huge impact on the world's poor.

Belem, the venue for the meeting, is the capital of the Brazilian state of Para, the most heavily deforested area of the Amazon forest.

"The World Social Forum being held in the Amazon, in Belem, can give visibility to what is happening in the Amazon," said Pontes Junior, an outspoken critic of development in the Amazon.

"We need the whole world to know the situation here because the Amazon is important for the equilibrium of the world climate.

'Another world'

The theme of the World Economic Forum this year is 'Shaping the Post-Crisis World'.

Here in Belem many are demanding to know why the very people partly responsible for causing the crisis should be charged with shaping the post-economic crisis world?

'World Social Forum 2009: Another World is Possible,' is the theme in Belem.

The challenge for the World Social Forum participants this week is to define what that new world is and how to get there.

Al Jazeera
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