UNESCO at the World Social Forum 2002

After the demonstrations in Seattle, Prague, Nice and Genoa, and above all following the meeting of the First World Social Forum in January 2001, we are expecting a large number of people at Porto Alegre from 31 January to 5 February 2002 for the second World Social Forum (WSF II). But we shall not be marching in the streets in Porto Alegre; we shall be discussing possible alternatives for a world that is more just and socially sustainable.

Debates during this studious and committed gathering will be organized around four major themes: production of wealth, access to wealth, affirmation of civil society and the public arena, and political and ethical power. The aim of WSF II is to reflect on the best ways to promote the values of justice, solidarity and democratic participation and, on the basis of this analysis and the resulting diagnosis, to start to make proposals and strategies different from the "neoliberal" kind connected with globalization and its new orthodox thinking. While the globalization process brings with it forms of integration, it also generates forms of exclusion by providing new opportunities of enrichment for significant sectors and groups of society while marginalizing numerous other political and social actors.

UNESCO, as a laboratory of ideas and as the organization responsible for international intellectual and scientific cooperation must naturally take an active part in the global movement in favour of social development, by contributing to the progress of knowledge and the establishment of principles and policies. It is for this reason that UNESCO will renew its participation this year in the WSF.

UNESCO, in cooperation with its partners in civil society, is proposing three workshops that will focus on contemporary issues relating to the Organization’s fields of competence – Education, the Sciences, Culture and Communication – while trying to establish links between scientific knowledge and public action. It will also have a stand on the WSF premises to provide information on the Organization’s activities and an area for informal discussion and reflection.

The time has come to ask ourselves: What are the possible alternatives when confronted with a globalization process that is exclusively market-driven and devoid of solidarity? Is it possible to implement the processes of globalization with social justice as the main goal?

UNESCO’s participation in the World Social Forum is important. UNESCO and WSF share the conviction that they must reinforce the collective and alternative building of a new social order. Strengthened with realistic strategies, this joint utopia may one day see the human aspiration to a fairer world come true, and globalization and human rights become two converging movements. During the first World Social Forum, UNESCO instigated a debate on democratic governance. This is a strategic theme that we propose to build upon in a political and future-oriented discussion.

At the centre of this debate, the contributions of the African, Asian, European and Latin American participants will cover four basic questions:

    • the role of the State and of social movements in reinforcing the capacity of democracies to oppose and manage globalization to the benefit of their citizens;

    • international regulating bodies already in existence and those needing to be set up;

    • the means of introducing governance of the global system founded on democratic principles;

    • the roles for the United Nations and for non-State actors, particularly NGOs, in such global democratic governance.

It has been seen from the different publications covering this debate that there is a need for deeper analyses of democracy as a complex system for managing conflicts that favours the political over economic aspects. Hence the generative question: how should democracy be viewed in the face of the political representation crisis and the emergence of new forms of citizenship?

With "Democratic governance" as a general strategic theme, the debate this year will be more focused, dealing with specific issues situated historically in a particular time and place. The programme that UNESCO is proposing for WSF II has three themes that will be developed in three seminars:

The seminars aim to promote an open debate on the main themes of the WSF, and more specifically on:

    • access to possessions and sustainability;
    • dynamics, social movements and governance;
    • principles, values and cultural identity.
  © 2002 - UNESCO   
Image: © UNESCO, G. Solinís