PARIS – The European Social Forum opening in Paris Wednesday will look for an economic model that could become an alternative to capital-led globalization.
This search will be a central theme during the three days of meetings that will see 270 seminars, 55 conferences and 287 workshops in and around Paris. Close to 60,000 delegates from 1,500 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are expected to attend. Other themes will include a critical review of European agriculture policy, women’s rights and xenophobia. The European Social Forum (ESF) will also seek to promote dialogue between cultures and peoples, organizers say.
The ESF will end Nov. 15 ”with a festive, massive protest to evoke a European culture of peace and citizens’ rights,” says Pierre Khalfa, member of the forum’s organizing committee.
”The march will be held in an artistic and activist form,” Khalfa added. ”It will be a manifestation of the European Social Forum, and will unite diverse and active movements into one rally to celebrate them all.”
The Paris forum will be the second such European meeting following the ESF in Florence in Italy last year. It will follow the principles of the World Social Forum (WSF) launched in Porto Alegre in Brazil in 2001.
”We consider the ESF a European basis to the WSF, and a complement to it,” Laurent Vannini, one of the ESF organizers in Paris told IPS. The ESF will prepare European civil society participation at the fourth World Social Forum to take place in January next year in the Indian city Mumbai.
”We will be discussing WSF subjects on a European basis, and will give peoples and organizations on our continent who cannot attend meetings in faraway places the opportunity to express themselves and to exchange views with other organizations,” Vannini said.
The ESF will focus on ”how to create an alternative model of economic and diplomatic relations based on human development, and not on capitalist profits,” he added.
The ESF will aim to create international networks among civil society organizations, find ways for them to reinforce one another’s work, and enrich the common assessment against neo-liberalism, Vannini said. It will seek to promote a Europe that stands for peace, solidarity and human rights.
Among the civil society representatives attending the ESF are unions, environmental and humanitarian committees such as Greenpeace and Doctors of the World, women’s groups, supporters of immigrants’ rights, and human rights organizations from all over the continent, including Central and Eastern Europe.
The ESF program will follow five ”lines of discussions”. The first line against war will bring debates on international law, global disarmament, military globalization. and imperial politics. It will propose new North-South relations based on development and economic cooperation.
A second line of discussion against neo-liberalism calls for debates on citizens’ and democratic rights in Europe, and an analysis of the draft European Union constitution.
The third and fourth lines of discussions call for an examination of ”the logic of profit and for an ecologically sustainable society”, and of ”the merchandising processes of democratic information, culture, and education.”
Within these the ESF will examine deregulation and privatization of public services, especially water. ”Several NGOs working on public services will launch a campaign to keep water in public hands,” Hélène Ballande of the French section of Friends of the Earth told IPS.
”We also want implementation of the international legal framework to ensure that private international corporations are held responsible for their noxious behavior, be it environmental disasters, corruption, or exploitation of human work,” Ballande said.
The last line of discussion will cover racism, xenophobia, and exclusion of immigrants in Europe.