World Social Forum 2009: General Assembly of Social Movements Meeting

26 January 2009 - 7:04pm

Luckily a couple of English speakers very kindly offered to do some ad hoc interpretation for us from Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese into English. A representative from MST began by explaining that the aim of the meeting was to outline the expectations for the Assembly at the Forum and to talk about structure and mobilisation. He started by telling us a few interesting facts about this WSF, including that 55,000 participants had registered from the state of Para in Brazil alone. (Later we saw a newspaper headline that 92,000 people have already registered!). He went on to talk about the degree of government involvement in the Forum, explaining that there was heightened police presence in certain areas and that there had been some relocations and evictions of families around the university sites where the forum is being held. In his opinion those policies, coupled with the participation fee, were serious obstacles to the involvement of local people in the WSF.

The MST speaker went on to highlight some of the big issues, such as the tensions between discussions of environmental preservation of Amazonian lands which excluded a people-centred perspective on these lands and therefore the needs of their inhabitants. (Interestingly Belem has the highest number of NGOs per capita in Brazil.) He went on to say that the exact details of the opening march had not yet been decided, but that there was some controversy over the route because some officials were trying to divert the march away from one of the main avenues where controversial multinational corporations like McDonalds and a Brazilian mining company were located. But he was confident that the march would follow the original route as planned. We will have to wait and see!


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