World Social Forum 2009: Global meltdown

29 January 2009 - 5:45pm

The meeting took place in a large open-sided tent, letting plenty of air in on a scorching morning - a lucky break as more than 150 people turned up. It seems that our flyering and emailing efforts had been worth it! The speakers outlined their perspectives on how the financial crisis has impacted both the global South and North and each spoke about the threats and opportunities that have emerged in this new reality.

A variety of proposals were put forward on what type of financial architecture was needed to create a people-centred financial system. Some of the specific proposals included mechanisms to arrest the creation of 'too big to fail' banks - a situation where society is so dependent on massive banks that a bailout becomes necessary in times of crisis. Several other key issues were discussed: the importance of bringing finance under democratic control; the need for community sovereignty over resources; and the ways in which the circulation of money can provide people with buying power to fulfil their needs, rather than simply create wealth for a few people or institutions. Two strong calls came out of the meeting: ending tax havens and the ‘shadow' economy and the democratisation of finance.

Overall Dave felt that the reality of the financial crisis had focused campaigners and movements on the need for action. There was a lot of passion about need to address the financial system and the urgency of using the opportunity for redefining the role of finance in the world to support the public good.

Dave then went to a meeting organised by the Labour and Globalisation network, which was born out of the WSF several years ago. The network is attempting to bring together social movements with trade unions from around the world to explore the common ground. The seminar, which was sponsored War on Want, was attended by trade unionists from Nepal, Colombia and included representatives from the International Metalworkers Federation, COSATU and the FGTB of Belgium.

Three main themes emerged from the session: changing trade rules, the need to integrate informal sector workers into the union movement and the rights of migrant workers. The meeting also touched on the possibility of creating a ‘global charter of labour' but it was felt that a first step was to forge stronger bonds between trade unions from the North and South


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