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Cy Gonick reporting from opening day of World Social Forum, Brazil

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(By Cy Gonick) An estimated hundred thousand delegates opened the 2009 World Social Forum with a spirited march down the main street of this northern port city of Belem in the heart of the Amazon. An equal number of local residents lined the streets observing the carnival-like demonstration and cheering on the boisterous marchers along with their drummers, banners and chanters.

A short downpour did nothing to dampen the spirits of the marchers – if anything, animating them including loud cheers with every new cloudburst.Here’s the link to CD’s quick video of the march:

The first WSF occurred eight or nine years ago, also located in Brazil, butin the city of Porte Alegre, before moving to Nairobi and other cities. Now it’s back in Brazil. This is my first WSF. My guess is that there the atmosphere is more hopeful than it was nearly a decade ago­ with Bush gone, neoliberalism thoroughly discredited, capitalism on the defensive and with socialist or semi-socialist regimes spreading all through Latin America.

This veteran marcher/activist had never before been surrounded by such a sea of humanity as committed as himself to changing the world. I can say that the feeling was exhilarating, bordering on jubilation –knowing all the work in organizing, capacity building and struggles of so many diverse movements that brought these people together­ but with the usual caution that so much more needs to be done.

An official report will indicate the exact numbers of delegates and where they came from. My guess is that all but a few thousand arrived from neighbouring Latin American countries, if not residents of Brazil itself. I could be wrong, but I doubt that there are more than a dozen Canadians (fellow CD collective member Clayton Thomas Muller is here). Not that many Americans or Europeans in evidence either. The program is truly formidable. There are some 2,600 activities scheduled, including seminars, conferences, assemblies, cultural events. Everything in the program is organized according to the 10 objectives of the World Social Forum, – with each workshop/panel/presentation etc slotted into one of these categories.

The 2009 program takes up 142 newspaper-size pages, each one packed with information! The objectives of the WSF are inspiring and not surprisingly, define the scope of the different world that is possible ­the motto of the WSF. For those unaware, here they are:

  1. For the construction of a world of peace, justice, ethics and respect for different spiritualities, free of weapons, especially nuclear ones.

  2. For the release of the world domain by capital, multinationalcorporations, imperialist, patriarchal, colonial and neo-colonial domination and unequal systems of commerce, by canceling the impoverish countries debt.

  3. For universal and sustainable access to the common property of mankind and nature, for the preservation of our planet and its resources, particularly water, forests and renewable energy sources.

  4. For the democratization and independence of knowledge, culture and communication and for the creation of a system of shared knowledge and acquirement with the dismantling of Intellectual Property Rights.

  5. For the dignity, diversity, ensuring the equality of gender, race, ethnicity, generation, sexual orientation and elimination of all forms ofdiscrimination.

  6. For ensurance (during the lifetime use of all people) of the economic, social, human, cultural and environmental rights, particularly the rights to food, health, education, housing, employment and decent work, communication and food security and sovereignty.

  7. For the construction of a world based on sovereignty, self-determination and on people’s rights, including minorities and migrants.

  8. For the construction of a democratic emancipator, sustainable and solidary economy, focused on every people and based on ethical and fair trade

  9. For the construction and expansion of truly local, national and global democratic political and economic structures and institutions, with the participation of people in decisions and control of public affairs and resources.

  10. For the defense of the environment as source of life for the planet earth and for the originary peoples of the world (indigenous,afro-descendent, tribal and riverine), that demand their territories, languages, cultures, identities, environmental justice, spirituality, and right to live.

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