SAN FRANCISCO, California - January 18 - Tens of thousands of peace and justice advocates from throughout the Western Hemisphere are gearing up for the World Social Forum, to be held this year in Caracas, Venezuela from January 24 – 29. The World Social Forum is an annual gathering that brings together peace activists, fair trade crusaders, environmentalists, and advocates of indigenous, workers’ and women’s rights, among others.
The largest US delegation to the World Social Forum in Caracas is being organized by the San Francisco-based human rights group Global Exchange. Some 200 people from throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and England will travel to Caracas with Global Exchange’s Reality Tours program and then stay on in Venezuela to study the transformation that the country has been undergoing under the leadership of Hugo Chavez. Delegates will be available for interviews from Venezuela at the cell phone numbers above and will be blogging about the World Social Forum at http://www.worldsocialforumlive.org.
The World Social Forum was created as an alternative to the World Economic Forum, which is a gathering of economic and political elites that happens annually in Davos, Switzerland. The World Social Forum is meant to be a place where activists from around the globe can envision a better world – one where people’s basic human needs are met, where international cooperation replaces war and militarism, and where governments and corporations respect the earth and its inhabitants - and share ideas about how to create it. Past World Social Forums have spawned important global collaborations, including the largest public mobilizations in human history - the February 15, 2003 demonstrations against the Iraq war.
“Being at the World Social Forum is like being at a huge family reunion of people who share the same values and are doing the same work to improve the world. There’s no other place where you can meet leaders of the landless workers movement of Brazil, who are fighting for the right to land for 250,000 displaced workers; representatives of the indigenous movements of Ecuador and Bolivia, who are fighting extractive industries in the Andes and Amazon; and women from across the Western Hemisphere who are joining together to push for peace in Iraq,” said Zach Hurwitz, an organizer of the Global Exchange World Social Forum delegation.
Speakers at the Caracas World Social Forum will include Nobel Peace Prize Winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; Gold Star Mother Cindy Sheehan; and renowned author Eduardo Galeano. In the past, the World Social Forum was held in one location per year, but this year it has been split into three gatherings in different parts of the world. In addition to the Caracas gathering, there will be a World Social Forum in Karachi, Pakistan and also one in Bamako, Mali.