World Social Forum Plans April Agitation Against IMF and World Bank
Published on Thursday, January 22, 2004 by the
World Social Forum Plans April Agitation Against IMF and World Bank
by Suruchi Yadav

MUMBAI - The six-day World Social Forum (WSF) which concluded in Mumbai Wednesday, highlighted the need for urgent action, beginning with a global anti-war march on March 20, and a movement against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank between April 22-25, which marks the 60th anniversary of the two institutions.

The forum that attracted 100,000 participants from 132 countries closed with cultural performances and messages of solidarity from across the world.

The initial days of the forum saw vehement assertions of anti-globalization and anti-capitalist beliefs, but having identified the "Enemy" and its "Tools", the concluding sentiment clearly emphasized the need for immediate and urgent "action" to eliminate the enemy.

And to move in the direction of "Another World," based on "peoples' rights to dignity, equality, employment, diversity and resources."

While the WSF made no formal declaration, several powerful suggestions concerning the key issues were put forth by several of the dignitaries at the forum.

Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy, who was on a "war footing" against imperialistic powers, asked the forum to "identify two companies from the US that have benefited from the war in Iraq, identify all their offices and projects, and shut them down."

Abduk Amir Al Relaby, an activist from Iraq, passionately appealed to people from across the world to get involved with the resistance in Iraq. An example was Jose Bove who earlier lent his support to the Palestinian "struggle for liberation," and was now showing Iraqi people a "practical way to fight."

A strong anti-war activist, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP from Britain, believed that "unity among the people and victims of globalization" could bring about desired changes.

South African freedom fighter, Dennis Brutus stated there was a plan for "a global action against war." For example, on March 20, there would be a march against war across the world. The date marks the first anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.

Such resistances were now being recognized as threats by Imperialist powers. This was evident from the fact that when 6 million people marched against war last year, The New York Times was compelled to report there were now "two superpowers" in the world; the US and the "people in the street."

Brutus also stated that between April 22-25, when the World Bank and IMF were celebrating their 60th anniversary, there would be a simultaneous resistance to question their role, mentioning explicitly that they were not needed any longer.

Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi felt the remedy lay in "greater respect for Human Rights." She was an integral part of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). She felt more countries should be persuaded to ratify the ICC.

She also strongly advocated the rights of women, which were not diverse from human rights.

The role of media emerged as a powerful tool for bringing about change. Prominent French journalist and one of the founding members of the WSF, Bernard Cassen, noted that media at present acted on behalf of vested "economic interests" and the need for "an alternate media is frontline."

He informed that a year ago a powerful "counter power to media" was established as a network of international observatories, comprising eminent journalists, academics and users, who would observe and "monitor carefully media action."

Adding to this, Nikhil Wagle, editor of Indian publication, Mahanagar, felt "no social order was eternal" and history had shown media could bring down even powerful empires.

Nobel Laureate for Economics Joseph Stiglitz, emphasized the role media played in the failure of the Cancun talks, which are a major victory against the WTO. The media would quickly send information about trade deals to be struck to governments, and they would jump into action by asking their representative trade ministers to re-negotiate.

He also sharply criticized the World Bank and IMF for policies that catered only to a "single set of objectives." As he put it, "Economic policy cannot be delegated to the technocrats," as it affects diverse segments.

Stiglitz was against "capital market liberalization" which triggered instability in developing countries and the move to "privatize social security." He advocated "growth shared by all," together with job creation and labor market reforms.

While on labor reforms, Indian economist Prabhat Patnaik, noted that Trade Unions were "integral to civil societies" and could bolster the movement by becoming transparent and democratic.

British journalist, George Monbiot, felt the UN, IMF and World Bank "must go."

Monbiot stressed the need for a global clearing house which was based on fair practices. He noted that capitalists had given poorer nations a very "powerful weapon" in the form of "debt" and went on to suggest that "poorer nations that owed the World Bank US $2.2 trillion should get-together and default" till certain conditions they lay down were met.

On a less aggressive note, Indian film star Rahul Bose, who was there to support women's issues, felt major achievements were possible by appealing to "people's subconscious."

Chiko Wittiker, founding member of the WSF, felt the forum "allowed movements to meet in spite of differences" and had assumed scale equal to that of the Enemy. As Boaventura Souza Santoz of Portugal noted, a process that was "earlier too fragmented" had become global.

But of course participants noted there was need for the further unification between the North and the South. And only the confluence of different perspectives and struggles at the national level could generate global movements in the creation of "Another World."

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