BRUSSELS - A high-level international conference in Milan later this week will seek to strengthen political and social forces to counter the effects of globalization.
Several thousand participants from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), political parties, international institutions and trade unions will gather in Milan Friday (Sep. 9) for the second Global Progressive Forum (GPF).
They will seek to form a "progressive alliance to shape global political debate and counter the impact of religious ultra-conservatism and free-market extremism on international politics."
An initiative of the Party of European Socialists (PES), the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the group Socialist International, the GPF aims to develop an agenda on a range of themes including trade, AIDS and the United Nations, with emphasis on Africa.
The two-day meet on 'reforming globalization by creating global progressive communities for change' will discuss how international forces can act together to ensure "democracy, lasting peace, sustainable prosperity and social justice for all."
"We want to strengthen the global network between major forces of the center-left," Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the GPF told IPS. "It brings together people who want a better globalization than the market-driven globalization currently on offer."
Julian Scola, spokesperson for the PES in the European Parliament, said that "while many work for a more human-oriented globalization, the GPF is the only initiative to seek a broad alliance of progressives."
It represents a stand against global politics being shaped by "religious ultra-conservatism, free market extremism, terrorism and fear, military unilateralism, racism and ethnicism, and similar anti-progressive forces," he told IPS. The timing of the forum is particularly relevant just days before the high-level UN summit in New York next week.
Rasmussen says the forum will also rally opposition to U.S. attempts to make the UN abandon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include a 50 percent reduction in poverty and hunger, universal primary education, and the reduction of child mortality by two-thirds.
"The progressive community cannot accept the U.S. blocking the millennium goals," he said. "We hope that this will be the first step to strengthening and broadening the UN Security Council and the creation of the human security development council."
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is another area where the GPF aims to make an impact.
"It is about time that the WTO turned its attention to how trade can tackle poverty, and improve working conditions for the exploited," Harlem Désir, vice-president of the PES and the forum told IPS.
"Decent work and tackling poverty are issues that progressives will be putting on the table at the WTO talks in Hong Kong," he said. The talks due in December could fail if there is no strong push from the developed world, he said.
The forum will also launch a new initiative, 'Africa21' involving policymakers and civil society organizations
"This will be a campaign dedicated to assisting Africa on a permanent basis," said Rasmussen. "We want to form a strong network that will be linked to the Internet and to the World Social Forum so that we can continue our work with Africa permanently."
Désir says all of these issues require a strong social movement. "As the socialist family we want to launch a new way of thinking and political action. No one can act effectively when they are alone, we must act at a new, complex international level."
Giampiero Alhadeff, secretary-general of Solidar, a Brussels-based network of development NGOs, will push for the need to make decent work the driving force of globalization
"For us this means that all policies must be measured in terms of their impact on employment, social protection, equality between women and men, access to quality public services and the right of workers," he told IPS.
"We in the NGOs and social movements have campaigned over the years to change the current model of globalization," he said. "We have made alliances with trade unionists, with the churches and with the political parties. The Global Progressive Forum is taking the debate one step forward by involving political leaders in a close debate with all of us."
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