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BRAZIL: World Social Forum for Global Equity, Say Activists

Agence France Presse
February 2nd, 2002

Activists at the second annual World Social Forum rejected the label "anti," saying they were working for democracy and equitable distribution of wealth.

"The enemy calls us 'anti,' they say we complain, we are the anti-Forum, anti-globalization, while our movement, really, is globally for democracy, equality, diversity, justice and quality of life," said Lori Wallach, of the US watchdog group Public Citizen.

"Our toughest job is to articulate what we really stand for."

The 30,000 participants at the six-day event sought to counter the World Economic Forum, which gathered the world's economic elite in New York.

Foreign debt of all the world's developing nations amounts to two trillion dollars, while the US public debt alone is five trillion dollars, said French national Eric Toussaint of the Committee to Annul Third World Debt.

"Wiping out the total debt of the Third World would represent less than five percent of developed nations' debt, which will therefore pose no risk to global finance," he said.

Calling debt-resolution a political problem, the activists suggested the creation of an international court to rule on the legitimacy of requiring foreign aid repayments, which can often cripple a nation struggling to turn its account books to the black.

The activists saved their harshest criticism for what they deem the primary culprit in globalization -- the World Trade Organization.

Leaders here said they hoped to abolish of the world body, which recently admitted China despite criticism of rampant abuses of human rights by Beijing.

"The World Trade Organization does not support free trade, despite demanding poor countries to liberalize their economies, but is a protectionist vehicle for the rich countries," claimed Martin Kohr, a Malaysian representative of the Third World Network.

The rich countries "promised to open their markets, to reduce subsidies to sectors such as agriculture and they haven't done it. But when southern hemisphere countries propose building infrastructure like roads, they are attacked by foreign multinationals complaining such things give an unfair advantage to local business," he said.

"Latin America saw its market share drop from 11 percent to five percent; Africa's fell to two percent from eight and the world's 49 poorest countries represent barely 0.4 percent" of global trade, said Africa Trade Network's Dot Keet.

"The more we pay, the less we have, the more we need," said Argentina's Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Perez Ezquivel.

Meanwhile, a representative of Colombia's oldest and largest Marxist rebel force, known as FARC, was able to gain entry to the forum, despite entreaties from organizers that no known associates of groups linked to armed insurgencies be allowed to participate.

The organizers issued a statement acknowledging FARC representative Julian Corrado had been invited to join a panel discussion on "Is a new Colombia possible?" but when he turned up, dressed in fatigues, he was denied access to the auditorium of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul for the program.

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