The World Social Forum and global democratisation: Learning from Porto Alegre

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Tennessee At Martin]On: 06 October 2014, At: 19:24Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Third World QuarterlyPublication details, including instructionsfor authors and subscription information:</p><p>The World SocialForum and globaldemocratisation: Learningfrom Porto AlegreTeivo TeivainenPublished online: 25 Aug 2010.</p><p>To cite this article: Teivo Teivainen (2002) The World Social Forum and globaldemocratisation: Learning from Porto Alegre, Third World Quarterly, 23:4,621-632, DOI: 10.1080/0143659022000005300</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy ofall the information (the Content) contained in the publicationson our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and ourlicensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication arethe opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of orendorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content shouldnot be relied upon and should be independently verified with primarysources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses,damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever causedarising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.</p><p></p></li><li><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private studypurposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution,reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution inany form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions ofaccess and use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 19:</p><p>25 0</p><p>6 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p><p></p></li><li><p>ISSN 0143-6597 print/ISSN 1360-2241 online/02/040621-1 2 q 2002 Third World QuarterlyDOI: 10.1080/014365902200000530 0 621</p><p>Third World Quarterly, Vol 23, No 4, pp 621632, 2002</p><p>On the one hand, democracy has become a widely accepted norm in our worldtoday. More governments than ever before are eager to define themselves asdemocratic. On the other hand, the prevalent forms of democratic governanceleave many important decision-making sites outside the reach of popularlyelected bodies. Public and private economic institutions offer various examplesof significant sites of power not governed by democratic rules. Many of theseinstitutions transgress the boundaries of individual nation-states.1</p><p>The concentration of power in transnational and global institutions was one ofthe most significant social processes of the twentieth century. Nevertheless,democratic theory and practice have remained very nation-state centred.Although there were some examples of cosmopolitan democratic thinking andtransnational democratic practice throughout the century, most analysts andpoliticians simply ignored them. An example of a reasonably moderate attempt todemocratise global power relations, especially as regards the NorthSouthdimension, was the 1970s project of the New International Economic Order(NIEO). It did not, however, lead to any significant redistribution of power andwas considered a failure by most commentators of the 1980s and 1990s.</p><p>At the very end of the century the public perception of the issues at stakeseemed to be changing. While, for example, designating the undemocratic nature</p><p>The World Social Forum and globaldemocratisation: learning fromPorto Alegre</p><p>TEIVO TEIVAINEN</p><p>ABSTRACT Being anti-something can be politically useful, but only up to apoint. The search for alternative globalisation projects has been central to theWorld Social Forum process. The first two forums, held in the Brazilian city ofPorto Alegre in 2001 and 2002, provided a wide variety of approaches towardsglobal democratisation. This article analyses the contradictions and prospects ofvarious approaches towards global democratisation that could be found in themeetings, including the organisational aspects of the World Social Forum itself.It simultaneously argues for the political importance of learning from theinnovative experiences in the so-called developing countries, such as the par-ticipatory budget planning of the Porto Alegre municipality. Without suchlearning that transgresses the idea of developed/adult/teacher vs developing/child/pupil, global democratisation cannot advance very far.</p><p>Teivo Teivainen is at the Ibero-American Center, University of Helsinki, PO Box 59, Helsinki FIN-00014,Finland. E-mail:</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 19:</p><p>25 0</p><p>6 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>TEIVO TEIVAINEN</p><p>of the International Monetary Fund as a significant political problem wasgenerally not taken seriously in the early 1990s, in the past two years we haveseen substantial crowds of people marching on the streets pointing out thisproblem. Global capitalism may have entered one of its most serious legitimacycrises.</p><p>While the solidarity movements related to many of the earlier attempts todemocratise global power, such as the NIEO project, tended to see the problemmore in terms of inter-state relations, many of the early twenty-first centurymovements are perceiving the world in a less state-centric manner. Instead ofasking that a particular Third World state be given more decision-making powerin global affairs, todays activists may ask for more power for the civil societygroups that confront both governmental and corporate power all over the world.This trend has many promising aspects. In order to imagine and construct institu-tional features of alternative futures, however, we may need political structuresthat civil society, as it is generally conceived, is unlikely to deliver.</p><p>The Battle in Seattle during the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in1999 boosted the local, transnational and global organisations and movementsprotesting against undemocratic sites of global power.2 In recent years we haveobserved the emergence of an increasing number of arenas that attract civilsociety organisations and active citizens to express concern about capitalistglobalisation. The arenas are varied, in terms of both political orientation andorganisational design. The spectacular demonstrations from Okinawa to Gothen-burg and Genoa have received ample media coverage and become prominentmodels of critical civil society organising. In most of them the main focus hasbeen on defensive measures, being against something. While reactive protestsmay play an important role in democratic transformations, the concrete initiativesfor the transformations are more likely to emerge from proactive meetings.</p><p>Many of the most visible civil society gatherings have been explicitly, andoften antagonisticall y, related to events of the global elite. The principal meetingsof the intergovernmental economic institutions such as the World Bank, IMFand WTO, including its predecessor GATT, have been facing counter-events quiteregularly since the late 1980s, including the anti-Bretton Woods riots of Berlin in1988 and the protests against the GATT meeting of 1990 in Brussels. The lack ofdemocracy in these institutions has been an increasingly important motivation ofthe counter-events.</p><p>More significantly but with less media attention, organised protests aroundthese issues have been taking place in the more peripheral parts of our world.Some Third World observers, such as Camilo Guevara, characterise Seattle andother similar media events in the USA and Europe as somewhat irrelevant to thegreat majorities of the world.3 While I cannot fully agree with his observation, itis undoubtedly true that in the poorer regions of the world there has been a lotgoing on before and besides Seattle. Middle-class youth protesting in a Europeanor North American city have been much more attractive to the global medianetworks than impoverished peasants campaigning against structural adjustmentprogrammes in the South.</p><p>622</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 19:</p><p>25 0</p><p>6 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>LEARNING FROM PORTO ALEGRE</p><p>From anti-Davos to Porto Alegre</p><p>The meetings of the formally private elite organisations such as the BilderbergSociety, Trilateral Commission and Mont Pellerin Society have also tended toattract less public attention than those of the Bretton Woods institutions and othersemi-public multilateral organs. Nevertheless, they constitute a highly influentialnetwork of transnational co-ordination in matters of global governance. One ofthe most influential and controversial of them is the World Economic Forum(WEF). The first informal business gathering in Davos, a Swiss mountain town,took place in January 1971 under the name of the European Management Forum.Since 1982 the Davos meeting has focused on bringing world economic leadersto its annual meetings, and in 1987 it got its present name, the World EconomicForum.4</p><p>In January 1999, after several years of preparation, various organisationsstarted preparing a counter-event in Switzerland under the banners of anotherDavos and anti-Davos. Apart from the World Forum of Alternatives, thegroups included the French journal Le Monde Diplomatique and Association forthe Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens (ATTAC), founded inFrance in June 1998.5 In the first anti-Davos event, organised simultaneouslywith the WEF 2000, various groups ranging from the World Womens March tothe Brazilian Landless Rural Workers first had a seminar in Zurich and thenmarched to Davos to hold a press conference and, for some 150 of them, to facecold weather and Robocop-like police in a demonstration .6 The difficult geo-graphical conditions and heavy police presence convinced some of the keyorganisers that it would be difficult to organise a huge anti-Davos gathering inDavos itself.7</p><p>In Brazil the concrete initiative for a worldwide civil society event emerged inearly 2000. The first formulations of the idea are generally attributed to OdedGrajew, co-ordinator of Brazilian Entrepreneurs Association for Citizenship(Associao Brasileira de Empresrios pela Cidadania (CIVES), a progressiveentrepreneurial organisation. In February 2000 Bernard Cassen, chair of ATTACand director of Le Monde Diplomatique, met Grajew and Francisco Whitaker inParis to discuss the possibility of organising such a forum. Their discussionproduced three central ideas for the forum. First of all, it should be held in theSouth, and more concretely in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. Second, thename should be World Social Forum (WSF), changing only one key word from theadversarys name. And third, it should be organised over the same dates as theWEF, partially because this symbolism was considered attractive for the media.8</p><p>Soon after it was clear that ATTAC, Le Monde Diplomatique and other organisa-tions influential within transnational activist networks would support theinitiative, eight Brazilian city society organisations decided to form theOrganizing Committee of the forum.9 In March 2000 they formally secured thesupport of the municipal government of Porto Alegre and the state government ofRio Grande do Sul, both controlled by the Workers Party (Partido dos Trabal-hadores (PT)).10 Initially it was the mayor of Porto Alegre, Raul Pont, in particularwho received the idea with great enthusiasm, but soon the state government, ledby governor Olivio Dutra, also decided to dedicate plenty of time and effort to</p><p>623</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 19:</p><p>25 0</p><p>6 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>TEIVO TEIVAINEN</p><p>the WSF process.11 The idea was presented internationally by Miguel Rossetto,vice-governor of Rio Grande do Sul, in June 2000 during an alternative UNmeeting in Geneva.</p><p>Porto Alegre, the capital of the Rio Grande do Sul state in southern Brazil, is inmany ways the most important stronghold of the PT. Founded in 1980, the partyhas deep roots in trade unions, catholic organisations, womens movements andmany other parts of the vibrant Brazilian civil society.12 Apart from its symbolicpolitical value Porto Alegre was a smart choice for hosting the World SocialForum because both municipal and state governments were willing to allocatesignificant material and human resources to the event. The possibili ties ofautonomous state and municipal policies had been enhanced by the 1988 FederalConstitution, which increased resource transfer to and taxation powers of thelocal authorities.13 In 2002 the municipality provided approximately US$300 000and the state $1 million for the event.</p><p>Even though some, including Brazils federal president Fernando HenriqueCardoso, have criticised the local authorities for mis-spending taxpayersresources, according to most estimates the thousands of visitors filling localhotels, restaurants and other commercial establishments bring in much moremoney than what is spent by local authorities. Whereas in short-term commercialterms the WSF is considered a good deal by most locals, in ideological terms noteveryone agrees. Various business organisations and right-wing groups of RioGrande do Sul organise a Forum of Liberties, held two months after the WSF, withpositions openly critical of the latter.14</p><p>The first World Social Forum in January 2001 attracted some 5000 registeredparticipants from 117 countries and thousands of Brazilian activists. For thesecond forum, the figures had grown significantly, rising to over 12 000 officialdelegates from 123 countries and tens of thousands of participants in total,mostly from Brazil.15 The global media impact of the second Forum was alsosignificantly stronger than in the previous year. Even though the event wasorganised simultaneously with the World Economic Forum in both years, as it issupposed to be in the near future as well, there were fewer attempts in the secondyear to interact with the WEF. This reflected a growing self-confidence among theorganisers, some of whom liked to reiterate that from now onwards Davos willbe the shadow event of Porto Alegre.</p><p>The World Social Forum: arena or actor?</p><p>As regards global democratisation, the World Social Forum can be looked atfrom two angles. On the one hand, it can be analysed as an example of anemerging institution that may embody seeds of global democracy. For example,George Monbiot has suggested that it could form part of the process of building aworld parlia...</p></li></ul>


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