as world leaders and prominent personalities gathered at Davos, a Swiss resort, on January 26-30, 2005, for the World Economic Forum (wef), the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre hosted the fourth annual World Social Forum (wsf). The wsf was set up to protest the wef and oppose "neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism". But what emerged this time was a narrowing of the gap, at least in rhetoric, in the concerns of the two fora.
The wsf drew participation from over 150,000 representatives of labour unions and non-governmental organisations, as well as individuals with no particular affiliations. Nineteen prominent members, including Nobel Laureates Jose Saramago and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, attracted a lot of attention by presenting a 12-point "Porto Alegre Manifesto". The document, though not officially endorsed by the wsf, highlighted the demands of many participants. These included debt relief to poor countries, tax on international transfers of capital, fair trade and environment protection.
In an uncharacteristic move, the wsf met representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in an event described as "cordial". What is surprising is that though the two sides "agreed to disagree" on issues discussed, the meeting with these alleged conspirators in the wef 's "neo-liberal" agenda passed without much protest or fanfare.
The wef brought together heads of states, ministers, business leaders, academics, as well as celebrities like Bono of the rock band u 2 and Hollywood film stars Sharon Stone and Richard Gere. It discussed many issues of the Porto Alegre manifesto. uk prime minister Tony Blair urged countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming. Gordon Brown, head of uk 's treasury, urged the g7 group of rich countries to provide poor countries with 100 per cent debt relief. French President Jacques Chirac demanded tax on international capital movement.
Leaders like Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who attended both the meetings, also tried to be a bridge between the two fora. But the fact remains that the wef did not discuss many recommendations of the Porto Alegre manifesto, like democratisation of multilateral organisations and removal of foreign military bases.
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