Date: 13 Dec 2001
INVITATION/PROPOSAL FOR A NEW YORK CITY SOCIAL FORUM JAN 31ST to FEB 4th 2002
At the same time that the United Nations held its Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa this past fall, several other groups held what they called the Durban Social Forum. In a statement, the Forum declared that, in spite of the nominal end of apartheid in South Africa, "Half of all Black children in rural areas go hungry every day and South Africa now has the greatest divide between rich and poor of any country in the world." The U.N.-sponsored conference, they felt, neither addressed these conditions fully, nor the global forces behind them. Furthermore, groups like the Durban Social Forum seemed to recognize these same structures of apartheid extended beyond their local circumstances, in the increasingly global world order. Globally, one can trace what Salih Booker and William Minter call "a system of double standards" that assigns rights, resources, power and wealth according to one's "location, origin, race or gender."
As the majority of New York City residents know, this sort of "Global Apartheid" does not stop at U.S. borders. New York City is both a center of economic and political power, and a city divided by the same "system of double standards" that Booker and Minter describe. Accordingly, when the Swiss-based organization of wealthy power brokers: -the business and political leaders called the "World Economic Forum"- announced that, after the events of September 11th, it would only be fitting to hold its Annual Meeting in Midtown Manhattan rather than Davos, Switzerland, they did not make their choice in order to address the city's labor groups, immigrants' rights groups, or organizations of people of color. Instead, the World Economic Forum will be a meeting composed primarily of business leaders, with the express mission of "improv[ing] the state of the world." - from their powerful and privileged perspectives.
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM:
The WEF is a ruling class caucus. This elite, member-based institution is funded largely by 1,000 or so multinational corporations, which pay as much as $300,000 a year for the privilege. Not surprisingly, the agenda at the Forum's annual meeting has reflected the Western neo liberal consensus in favor of "free" markets and "open" societies. (Actually trade that unfairly privileges the worlds largest corporations, and societies that keep poor people trapped behind militarized borders for their continued exploitation.)
The World Economic Forum's meetings are invitation-only and closed to outsiders. It is a forum for developing elite consensus on the most important issues of the day--what type of economic policy should be advocated and implemented? What stance should be taken on major geopolitical issues? What response should be made to critics of these policies?
In the last five years, the WEF has become the most important site for discussion between the world's major political and business leaders on how to drive the process of "globalization", — and how to sell it.
"SOCIAL FORUMS" WORLDWIDE:
Simultaneous to this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) in New York City (which will be held January 31-Febuary 4), there will be a World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This social forum, which is in its second year and which provided a model for the forums in Durban as well as Genoa (and Rome, and Quebec city) during this summer's G8 meeting, was organized in direct opposition to the model of the economic forum. Last year's WSF drew hundreds of delegates from organizations worldwide, with most of its participants coming from Central and South America.
These social forums are different than traditional conferences. First of all, the number of participating organizations can be quite high, both allowing many different groups to come into contact with each other and presenting a unified front against the forum/conference/meeting to which the forum presents an alternative. Secondly, instead of organizing panels and workshops fronted by a few "talking heads," the forum sessions are organized around broad themes of discussion that allow all delegates to participate, while non-delegates listen in. A typical theme might take the form of a question like; "How to construct an equal system of production of goods and services for all?", "What kind of Financial System can ensure equality and development?", "Promoting the Distribution of Wealth to Guarantee a Dignified Life for All", "Establishing Social Control over the Environment".
These forums, then, work to open dialogues on a non-hierarchical, democratic basis.
NYC SOCIAL FORUM:
In light of the World Economic Forum's upcoming visit, then, group of local "globalization"/ global justice activists are reaching out to other NYC activist groups with the hope that there is the potential for a New York City-based Social Forum. We have neither the human resources nor the inclination to plan such an event by ourselves in the short time ahead, and we recognize that the only way such an event can begin successful mobilization is if all interested NYC groups participate as fully as possible in shaping and organizing the events.
We do have good connections to established global justice groups and resources both in New York and outside the city, and there will be many activist coming into town at that time from around the country and the world. We hope we can help to facilitate these connections, and participate in the forum, but are not making any plans at this time to set the agenda of the forums in any way.
There seem to be to us though many potential agendas for the meetings. All of us working with issues that impact poor and working people in the city are addressing the same issues that are affecting poor and working people globally: racism, police/ prison, and criminal justice issues, unemployment/ underemployment & a living wage, debt and credit issues, housing, — and the list goes on. Poor and working people across the globe are explicit in recognizing the connections between their own local struggles, and the struggles of others; farmers in India, indigenous communities in the Americas and everywhere, landless and peasant movements, labor and religious groups are all making these connections.
We invite all to consider this NYC social forum to be an opportunity for making such connections. It is also an opportunity for a platform from which to articulate local needs to the powers that are coming to the city- via a press conference etc.
We would like to know if organizing such a forum would be a potential benefit to your organization, and if you think participation in such an event would help your organization or provide it with a needed resource or outlet.
We will be holding a citywide meeting soon to discuss further planning.
In addition, if you are already organizing something that addresses the WEF's visit (or just falls at the same time), please let us know so we can publicize it and avoid schedule conflicts.
NYC Social Forum Working Group
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Where is the World Economic Forum coming from?:
Website for World Social Forum 2002:
World Economic Forum public website:
Actions against the WEF and Globalization:
The World Economic Forum is an annual gathering of the world's richest and most powerful CEO's and politicians. This year it is meeting in New York City. In its mission statement, the WEF claims that it is committed to "improving the state of the world" In reality, they have come to make their plans to increase mass layoffs, to slash education and health services, to reduce wages and working conditions, to degrade the environment, to wage war on civilians and to assault the civil rights of all who dare to oppose them.
This year the WEF says their meeting will focus on finding ways to "reverse the global economic downturn, eradicate poverty, promote security and enhance cultural understanding." Translation: They'll be looking to rescue failing corporate giants, exploit working people, clamp down on dissent, and puree the diverse communities of our world into a single, American-style consumer culture.
It is obscene that Pataki and Giuliani are shelling out millions of dollars for the WEF at the same time they plan drastic cutbacks to public services. It's an insult to the community solidarity New Yorkers showed in the wake of Sept 11.
The WEF is in for a surprise: The movement for global justice is alive and well and growing, and ready to stand in the way of their five-day corporate cocktail party! We call on anti-globalization, student, immigrant, community and union organizations and all working people to join with us to protest the World Economic Forum and to pose our positive alternative to their destructive plans. WE DEMAND:
We're calling for five days of mass rallies, of creative, passionate, and diverse actions against the WEF. Join us in building a coalition that's as diverse as New York City itself. ALL are welcome as we tell the "Masters of the Universe" that they don't have the answers to our problems. Join us in the streets as we visualize solutions that build a better world where the people are in control. Your ideas, your bodies, and your creative energy are all needed!
WEF NYC | Actions 2002 | www.agp.org