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Building a Better Future with Grassroots Policy at the World Social Forum

January 2006

Hola from the World Social Forum!

I find myself once again sitting in the hotel lobby after a long day of exciting presentations and activity. Today is the second day of the Forum and it feels like it is now in full swing. The streets are more crowded, more cultural tents are up, street vendors have flooded the plazas and, following a rainy start, the sun is out.

So, too, is the work that we came here to do coming into full attention. Following yesterday’s atmosphere of anticipation and hope, participants are now moving into deeper discussions of reflection, analysis and proposals for the future.

I attended one of the main plenary sessions, “FTAA by another Means”, where panelists from the Hemispheric Social Alliance presented on the major social, economic and environmental costs of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) to Central and South American communities.

The costs, panelists from Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina and Colombia explained, are:

-An economic system that does not reflect the cultures, traditions and priorities of the people of the Americas; and

-Natural resources pulled further into a system of commercialization, for exportation and foreign ownership, leaving only degraded resources for local communities.

Despite, resistance from several countries, including Brazil and Venezuela, panelists stressed that the U.S. is negotiating “mini-FTAA’s”, bi-lateral trade agreements, with Chile and potentially others.

Social movements in the Americas (including in the U.S.) have been largely successful in pushing back FTAA’s implementation. However, the panelists warned that another form of resistance is needed to fight this new trend of trade liberalization in the Americas.

Speaking for a network of social movements in Brazil, a panelist said, “We will not stop resisting, but we need to strengthen the social movements in our countries.”

The Mexican panelist summed up what is needed, “Imagine change!”

Following his challenge, several visions for solutions surfaced:

-An integrated energy system in South America that relies on sustainable biofuels and provides energy to the poor;

-A common agricultural policy for the Americas that respects the cultures of the Americas and meets the needs of the people; and

-Regional agreements that distribute medicines to all who need it.

Enough energy and food and medicine for all. Imagine.

Hasta mañana,


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