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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Porto Alegre Manifesto

by Group of Nineteen (February 20 2005)

There was much ado about a document put out by I think it was nineteen notable figures at this years' WSF. Oddly, the document itself wasn't dispersed very visibly or widely, perhaps in part because there was considerable consternation over process as well as some content, I think rightly. We have received what claims to be a translation, and it sounds like it is, so it seemed worthwhile to pass it along as a commentary, as a kind of document of record.

Porto Alegre Manifesto:
Twelve proposals for another possible world

Since the first World Social Forum took place on January 2001, the social forum phenomenon has extended itself to all continents, at both national and local levels. It has resulted in the emergence of a worldwide public space for citizenship and strife, and permitted the elaboration of political proposals as alternatives to the tyranny of neoliberal globalisation by financial markets and transnational corporations, with the imperialistic, military power of the United States as its armed exponent.

Thanks to its diversity and solidarity between its actors, and the social movements of which it is composed, the alternative global movement has become a force to be taken into consideration globally. Many of the innumerable proposals which have been put forward on the forums have been supported by many social movements worldwide. We, the signers of the Porto Alegre Manifesto, by no means pretend to speak in the name of the entire World Social Forum, but speak on a strictly personal basis.

We have identified twelve such proposals, which we believe, together, give sense and direction to the construction of another, different world. If they would be implemented, it would allow citizens to take back their own future. We therefore want to submit these fundamentals points to the scrutiny of actors and social movements of all countries. It will be them that, at all levels - worldwide, continentally, nationally and locally - will move forward and fight for these proposals to become reality.

Indeed, we have no illusions about the real commitment of governments and international institutions to spontaneously implement any of these proposals, even though they might claim to do so, out of opportunism.

Another different world must respect the rights for all human beings to live, by the implementations of new economic measures. Therefore, it's necessary to:

1. Cancel the external debt of southern countries, which has been already paid many times over, and which constitutes the priviledged means of creditor states, local and international financial institutions, to keep the largest part of humanity under their control and sustain their misery. This measure needs to be complemented by the restitution of the gigantic sums which have been stolen by their corrupt leaders.

2. Implement international taxes on financial transactions (most notably the Tobin tax on speculative capital), on direct foreign investments, on consolidated profit from multinationals, on weapon trade and on activities accompanied by large greenhouse effect gas emissions. Such financial means, complemented by public development help which should imperatively be 0.7% of the GNP of rich countries, should be directed towards fighting big epidemics (like AIDS), guarantee access to all humanity to clean water, housing, energy, health services and medication, education, and other social services.

3. Progressively dismantle all forms of fiscal, juridical and banking paradises, which do nothing more than facilitate organized crime, corruption, illegal trafficking of all kinds, fraud and fiscal evasion, and large illegal operations by large corporations and even governments. These fiscal paradises are not only limited to certain states, existing in areas of non-legality; they also exist within the legislation of developed countries. In a first instance, it would be advisable to strongly tax capital flux entering and leaving these 'paradises', as well as all establishments and actors, financial or otherwise, taking part in these gigantic transactions.

4. All inhabitants of this planet must have the right to be employed, to social protection and retirement/pension, respecting equal rights between men and women. This should be an imperative of all public polity systems, both national and international.

5. Promote all forms of equitable trade, reject all free-trade agreements and laws proposed by the World Trade Organization, and putting in motion mechanisms allowing a progressive upward equalisation of social and environmental norms (as defined under the conventions by the International Labour Organization) on the production of goods and services. Education, health, social services and culture should be exclused from the scope of the General Agreement on Trades and Services (GATS) by the WTO.

The convention on cultural diversity, currently being negotiated at UNESCO, must result in cultural rights and politics of public cultural support to explicitly prevail over commercial rights.

6. Guarantee the right of all countries to alimentary sovereignty and security by promoting peasant, rural agriculture. This means a total suppression of all subventions to the export of agricultural products, mainly by the USA and the European Union, and the ability to tax imports to avoid dumping practices. In the same way, every country or group of countries must be able to decide in a sovereign way to forbid the production and import of genetically modified organisms, meant for consumption.

7. Forbid all types of patenting of knowledge on living beings (human, animal or vegetal) as well as any privatization of common goods for humanity, particularly water.

Another possible world must sustain community life in peace and justice, for all humanity. Therefore is it necessary to:

8. Fight by means of public policies against all kinds of discrimination, sexism, xenophobia, antisemitism and racism. Fully recognize the political, cultural and economic rights (including the access to natural resources) of indigenous populations.

9. Take urgent steps to end the destruction of the environment and the threat of severe climate changes due to the greenhouse effect, resulting from the proliferation of individual transportation and the excessive use of non-renewable energy sources. Start with the execution of an alternative developement model, based on the sparing/efficient use of energy, and a democratic control of natural resources, most notably potable water, on a global scale.

10. Demand the dismantling of all foreign military bases and the removal of troops on all countries, except when operating under explicit mandate of the United Nations. Specially for Iraq and Palestina.

Another possible world must promote democracy from the neighbouring level to the global level. Therefore, it's necessary to:

11. Guarantee the right to access information and the right to inform, for/by all citizens, by legislation which should:

a) End the concentration of media under gigantic communication groups

b) Guarantee the autonomy of journalists relative to actionnaries

c) Favour the development of non-profit press, alternative media and community networks.

Respecting these rights implies setting up a system of checks and balances for citizens, in particular national and international media observation institutions.

12. Reform and deeply democratize international institutions by making sure human, economic, social and cultural rights prevail, as stipulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This implies incorporating the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization into the decision-making mechanism and systems of the United Nations. In case of persisting violation by the USA of international law, transfer the United Nations headquarters outside New York, to another country, preferably southern.

Porto Alegre, January 29 2005

Bill Totten


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