As defined in its Charter of Principles, the WSF is an international space for meditation and organization of every people who are against the globalization and who are building alternatives to support the human development and surmount the market domination of countries and in the international relations.
The first World Social Forum (WSF) meeting took place in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, between January 25 and 30, 2001, aiming to oppose the World Economical Forum in Davos. This Economical Forum has played a strategic role in the formulation of the thoughts for those who promote and defend the neoliberal policies all around the world since 1971. Its organizational base is a Swiss foundation, which works as an ONU consultant and is financed by more than 1,000 international companies. Read the text by Francisco Whitaker and learn more on the origin of the WSF.
The WSF 2001 Organizing Committee was formed by eight Brazilian entities: Abong, Attac, CBJP, Cives, CUT, Ibase, MST and Social Network of Justice and Human Rights. Also an office has been crated in Sao Paulo (Brazil), which is responsible for supporting the WSF process, the WSF International Council (IC) and its commissions, as well as the organizing committees of the annual WSF events. Besides integrating the IC and its commissions, the eight entities now integrate and give name to the so called Collective Responsible by the WSF Office in Brazil.
The WSF 2001, which took place in Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul), Brazil, between January 25 and 30, 2001, had count on the participation of approximately 20.000 people, having about 4.700 ones as delegates of many entities from 117 different countries. Also the press made a substantial presence accrediting 1,870 ones. Click here and see more details on the memory of the event.
In the WSF 2001, diverse activities – conferences, seminars, workshops – developed around four thematic areas:
- Production of Wealth and Social Reproduction
- Access to the Wealth and Sustainability
- Asserting Civil Society and the Public Realm
- Political Power and Ethics in the New Society
The realization of this first forum evidenced the capacity of mobilization of the civil society facing a methodology characterized by the guarantee of diversity and co-responsibility in the process of construction of such event. By the success of the first event, it was decided WSF process had to continue. Searching for this, the WSF Organizing Committee proposed the establishment of a Charter of Principles for the WSF could be recognized as a space and process which permanently looks for the construction of worldwide alternatives. To make the WSF international articulation possible, it has been constituted the WSF International Council (CI) in 2001, formed by thematic networks, movements and organizations that accumulate the knowledge and experience in searching for alternatives to the neoliberal globalization. The IC became an operational and political body not only in the definitions of the strategic directions of WSF, but also in the mobilization and other activities of organizing character. The creation of the CI expresses the conception of the World Social Forum in building a democratic and open space of meetings to favour the construction of an international movement capable of joining alternatives to the unique neoliberal thinking.
The action of the International Council promoted the dialogue among the organizations, both at Brazilian national and international levels, and supported the organization of committees for national mobilization, thematic and regional forums, and the organization of the global events in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
The WSF 2002 took place in Porto Alegre, between January 31 and February 05 2002, accounting 12.274 delegates representing 123 countries. The Press showed up with 3.356 journalists from 1,066 media vehicles, whose 1,866 Brazilians and 1,490 foreigners. The number of participants exceeded the expectations, with figures of more than 50.000 people in the total amount. Presenting the same topics of the first forum, this one held 96 seminars, 27 conferences and 622 self-governing activities (i.e., seminars and workshops organized by the entities participating on the WSF). Click here and learn more about the memory of the event.
The WSF 2003 also held in Porto Alegre, between January 23 and 28, 2003, brought together about 100 thousand people from all over the world. About 20 thousand delegates from 123 countries participated on the event. This number swelled by the number of participants in the Youth Camp (about 15 thousand), Brazilian national and international journalists (more than 4 thousand) and individual participants, who had access to almost all activities this year.
In 2003, in the core of the activities organized were included an amount of 10 conferences, 22 testimonials, 4 dialogue and controversy round table and 36 panel debate debates. Alone, these core activities gathered 392 speakers in the conferences from many countries, a number which is trice as larger as the one in 2001. The latter one brought a total of 104 speakers from networks, organizations and social movements from around the world. The number of self-governing activities increased from 400 in the WSF 2001 to 1,300 in 2003. These activities handled the following topics:
- Sustainable and democratic development
- Values and principles, human rights, diversity and equality
- Media, culture and alternatives to the homogenization and mercantilism
- Political power, civil society and democracy
- Democratic world order, fight against militarization and peace promotion
Click here to see details of the memory of he event.
In 2004, for the very first time the World Social forum took place outside Brazil. The decision was taken by the International Council as part of the process of promoting the WSF actual internationalization. The place chosen was Mumbai, India, and the date: January 16 to 21, 2004.
During 2003 happened the constitution of many Indian bodies responsible by the preparation of the facilities for WSF 2004: Indian General Council, Indian Work Committee (ILC), Indian Organizing Committee (IOC), and Mumbai Organizing Committee (MOC).
The WSF 2004 counted on the presence of 74.126 participants, representing 1,653 organizations from 117 countries. From this number 60.224 ones were Indian. At the Intercontinental Youth Camp were registered 2.723 people.
More than 800 volunteers from 20 countries participated on the WSF 2004. They were 180 interpreters and translators from Argentina, Brazil, India, USA, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, Sri-Lanka, Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Palestine. During the forum, consecutive interpretation and translation were arranged for free by an international network named Babels. About 3.200 journalists, representing 644 press vehicles, covered this WSF.
The program of activities under responsibility of the Indian Organizing Committee presented 13 events of different shapes: panel debates, round tables, conferences and public meetings. A new point in the methodology of the WSF process was the inclusion in the program of large self-governed activities by the organizations registered in the WSF, like: panel debates, conferences and round tables. In the total amount, 35 such events were organized. Smaller self-governing activities, like seminars, workshop, meetings, etc, had a strong presence in the WSF: 1,203 events.
The activities were organized in the thematic areas:
- Militarization, war and peace
- Information, knowledge and culture
- Environment and economics
- Exclusion, rights and equality
- Imperialist globalization
- Castes, racism and social exclusion
- Religious sectarianism, identity politics and fundamentalism (communalism)
- Militarization and peace
Along the six days of the WSF, more than 1,500 artists, poets, dramaturges, writers and cineastes participated actively with their cultural works. 150 street theatre plays were presented. There was also a movies festival with more than 85 titles about the main topics of the WSF. Click here and see more details about the memory event.
In 2005 the world edition of WSF came back to Porto Alegre and took place between January 26 and 31. It was formed a Brazilian Organizing Committee comprised by 23 organizations, subdivided into eight open WGs (Work Groups): Realms, Solidary Popular Economy, Environment and Sustainability, Culture, Translation, Communication, Mobilization and Free Software (articulated with the Communication WG). Latter on, a ninth WG has been created: Program.
Building the program was possible by following a new methodology, which allowed extending the convergence, the multiplication of the dialogues during the event and the prevention of the unarticulated duplication of activities about the same topic. The program of this meeting was built from the self-governing activities proposed by the organizations participating on the WSF 2005.
The new methodology approved by the International Council in April 2004 gave as first concrete step the realization of a Thematic Consultation, a questionnaire widely divulged that tried to identify what contests/fights, questions, problems, proposals and challenges that many of the organizations participating on the WSF considered to be listed in the roadmap of WSF 2005 and what activities were intended to be held in Porto Alegre. The commissions of Methodology and Content from the International Council analyzed the answers, what resulted in 11 thematic realms that organized all of the proposed activities for the WSF 2005:
01. Asserting and defending the common properties of the Land and the peoples – as an alternative to mercantilism and to the control of transnational companies.
02. Art and Creation: building the cultures of resistance of the peoples
03. Communication: practices contra-hegemonic, rights and alternatives
04. Defending diversity, plurality and identity
05. Human Rights and dignity for a fair and equal world
06. Sovereign economies by and for the peoples – against the neoliberal capitalism
07. Ethics, Cosmo visions and spiritualities – resistances and challenges for a new world
08. Social fights and democratic alternatives - against neoliberal domination
09. Peace and demilitarization – Fight against war, free commerce and the debt
10. Autonomous Thinking, recovering and socialization of knowledge and technologies
11. Building a new international democratic order and integrating the peoples
It were also identified 5 transversal themes
01. Social emancipation and political range of the contests (fights)
02. Fight against patriarchal capitalism
03. Fight against racism
In the March that started the WSF 2005, were present more than 200 thousand people. The total count was 155 thousand registered participants, 35 thousand ones being from the Youth Camp and 6.823 being communicators. About 6.872 organizations from 151 countries get involved in 2.500 activities in the World Social Territory. The biggest delegations came from Brazil, Argentina, United States, Uruguay and France. The peak rates of the crowd were reached in January 29 and 30: 500 thousand people circulated on the World Social Territory, according to figures from the Military Brigade.
About 3.100 volunteers collaborated on the realization of the meeting in the areas of translation, culture, communication, logistics and services, network support and construction, etc. From 30 countries 533 interpreters (Babels) participated translating from and to sixteen languages during the V WSF: Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Hebraic, German, Italian, Korean, Guarani, Hindi, Quechua, Uolof (Africa), Bahasa (Indonesia), Russian and Libras (Brazilian Signals Language – mainly used by deaf people). Click here and learn more details about the event.
WSF 2006: polycentric
The WSF 2006 edition was polycentric, i.e., it took place in a decentralized way in different places around the world. Three cities held the WSF 2006: Bamako (Mali – Africa), between January 19 and 23, Caracas (Venezuela – America) and Karachi (Pakistan – Asia), between March 24 and 29. The Karachi edition was originally planned to happen together with the Venezuelan event. However, the earthquake that shook the country in October 2005 caused the event to be it two months postponed.
Like in the previous events the WSF polycentric program was built in a participative way, according to the general methodological recommendations from the International Council (click here to read the WSF 2006 methodology), via consultations to elect the preferential themes for each event. Each of the polycentric events had its own methodology and program. In the programs it was enforced the realization of self-governing activities, i.e., proposed by organizations participating in the VI WSF. The registrations were made in one single site for the three events (www.wsf2006.org).
For the event in Caracas a thematic consultation were realized between May and the end of July, 2005. The results were analyzed in a meeting of the Americas’ Hemispheric Council, which took place in August 14 and 17, in Caracas (Venezuela), and defined six thematic areas and two transversal themes. In Bamako and Karachi the consultation started from a list of themes previously defined by the bodies of these forums. Click on the links below and see the thematic areas for each of the polycentric events:
The next edition of the WSF will took place at the African continent, in Nairobi, Kenya, between January 20 and 27, 2007. A first meeting among the WSF International Council, its commissions and entities comprised in the local organizing committee and the African council was realized in March 2006. During this meeting it was defined the realization of a wide consultation before the process of registering activities for the WSF. This consultation is being prepared and will be launched soon.
Origins of the WSF
See the history of the World Social Forum process by the words of Francisco Withaker (member of the WSF International Council) in the program Grandes Cursos of TV CUltura television, on January 8, 2004. Click here.
Before the World Social Forum and along it, lots of other activities will happen as: the Local Authorities Forum, the World Parliamentary Forum, the World Judges Forum, the Intercontinental Youth Camp, the Little World Social Forum (2002 and 2003) and others.
Regional and Thematic Social Forums
Inside the WSF process were realized amny thematic and regional forums, in the scope of WSF International Council, like the European, the Mediterranean, the Americas’, the Asiatic, the African and the Pan-Amazon social forums, and thematic forums in Argentina, Colombia and Palestine. These forums are part of the internationalization and solidification process of the WSF and have been taken place since the end of 2001. Click here and see the complete agenda of these forums.
Social Forums all over the world
The realization of the World Social Forum inspired the multiplication of many events enclosed in different levels: local, regional or thematic, all of them having the same WSF spirit and a similar methodology. Click here and see a list of these events, which are not under the responsibility of the International Council or the Collective Responsible by the WSF Office in Brazil, although they are committed with many organizations and social movements which are involved within the WSF process or that have someday participated on one of the WSF editions.