World Social Forum 2004

"Another World is Possible"

The 4th World Social Forum is currently being held in Mumbai, India. Participants representing all parts of the globe will be on hand to discuss a wide range of topics such as world trade, environmental protection and racism. Thomas Bärthlein reports

photo: AP
Gateway of India in Bombay

​​The 4th World Social Forum started Friday (16 January) in the Indian industrial city of Mumbai, also known as Bombay. Roughly 75,000 people are expected to attend the summit of globalisation critics, who will focus on such matters as world trade, North-South dialogue, war and peace, environmental protection, agriculture, racism, equal rights and many other topics. At centre-stage: the critique of neo-liberal globalisation and the design of alternative political models. Through the 21st of January, approximately 1,000 events are planned under the motto: “Another World is Possible”.

The first World Social Forum not taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, promises to be a huge event. “Seventy-three thousand participants have already registered”, says Kamal Chenoy, a member of India’s organisation committee. “However, I believe that somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 will actually take part, possibly even more.”

More than 1,200 seminars are planned for the coming days in Mumbai – other large events like the international parliamentarian summit and a youth camp with more than 10,000 young people from all over the world.

Financing from abroad

The financing of the event was a point of debate for quite some time, but finally the organisers were able to agree on one position: “We accepted no money from any government”, boasts Kamal Chenoy. “Other institutions, that support various activities, like the Ford or the Rockefeller Foundation, from whom the organisers of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre received money, were not allowed to contribute. We didn’t want to accept any money from organisations whereby one could think that we are on the side of neo-liberal globalisation. We also didn’t accept any money from companies, multi-national concerns and so on. We did, however, accept financial support from other select organisations, such as Oxfam or the Heinrich-Böll Foundation.”

In the Indian media, however, it is an important point that the forum was financed primarily from abroad. For a few groups, especially for the Maoists, that was reason enough to form “Mumbai Resistance”, their own forum. But Kamal Chenoy is not concerned:

“If a few of our friends criticise us - that is their right. We will not speak like they do. We don’t consider that to be a democratic language. And, to be honest, we’re not unhappy about them staying away. After all, so many people are already attending that it will be difficult enough to keep everything under control.”

Not just a model for everyone

“Plurality, the numerous opinions from all over the world, is what’s essential for such a broad-reaching event”, argues Kamal Chenoy, as he goes about his business as social scientist at Jawaharlal-Nehru University in Dehli. “We cannot expect that there is only one model for everyone, as one previously spoke of the Soviet or the Chinese model. Those days are over.”

Viewed from a global perspective, the forum in Mumbai will introduce new topics that were previously dominated by the Latin Americans and the Europeans - religious conflicts and the oppression of the lower classes in India, for example.

However, the Indian-Pakistani dialogue will not form part of the event to the degree originally planned. Until now, only about 450 Pakistanis received visas to participate in the Social Forum, four times as many were interested in taking part. But Kamal Chenoy says, with a wink of an eye, it is still considerably more than attended the recent Asian Social Forum in Hyderabad where a total of twenty participants from neighbouring countries were allowed to be on hand. “The political leadership does one thing; the bureaucrats are on a different level and the secret services are something altogether different. They need time to adapt”, says Chenoy.

Thomas Bärthlein, © DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE
Translation from German: Mark Rossmann

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