The Swiss interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss and the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, on Sunday opened Geneva 2000, the alternative forum to the UN's social summit.
The forum was funded by the Swiss government and is aimed at offering a voice to non-governmental organsiations, unions, and other sections of civil society on the issues of globalisation. Around 3,500 participants have been registered.
Dreifuss said the alternative forum was an opportunity for all parties concerned to get together and exchange points of view, and push for action from the main actors participating at the UN summit.
In her speech, she underlined the determination of all governments to "encourage concrete measures in favour of social development and stability," adding that the UN social summit was "an occasion to reiterate the measures taken" five years ago in Copenhagen.
However, she said it was important not to reject globalisation but to give the word a new meaning in the sense of globalising human rights, sharing prosperity and knowledge and recognising cultural diversity.
In his speech at the opening of the alternative summit, Kofi Annan, appealed for private enterprise to engage itself beyond the pursuit of short term profit.
He also urged industrialised countries to open their markets up to products from developing countries, to alleviate their debt burdens, and increase development aid.
swissinfo with agencies