Globalisation fires minds in Fribourg

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Campaigners for a fairer world are meeting in Fribourg to discuss alternatives to globalisation and whether "another Switzerland is possible".

This content was published on June 2, 2005 minutes

The second Swiss Social Forum, which is expected to attract around 1,000 people, will also examine ways for Switzerland to improve conditions in developing countries.

"We live in a globalised world, and certain economic and political decisions taken in Switzerland can have repercussions almost anywhere on the planet," said Erica Hennequin, a member of the forum’s organising committee.

"Often these [decisions] harm those who are already severely disadvantaged or even our own environment."

Hennequin adds that the fact that Switzerland ranks among the world’s richest nations makes it all the more necessary to stage the forum.

Porto Alegre

The idea for the Swiss meeting was born in March 2002 after the second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

On returning from South America, a group of Swiss delegates decided that if the Porto Alegre mantra of "another world is possible" was valid, then debate should be launched at home on whether "another Switzerland is possible".

With this in mind, the first Swiss Social Forum was held in Fribourg in western Switzerland on September 21, 2003.

This year around 100 representatives from non-governmental organisations, trade unions and social movements have been invited to debate alternatives to globalisation.

Speakers include Brazilian theologian and activist Chico Whitaker and the Egyptian economist, Samir Amin. Both are members of the International Committee of the World Social Forum.

The guest list also includes Israeli professor Ilan Pappe, author of several reports on the plight of the Palestinians, Portuguese militant Almerinda Bento of the World March of Women and Jean Ziegler, United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food.

Occupied territories

Themes up for discussion include the rights of migrants, access to food, how to combat multinationals, ten years of the World Trade Organization and the situation in the occupied territories.

The main focus of the three-day meeting is on issues of concern to the anti-globalisation movement as a whole rather than on specific Swiss social ills. But Hennequin told swissinfo that organisers intended to change this in the future.

"There is a section of Swiss society that suffers from poverty but is not represented," she said.

"We are only holding our second forum though and the programme is already much more varied than the first. It is an evolving process and we are trying to improve it each time."

To provide some respite from the serious business of making a better world, organisers are laying on a programme of cultural events. They have invited authors to give readings; there will also be a photography exhibition, films and music.

"We want to show that our movement is not just about political debate and protest but that it also has a fun-loving side," added Hennequin.

swissinfo, Marc-André Miserez

In brief

The Swiss Social Forum runs from June 3 to 5 in Fribourg in western Switzerland and is expected to attract around 1,000 people.

Around 100 representatives from non-governmental organisations, trade unions and social movements have been invited to take part in 40 workshops and seven panel discussions on anti-globalisation issues.

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