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Swiss NGOs declare Florence summit a success

Half a million people took part in the anti-war demonstration in Florence

(swissinfo.ch)

Swiss non-governmental organisations say they are delighted with the response to the first European Social Forum, which has ended in Florence.

They said the five days of debate had enabled NGOs, unions and political parties to coordinate European efforts to fight globalisation.

Alessandro Pelizzari of Attac Switzerland, which helped organise seminars on various issues, described the event as "a huge success".

His view was echoed by Bruno Gurtner of the Swiss coalition of development organisations, who said he was "impressed" by the turnout.

40,000 participants

Pelizzari said 40,000 people had taken part in the debates - twice the anticipated number - and between 500,000 and one million had joined a march through Florence on Saturday.

The march - billed as a demonstration against a possible war in Iraq - was the highlight of the forum and despite security concerns passed off peacefully.

Pelizzari said the forum had "enabled us to show the politicians who have criminalized us that if we are allowed to debate and hold demonstrations we are completely capable of doing that peacefully and producing viable alternatives".

Fighting poverty

Critics of globalisation used the forum to present their strategies for fighting unchecked economic globalisation.

They also insisted that globalisation should take place in a social and democratic way and not add to the poverty or increase the debt burden in developing countries.

No to privatisation

Other subjects raised included the privatisation of public services, a subject of particular interest to Switzerland where the future of the electricity market and the Post Office are under discussion.

Pelizzari, whose Attac Switzerland organised a seminar on the topic, said the participants had expressed their "categorical rejection of all forms of privatisation of the public services" and decided on joint action including demonstrations on the sidelines of the Davos World Economic Forum and at the G8 summit in Evian in June 2003.

Tax evasion

Another theme focused on by the Swiss was that of tax evasion and banking secrecy. Bruno Gurtner said the discussions had led to the creation of a working group on tax evasion.

Gurtner said avoidance of tax was costing governments considerable income, which could be used to pay for social provision and education or used to bolster the economy.

swissinfo with agencies

Summit summary

Swiss NGOs attending the first European Social Summit in Florence have declared it a success.

Attendance was twice the level expected and a demonstration against a possible war in Iraq attracted at least half a million people.

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