6.7.2 The World Social Forum and the World Economic Forum – A Common Platform for the Global Youth Movement?


Title: Meeting the Challenges of Globalization, a New Dialogue




In the early 1990s people first began to use the term globalization to describe the process of international integration, the mixing of diverse cultures, the merging of markets, and the spread of corporate brands and influence.  In the mid 1990s corporate representatives and intergovernmental institutions began to gather and discuss proposals to liberalize the landscape of international trade in an effort to make it more efficient and more profitable.  On December 1st, 1999 tens of thousands of organizers gathered in the streets of Seattle, Washington to stop the World Trade Organization from holding its annual meeting.  From that moment onward every major gathering of world leaders dedicated to discussing international economics was accompanied by a sizeable protest. 


At the end of January 2001, a “World Social Forum” (WSF) was organized in Brazil, strategically positioned as an anti-forum to the well known World Economic Forum.  During the inaugural WSF a video conference was organized to debate with participants at the WEF.  It was unsuccessful. 


A year later, in December of 2001, organizers brought WEF and WSF participants together, privately.  Their discussion was amicable and the pathway forward seemed clear: public and friendly dialogue, dedicated to developing solutions instead of placing blame.  However, the process has not advanced.


The Need for Democracy


The definition of democracy is “the participation of the people in decision-making.”  The existing system of global decision-making is not democratic.  No national representative to the UN or the World Bank is democratically elected by citizens of that nation.  Many people protest the development of international economic policies because they have no access to the discussions.  Democracy is one chief solution.


Participants of both the World Social Forum and the World Economic Forum believe in democracy.  At the same time, however, many people will resist the cost, the decentralization of power, and the process of building trust that is needed to create democratic decision-making systems. 


Enter Youth


Globalization is a new problem.  We need new solutions for new problems.  Today, while there are still efforts underway to get the leaders of the WEF and the WSF to dialogue, other opportunities exist.  The Union of International Associations claims that “young people are our greatest untapped resource.”  Each new generation of people enters the world with a new perspective and new understanding of how to solve problems.  Young people today have a more global vision of the world than any previous generation.


Hosting a dialogue on globalization between young participants at the WEF and the WSF might offer a way around the existing obstacles.  Young people from both forums have very different perspectives on how to solve the challenges presented by globalization.  Many prioritize economic solutions while others prioritize social solutions.  The solution to globalization will ultimately be a complex mixture of approaches.  Only dialogue and education about the problems and their solutions can create a plan of action and policy that will serve all people involved. 


Young people are valuable targets for this kind of dialogue.  In the events that have recently unfolded in Eastern Europe young people have showed their value - the toppling of Milosevic in Serbia is one example.  Young people are naturally more flexible and more open minded than older people.  They develop trust more quickly.  They are also more adaptable and negotiate change more easily.  The challenge of globalization is infinitely complex and the problems solvers must be entrepreneurial and adapted to the changes of the 21st century.




Our challenge is to democratize global decision-making in an effort to arrive at new solutions to the challenges presented by globalization.  International democracy must rest on the international support and trust of government, business, and civil society.  As members of all three of these communities, young people are at the front of changes brought on by globalization and by the 21st century.  They are well equipped to begin the discussions of democratizing global decision-making on the world stage.  To make this happen we propose to set up a video conference between young people at the World Economic Forum and the World Social Forum.


During the next few months we will develop an agenda for this dialogue, select young people to participate in it, and as necessary facilitate their travel, education, and logistics. 


This event can make a mark on history.  When the current global agenda is dominated by the war against terrorism, a new more subtle agenda can emerge that is supported by people from both sides of the debate.  Young people could help illustrate new ways forward.


1. The Agenda


The basic agenda of the dialogue will be a) defining globalization, b) naming the pros and cons of it, c) and discussing the social and economic solutions to the challenges presented by it.


2. The Participants


We will work with the organizers of the WEF and WSF to select the participants of the debate.  We must develop criteria for diversity, age, and field of expertise.


At the same time, youth on both sides of the debate have many adult allies who will be participants in the WEF and the WSF.  Depending on the growth of this idea they too may wish to participate. (Bono and Soros come to mind as potential allies.) 


3. Next Steps


Our tasks for the next few months are the following:


* Investigating philanthropic sponsorship

* Developing the agenda for the debate

* Developing criteria and selecting participants

* Elaborating this proposal

* Investigating and booking conferencing and lodging spaces

* Animating a network of contacts to develop organizational and political support for the event

* Discussing/Educating participants about the issues surrounding globalization and the stakeholders involved

* Organizing passage of participants to the events


4. Video Link


Global Nomads Group (www.gmg.org) has extensive experience developing video conferencing debates and working with youth in dozens of countries around the world.  They have 5 years of experience negotiating deals with video conferencing companies and dealing with computer and video hardware.  We will ask them to submit a proposal for this project.


6. Contact


Jonah Wittkamper

Global Youth ACTION Network, South American Regional Director

Cell: (+55) 11 9137 6830

Work: (+55) 11 3812 5123



Rua Mourato Coelho, 460

04535-040 São Paulo, SP