The Other Davos: Globalization of Resistances and Struggles by Francois Houtart and Francois Polet
Published by Christava Sahitya Samithi (CSS), Thiruvalla, Kerela, India, November 2000. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.
Chapter 4: Report of the Meeting
The World Economic Forum met in Davos at the end of January and simultaneously some sixty people met in Zürich (from 27th to 31st January 1999), called together by four organisations: ATTAC (Association pour une Taxation des Transactions financières pour l’Aide aux citoyens / Association for a tax on financial transactions for citizen), CCAMI (Co-ordination contre l’AMI / the Association against MAD, FMA (Forum Mondial des Alternatives / the World Forum for Alternatives) and SAPRIN (Structural Adjustment Participatory Review International Network). Five social movements were also invited to take part in this meeting. They were the MST (Movimento dos sem terra / Movement of the Landless) from Brazil, PICIS (Policy and Information Center for International Solidarity) from South Korea, FENOP (Fédération Nationale des Organisations Paysannes / National Federation of Farmers Organisations) from Burkina Faso, the Women Movement from Quebec, the Mouvement des Chômeurs (Movement of the Unemployed) from France)
Several analysts of international repute were also present including Samir Amin, Riccardo Petrella, Susan George, François Chesnais, Charles-André Udry. Over twenty nationalities were represented from all continents of the world.
Preceding the press conference in Davos a conference lasting one and a half days was held in Zürich, and on the agenda were four main points:
- a critique of the current world economic order;
- alternatives to be proposed;
- the links between social movements working at grass-roots level and study and reflection centres;
- the future organisation of international co-operation between social movements and research and reflection centres at the global level.
At the end of the meeting a statement of common intent was issued (see before), and a calendar of planned activities was drawn up, including certain initiatives which the organisers of the alternative Davos will take on. All those present were able to take advantage of the contacts they were able to make to define their medium and long-term objectives and to plan possible co-operation.
On Saturday 30th January, a press conference was held in Davos in a hotel situated 300 metres from the place where the World Economic Forum was being held. Some thirty journalists as well as Swiss television were present at the press conference. Unfortunately, the monopoly exercised by the Forum in Davos on the means of communication were such that our task was difficult.
Opening the press conference Bernard Cassen, General Director of the Monde Diplomatique, presented the participants, and the conference itself was chaired by François Houtart. After the presentations, contributions were made by Samir Amin, explaining why this alternative Davos was taking place, Susan George, with a presentation of the organisers and the movements involved, and Riccardo Petrella who spoke about the action and its future.
After the conference individual interviews were given either on site or by telephone with newspapers or periodicals in Europe, America and the Middle East.
The following day, a further meeting was held involving the organisers and the social movements. This meeting looked at the question of continuity, as this was the main objective: the press conference was an opportunity, which could not be passed up but was not the main aim of the meeting.
The first joint activity will be organised in June in Paris, bringing together several hundred people to discuss the theme of the omnipresence of financial capital and its control. This fits in with a common logic with the initiatives indicated in the calendar of events.
At the same time as the meetings were being held in Zurich and Davos, several public demonstrations had been organised in Paris, Brussels and Milan to draw attention to one of the aspects of globalisation: the predominance of financial capital. These meetings were organised within the framework of the Zurich and Davos meetings.
An Internet site was set up at the beginning of January. Over the course of the three weeks preceding the Zürich and Davos meetings, 228,000 consultations were made and nearly 110,000 pages were printed in over 60 countries. During the press conference, a screen ran with continuous communication with many people from all over the world, all of whom had taken part in the event via the Internet site.
In conclusion, this initiative was really positive.
1. The press conference found echoes in several international papers and particularly on Swiss television, which made it the main story of the 30th January. The repercussions in the media will continue to be felt over the next months due to the press dossier, which was prepared with various important information documents.
2. This first co-ordination of very differing networks was in itself positive as each of them were able to maintain their own identity and objectives while managing to agree on common action in terms of the content of the problem, the organisational aspects and access to the media.
3. The concrete experience of a task undertaken together with the grass-roots movements, study centres and analysts proved very fruitful. It also showed the need to develop a specific method for this type of contact in order that local needs can be taken into consideration while developing an analytical and global perspective with the heads of the grass roots movements.
4. The importance of continuity of action became clear so that different initiatives should not simply be single events, but rather a tool and a means of enabling an accumulation of knowledge, experiences and analyses, and thus a becoming part of medium and long-term dynamic.