by Sigalit Hoffman
Globalization will not be a problem if ordinary citizens have input, two
left-wing speakers told a Concordia audience last week.
UQAM sociology professor Dorval Brunelle and local publisher Dimitri Roussopoulos
(Black Rose Books) spoke in the fifth lecture of a series sponsored by
the Karl Polanyi Institute and School of Community and Public Affairs,
both based at Concordia.
Both men warned that globalization is being negotiated behind closed doors.
Theyre so well equipped and so locked up, negotiating our
democratic process, Brunelle mused.
Both had attended the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which
was held in January, at the same time as the annual World Economic Forum
in Davos, Switzerland. This was an initiative aimed at exploring alternatives
to globalization, and represented a switch from a reactive to a proactive
While in Davos, the elite spoke to the elite, in Porto Alegre, people
met night and day to discover alternatives, Roussopoulos said. The
forums 12,000 delegates came from non-governmental organizations,
trade unions, and political, urban and rural organizations worldwide.
Roussopoulos insisted that the forums location was not a detail
to be glossed over. The city itself is an example of the democracy he
and Brunelle want to enshrine, and which they believe is threatened by
Ranked number one in 1996 and 1998 by the UN for having the best quality
of life in Brazil, Porto Alegre is run by its citizens through neighbourhood
committees. The system has been so successful that the left-wing political
party that began the program has been re-elected three times, and has
been in power for 12 years.
There are fewer beggars in Porto Alegre than there are in Montreal,
Representatives from more than 50 organizations signed resolutions after
the forum. However, Brunelle and Roussopoulos preferred to dwell on the
reasons for the forum rather than its outcome.
They said it was a chance to repatriate democratic debate, and a response
to widespread disillusionment with the 1994 United Nations World Summit
for Social Development in Copenhagen, where 160 world leaders signed an
agreement to eradicate poverty and pursue sustainable development.
Roussopoulos claimed that globalization has already begun to wreak havoc.
In the last decade, international trade agreements grew by 55 per cent,
while the gap between the rich and the poor widened.
Brunelle said that free trade between Canada and Brazil is a film behind
which Canada can hide imperialist tactics. He referred to Canadas
12 billion dollars worth of investment in Chilean copper and forestry
as the first consequence of free trade, which he predicts
will lead to confrontation between Mapaches [Brazilian natives]
and Canadian firms wanting to cut down their forest.
He referred to the 1994 agreement as empty rhetoric which
has forced activists to adopt a different strategy.
We cant give them the responsibility to arbitrate womens
issues, aboriginal issues. They are not doing it properly, Brunelle
said. We cannot go back within the UN system.
This is part of a series of articles about the issue of globalization
from the perspectives of Concordia professors and students.