Social Forum of the Americas Meets in Quito

Tuesday 30 March 2004, by ALTERNATIVES

Context :

The Summit for the Heads of State of the Americas, held in Quebec in April 2001, showed the will of governments in the Americas to bind economic development to social development and democratic participation. The Inter-American Democratic Charter ratified in Quebec is an example of this new order of democracy trying to institute itself on the continent.

The commencement of the Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA) will have a large impact on the political, economic and social realities in the signatory countries. However, although initiatives to consult with civil society were implemented, there has been a gap between the official process of consultations and the discussion within social movements on what effects the FTAA will have. This is due mainly to the difficult access to information, making it difficult for civil society to operate effectively.

For some time, civil society organizations in the Americas have proposed methods to improve this situation. For example the work completed within the framework of the Peoples Summit of the Americas (April 2001) and during the two meetings of the World Social Forum (January 2001 and January 2002). Various governments, including the Quebec government, expressed sensitivity for the issues represented by the organizations that held these events, and offered them support. Important projects have been implemented since the Quebec Summit to expose the need for dialogue, debate and exchange to mitigate civil societies lack of participation.

Project :

In Quito (Ecuador) a continental meeting of reflection and exchanges, "Another America be possible", was held from October 28th - 30th 2002 and was then reconvened at the third World Social Forum (WSF) in January 2003.

Through these events, NGOs of the Americas wanted to coordinate with each other in a constructive way and to dialogue with the governmental representatives to develop the social, human and environmental aspects of ongoing economic integration.

Increasing the participation of NGOs in these discussions is a central concern for the Latin-American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), Alternatives and the Research Group on Continental Integration (GRIC) who comprise a network of researchers considering these problems. Incidentally, at the time of the Second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, in January 2001, CLACSO and Alternatives hosted various joint activities relating to this topic. On this occasion, a meeting took place between the members of CLACSO and Alternatives with representatives of Québécois NGOs and the Québécois government discussing economic and social concerns. Representatives of NGOs, the Quebec government and Argentina also discussed policies and recommended solutions around the crisis in Argentina.


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