Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 194 | Septiembre 1997



It's Time to Turn History Around

In mid-March 1997, a group of 30 people from all regions of the World—North and South America, Europe, the Arab world, Africa, Asia—took the initiative to create a World Forum of Alternatives. While the Davos Forum mobilizes the world's millionaires around indecent globalization programs, the aim of this forum is to help foster humanistic alternatives on behalf of the lives of the peoples of the world and of liberating democracy. envío reprints below the Manifesto to which this initiative is soliciting adherence. This English-language version was translated from the Spanish by the envío team.

World Forum of Alternatives

It's time to revert the course of history. The destiny of Humanity is at stake. Scientific progress and technical advance, the jewels of knowledge, are serving the interests of a minority instead of contributing to the well-being of all. The use made of science and technology is crushing, marginalizing and excluding human beings all over the world and destroying the environment. Access to natural resources, those of the South in particular, remains under the control of the centers and is turning into the object of political battles and threats of war. It's time to turn history around.

It's time to put the economy at the service of the peoples of the world. Today's economy provides goods and services only to a minority. In its current form it is pushing the majority of Humanity into survival strategies and even denying hundreds of millions of people the right to life. The brainchild of neoliberal capitalism, this economic logic forges and accentuates inequalities. With its belief in the self-regulating virtue of the market, it is strengthening the economic power of the wealthy and increasing the number of poor. It's time to put the economy at the service of the peoples of the world.

It's time to knock down the wall between North and South. The monopolies of knowledge, of scientific research, of state-of-the-art production, of credit, of information, all guaranteed by international bodies, create a polarization in the world and within each country that is growing by the day. Many peoples, locked into culturally destructive, physically unsustainable and economically dependent development logics, cannot define for themselves the stages of their evolution, or construct the basis of their own growth, or assure the education of their younger generations. It's time to knock down the wall between North and South.

It's time to face the crisis of civilization. The limited objectives of individualism, the closed universe of consumption, the invasion of productivism, and, for others, the obsessive search just for daily survival, hide the great objectives of Humanity: the right to life, freedom from oppression and exploitation, equal opportunity, social justice, peace, spirituality, fraternity. The advances of biotechnology are leading to the resurgence of debates about the nature and goals of human existence. It's time to face the crisis of civilization.

It's time to reject the power of money. The concentration of economic power in the hands of transnational corporations goes against the sovereignty of states. It is a threat to democracy both in each nation and universally. The predominance of financial capital not only compromises international monetary equilibrium, it contributes to the transformation of numerous states into veritable mafias and encourages hidden sources of capitalist accumulation: drug traffic, arms traffic, prostitution networks. It's time to reject the power of money.

It's time to transform cynicism into dignity and dignity into power. The Stock Exchange shoots up when workers are laid off. Competitiveness is secured by the elimination of consumers. The macroeconomic indicators' excellence curve corresponds to the increase in the number of poor. The international economic agencies reward those who, in adjusting their economy, widen the gap between the classes and spur the multiplication of social conflicts. International humanitarian aid is fed to those who have been reduced to desperation. It's time to transform cynicism into dignity and dignity into power.

It's time to rebuild and democratize the state. The dismantling of the state, the shrinking of its functions, the privatizations at any cost, give way to the demoralization of public service, the weakening of the education and health sectors, and, by the end, their guardianship by private economic interests. Neoliberal globalization tends to distance the state from the population and foster corruption. It makes the state into a repressive instrument at the service of its own objectives. It's time to rebuild and democratize the state.

It's time to become genuine citizens. Millions of people don't have the right to vote because they are immigrants and millions more don't vote out of spite or dismay, the crisis of the parties, or a feeling of uselessness or exclusion from political life. Diverse influences and interventions often alter the sense of elections. But democracy doesn't consist only of elections. It is participation in each and every level of economic, political and cultural life. It's time to become genuine citizens.

It's time to coalesce around collective values again. Modernity driven by capitalism and ideologized by neoliberalism has destroyed or pulverized existing cultures. It has caused solidarity to fly apart and convictions to break down. In their place it has put the exaltation of the individual, whose efficiency is measured by economic success. Far from being a factor of emancipation for all peoples, it has evolved into a crisis of education, into social violence and into explosions of sterile nationalist, ethnic or religious identity movements. It's time to coalesce around collective values again.

It's time to globalize social struggle. The internationalization of the economy could mean a considerable advance for material, social and cultural exchanges among human beings. Today, in its neoliberal form, it is a nightmare that torments the victims of unemployment, the young people who wonder about their future, those who are excluded from production, the nations subjected to structural adjustments, to the deregulation of work, to the erosion of their social security systems and to the elimination of safety nets for the weakest. It's time to globalize social struggle.

It's time to awaken the hope of the peoples of the world. All over the world resistance is being organized, social struggles are taking place and alternative initiatives are being sought. Wherever one looks, women, men, children, the unemployed, the excluded, the oppressed, workers, landless peasants, communities victimized by racism, the urban poor, indigenous peoples, students, intellectuals, migrants, small merchants, cast-offs, decaying middle classes and ordinary citizens are all affirming their dignity, demanding their human rights, making natural wealth be respected and practicing solidarity. Some have given their lives for these causes, others are daily heroes. Some are reconstructing their concrete situations, others are experimenting with formulas to renovate the economy. Some are laying the groundwork for other politics, others are creating a new culture. It's time to awaken the hope of the peoples of the world.

The time has come for convergences. A convergence of the struggles, a convergence of knowledge, a convergence of resistance, a convergence of alternatives, a convergence of spirits, a convergence of hearts toward a world of justice and equality, of material inventiveness and progress, of optimism and spiritual flowering. We can build this world if we find viable alternatives to neoliberalism and to unilateral globalization, alternatives that are based on people's interests and on respect for national, cultural and religious differences. The time has come for convergences.

The time for creative and universal thinking is opening before us. The analysis of the economic, social, ecological, political and cultural consequences of the current economic organization will lead to its delegitimation. The search for balance between personal initiative and collective objectives will make way for new formulas. The study of the expansion of non-mercantile sectors, of production techniques that take into account the well-being of those who use them, of the organization and nature of work, will also contribute to the creation of a more collective human organization. The time for creative and universal thinking is opening before us.

The time for action has already begun. Democracy is not just a goal in the organization of societies. It also appears as the key to the functioning of social movements, political parties, businesses, institutions, nations and international agencies. It is beginning to be experienced as an essential contribution to respect for grassroots interests and the safeguard of national and international security. The opening of spaces for all cultures, since they are all part of the heritage of Humanity, allows the reductionist retreat into self of identity movements to be progressively surmounted. The existence of democratic, competent and transparent states appears to be the basis for the reestablishment of their regulatory power. The regional economic and political regroupings, based on internal complementarity, are taking shape as the best response to the real needs of the population and as a consistent alternative to neoliberal globalization. Buttressing and democratizing the international, regional and world institutions has become a realizable objective, on which depends the progress of international law and of the inescapable regulation of economic, social and political policies, not only on the world level, but also in the spheres of financial capital, oversight, migrations, and disarmament. The time for action has already begun.

It is necessary today to create a network of committed people, grassroots organizations, social movements, and study centers. The moment has arrived to constitute a single forum of the dispersed forums around the world. It is necessary to reflect and work together, to support the social struggles open to the future, to stimulate the viable alternatives to neoliberal globalization, to disseminate the results of that work and those experiences. We are convinced that a universal democracy can be constructed that is respectful of the identity and dignity of all human beings. These are the reasons that the signers of this declaration support the creation of the World Forum of Alternatives. We invite those who can do so to sign this declaration, join up with the Forum and encourage the movements and institutions that share and form part of these ideals to participate. It's time to turn the course of history around.

For more information and adherents, communicate with these members of the Organizing Committee:
* François Houtart
Centre Tricontinental
Ave. Sainte Gertrude 5,
B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve,
Tel. (32-10) 45 08 22
Fax (32-10) 45 31 52
E-mail: Houtart@ucl.espo.ac.be

* Pablo González Casanova
Centro de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias
en Ciencias y Humanidades, UNAM
Universidad de México,
Ciudad de México, México
Tel (525) 559 67 02
Fax (525) 616 29 88
E-mail: casanova@servidor.unam.mx

* Samir Amin and Bernard Founou
FTM, B.P. 3501, Dakar,
Tel. (221) 21 11 44
Fax (221) 21 11 44
E-mail: ftm@syfed.refer.sn

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