Forum of Sao Paulo: 'A battle of ideas for a better world'

This is the text of the Final Declaration of the Tenth Meeting of the Forum of São Paulo.

The Tenth Meeting of the Forum of São Paulo was held in Havana, Cuba, from December 4 to 7, 2001, with the participation of 518 delegates from eighty-one countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Australia, who were representatives of seventy-four member parties and political movements and of 127 invited parties and organisations.

In the context of a warlike environment and a political, economic, social and moral crisis without precedent, the Tenth Meeting confirms its engagement with the pursuit of national independence, social justice, peace, democracy and internationalism; it reaffirms that it will redouble the struggle for an economic, social and political project identifying itself with these principles, and for an alternative international order that reverses the subordinate character of our countries and responds to the interests of the vast majority.

The Tenth Meeting of the SPF confirms the vitality, pertinence and validity of this socio-political space, which identifies itself as leftist, anti-imperialist, anti-neo-liberal, opposed to all manifestations of colonialism and neo-colonialism, in solidarity, and participatory in the preparation of alternative projects for the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, with the conviction that a better world is really possible.

This Tenth Meeting, held in Cuba, has been a scene of a highly symbolic value because of what this country represents for the left of this continent because of its dignity, its exemplary resistance and its solid engagement and support for the principles that guide the Forum. All the participants express their gratitude to the Cuban people for their fraternal reception and treatment, and to the Communist Party of Cuba for its organising capacity and contribution in all respects to the success of this assembly, which was characterised by a fraternal climate, a constructive attitude of all delegations and the worthy content of the arguments submitted.

May this recognition be extended also to the working group and to all organisations that have contributed to the preparation of the Tenth Meeting. Special recognition is made of the numerous Caribbean organisations participating and the increasing incorporation of new organisations of the Andean area.

International context

There is consensus on the analysis of the social, economic and political context in which this meeting was held, characterised by increasing control of production, the marketing of goods and services and the cash flows by a reduced number of developed countries and transnational megacompanies, which are in turn the protagonists of the neo-liberal globalisation process. This, instead of assisting a more homogeneous participation of the different countries in world economy, has accentuated the differentiation between the developed areas and their periphery, has marginalised the latter even more, and has increased the polarisation of wealth in the interior of both groups of countries.

The participants in the Tenth Meeting particularly debated the economic and social situation in Latin America and the Caribbean. They put to the fore the meagre growth attained in the last decade, which is below the needs and potentialities, and the weak foundations supporting it, given the absence of sound, endogenous bases for sustainability.

The region's income distribution is the most regressive in the world, together with painful slowness in educational, scientific and technological progress, distressing manifestations of volatility, economic insecurity, alarming migratory flows, corruption and violence. The elimination of poverty was identified as the greatest challenge to the region, especially its manifestations in the most vulnerable segments of the population: children, women, the elderly and, in the case of indigenous peoples, because of their double condition of being indigenous and poor.

If, to the traits mentioned above, consideration is added of the unsolved problem of land distribution, the increase of the gap separating Latin America and the Caribbean from the developed countries, the region's relative decline in participation in world economy, the dissatisfaction expressed by the citizens and the increasing foreign debt, it follows that neo-liberalism—aimed to reinforce the power of transnational financial capital—contrary to its words, has a destructive effect on economies and societies, as becomes evident by its incapacity to reactivate production, generate jobs, raise incomes, or reverse marginalisation. This clearly leads to a crisis of the hegemonic paradigm and of the so-called "only way".

Objectives of greater scope can be attained by obviating the influence of the arguments supporting the ruling way of thinking, which limits the profitable use of the productive forces because it acts against changes in social relations that are required by the present level of scientific and technological development. This is linked to dependence on imperialism and to the subordination of the dominant classes of each country, which makes it impossible to solve the problems of our region without modifying those relations in order to advance toward an alternative project.

No distinct social proposal of construction of national states with sovereign development can be built if the net transfer of wealth to the banks and the imperialist states continues; it is therefore necessary to demand a stop to privatisation and to arrest the indiscriminate increase in the appropriation of the strategic resources of the region by transnational capital and its allies.

The overwhelming speed of the globalisation process—which leans on advances in scientific and technological progress and on the expansion of the new computational and telecommunications technologies—coincides with an international economic order and an organisation of society that are unacceptable and which distort the material development of humankind. That is why we are struggling for another globalisation: that of solidarity, justice, equity, full democracy and respect for diversity, autonomy, multicultural identity and the rights of the peoples; yet we understand also that the fundamental need is the liberation of each country.

The attacks on September 11 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania have aggravated the international situation by generating a new world conjuncture and starting a process of unforeseeable consequences.

The Forum of São Paulo immediately expressed its solidarity with the victims of those criminal acts and advocated the way of peace and justice as the only method able to defeat terrorism, restating its solidarity with all those suffering the consequences thereof. We, the parties and movements belonging to peoples who have suffered and are suffering the terrible effects of state terrorism, are against all manifestations of terrorism for ethical, moral, humanitarian and political reasons.

Those deplorable events helped to create the framework for legitimating a policy, covert until then, now expressed in the dangerous terms of the "Bush Doctrine": "You are with us, or you are with the terrorists". An act recently passed in the United States with the title "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools for Interrupting and Obstructing Terrorism (USAPATRIOT act)" deserves condemnation by this meeting, not only for its immediate effects against the people of the USA, but also for the extraterritorial character of its application, which is intended to establish an imperialist legality to the detriment of our peoples. We do not accept the alternatives set before us, and we reject the role of world cop assigned to itself by the USA.

We are convinced that warlike actions, violations of international law and martial displays on a planetary scale are not the way to beat terrorism. We claim, on the contrary, that the Bush doctrine is generating a resurgence of intolerance, racism, xenophobia and discrimination, and more innocent victims, in addition to exacerbating irrational fundamentalism.

We reject every intention of presenting as terrorists the movements of national liberation, the so-called anti-globalisation movement, the left, the social and progressive movements. We reaffirm the right of our peoples to know the truth and attain justice against the state terrorists that are still unpunished.

In the context of the so-called anti-terrorism struggle, the "Democracy Act of the Organization of American States and the Reactivation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Defense" becomes a straitjacket for abrogating popular sovereignty, controlling the processes of change and legitimating eventual intervention by means of blockades or joint military actions.

In the present global scene, Plan Colombia provides renewed leadership and functionality to the US strategy, which is interventionist in the military field and neo-colonialist in the economic and institutional fields.

This reality, relatively covert until September 11, is complemented by the presence of US military bases, whose activities support the economic and social policies of the countries where they have become occupation armies, and from which they support counterinsurgency and repression. In this way, they have become a constant threat to regimes defending political projects contrary to the interests of imperialism. The intent is to counteract the political weakening of the usa by appealing to military supremacy.

Within the integral strategy of domination, Plan Colombia and its complements, the Andean Regional Initiative and the Plan Puebla-Panama are presented as developmental and humanitarian projects, while their covert purpose is the control and appropriation of strategic, energy, and biodiversity resources. To complement these objectives, the imperialists intend to dollarise the regional economies and to eliminate every popular response, from the social to the insurgent. The Tenth Meeting reaffirms its support for political solutions to armed conflicts in the region, and demands the rights of those peoples to choose their destinies in full exercise of their autonomy.

We firmly support the inalienable right to self-determination and independence of Latin American and Caribbean peoples subjected to colonial domination (Puerto Rico, Guadalupe, Martinique, St Martin, French Guiana and Netherlands Antilles). We support the call of the UNO to eliminate that offensive, anachronistic form of domination by naming the period 2000-2010 the Second Decade for the Total Eradication of Colonialism. During this year, the struggle has intensified in Puerto Rico for driving the US Navy off the municipality-island of Vieques, an endeavour counting on the sympathy and admiration of our peoples, and for which the Forum of São Paulo restates its utmost support.

The increasing complaints against the present order, which reject the global mercantilism imposed on all spheres, having started to break the triumphalism and pre-eminence of neo-liberalism, have obliged the leading capitalist powers and the international bodies to sweeten their speech and proposals because the massive mobilisations struggling against the policies coming from those hegemonic centres cannot be ignored or belittled.

The strength showed by the Summits of the Peoples, the World Social Forum of Porto Alegre and others actions make evident also that the Forum of São Paulo, as an open and pluralist space for coordination of political initiatives of progressive and left forces of Our America, is facing a new stage. We need to generalise the resistance, to deepen the response, to develop the conscience of the entire civil society, and to strengthen the ability to respond and the negotiating capacity of the social organisations, networks, movements and parties opposing neo-liberalism.

The objective of accumulating forces, seen as a process, currently applies to our Forum; we should continue to be a reference in the struggle for the defence of the legitimate interests of the majority, organised or not; and we must strengthen our influence on the strategy and actions of the social and popular movements of the Latin American and Caribbean region; at the same time, we must continue enlarging and reinforcing relations with progressive and left parties of other latitudes. These alliances are essential to advance in the search for alternatives to the current international order.

Challenges to the left

Because of the challenges being faced by, and the historic responsibility of, the left, it is indispensable to develop a set of actions that contribute to the definition of strategic objectives, which is possible by starting to construct unity in action, and by respecting regional diversity in the interior of our countries.

We are witnessing important advances of the left and progressive forces, acting alone or as part of broad coalitions, in various countries of our continent, with important electoral results, some of them with real possibilities of accessing national or local governments in coming years by way of electoral accumulation or through other diverse popular struggles.

It is indispensable to articulate reflections, to build consensus and to encourage actions involving men and women party militants in the social movement and the struggle of indigenous peoples, in a process weaving networks of alternative power that respect their processes and autonomy.

If these proposals meet no political and social resonance and find no subjects to carry them into the political sphere, they will not achieve triumph. In the final analysis, the collective projects will triumph only if they become expressed in political decisions that change the state, build regional alliances and establish an international policy aiming to change the relationship of forces and democratise decision-making structures on a world scale.

A further imperative is that the left and the social movements understand and expose the changes and impacts of neo-liberal globalisation on society in order to identify other allies generated by the very process of economic exclusion and exploitation, which a short time ago were not considered as such. We call special attention to the need for youth participation and ensuring their participation in decision-making structures.

This path involves not only opposition to neo-liberalism, but accumulation of forces for change, and proposing and implementing alternatives for the construction of a new social model that ensures a national, popular, democratic and anti-imperialist government. The parties in the Forum of São Paulo take on the challenge of developing public policies, strategies and programs aiming to develop equal rights and opportunities between the sexes. At the same time, they should promote discussion on the identity and rights of the indigenous peoples, including the elimination of discriminatory concepts and practices still existing inside our organisations and parties.

We are expected to generate practices of participatory democracy by implementing mechanisms making possible popular participation in governmental decisions, in this way promoting the construction of citizenship.

At the end of a fruitful decade for the Forum of São Paulo, we find ourselves before the challenge of a new stage: to set up the general guidelines of the alternative proposal—which will be concretised in each country according to national peculiarities and specific conditions—by taking advantage of the experience gained by the left.

We put a special stress on political transformation, in convergence with social demands, and as an indispensable way to reach their satisfaction. This rehabilitation of the political sphere is a responsibility to be thoroughly assumed by the parties and organisations participating in the Forum of São Paulo, in a historic era in which that activity has become discredited by corruption, consumerism and social/economic policies disregarding the interests of the peoples.

The alternative project

Two conditions are essential to beginning and sustaining this project: the priority of social objectives, in opposition to the condition of residual elements to which they have been relegated by neo-liberal policies; the recovery of spaces of economic and political sovereignty in relations with major countries and the nucleus of decision of the global economy.

Among the main axes of an alternative project, the following are to be considered: recovery of development and sovereignty; impulses to regional integration as a form of insertion into the world economy; the construction of authentic participatory democracies, by taking into account the increasing role of women and young people; the ongoing profound struggle of the indigenous peoples; and the fight against every form of exploitation, economic oppression and alienation of the rights of the citizens.

We are for the defence of all forms of social property existing in our region (cooperative, governmental, areas owned by the workers, communitarian, indigenous etc.) and for the development of forms of popular economy allowing not only for strategies of survival, of practising economic democracy and of true respect for biodiversity, but also for the construction of networks of alternative marketing and ethical consumption.

The main reference for any emancipation project is not growth, but development in a multidimensional perspective that sets human beings, not money, as the main object of the process; creating the conditions for stable, sustainable growth; promoting structural changes that lead to equity in wealth distribution; ensuring equal opportunity for access to social services; preserving the environment; and respecting the multicultural and multiethnic reality of our peoples.

Concerning the processes of regional integration, the Forum is clearly in favour of reorienting them and deepening them in order to advance toward a higher level of integration, a true Latin American Community of Nations and original or indigenous peoples.

Yet today our America is subjected to the threat of disarticulation from the attempts at integration that are in train; therefore, the Forum advocates rejection of the geostrategic project of domination conceived through the FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas], because this:

  • intensifies the neo-liberal model that has prevailed in the last few years, with catastrophic results for the Latin American peoples;
  • demands a total, immediate opening of Latin American and Caribbean economies in an era of deep economic and social crisis in the region;
  • offers absolute warranties only to the corporate interests of big capital, especially to the American transnational enterprises, over and above the national states;
  • is meant to exert a greater restriction of sovereignty on national economic policies, so restricting even more the exercise of political power by governments and the possibilities of endogenous development of the region;
  • violates the peoples' rights that are established in our constitutions;
  • does not take into account the great disparities between the signing countries, setting stress on reciprocity but not on preferentialism;
  • has too negative impacts on labour markets, leading to even more precarious conditions of labour, weakens food security and accelerates the disarticulation of the agricultural sector;
  • threatens even more the multicultural identities and the rights of the indigenous peoples;
  • increases overexploitation and causes alienation of our natural resources and of biodiversity reserves, aggravating environmental destruction;
  • and because of historical reasons, among them the lack of ethics of the United States in regard to its international engagements.

The Forum proclaims, as an alternative to the FTAA, the development and strengthening of the processes of real integration of Latin America and the Caribbean and the convergence among them, emphasising the commercial motives and the neo-liberal logic that are the foundations of free trade agreements, and focusing on the objectives of sustainable development and interrelation of societies, which assumes the political dimension as a pillar of these projects. This integration must be provided with mechanisms to face the inequities prevailing between and within countries, between the different social groups, by promoting the equality of the sexes and the acknowledgement of the identity and the rights of the indigenous peoples. Furthermore, attention should be paid to the strengthening of monetary independence in the face of increasing dollarisation.

We promote an integration project with strong participation of the state and control by the labour movement that allows for joint projects aiming to establish new forms of production and property, as well as at a fair distribution of wealth. We propose the creation of international development banks, joint energy projects and producer agreements favouring industrialisation of agriculture and mining on a global scale. The intention is a horizontal integration, respectful of regional dimensions, and capable of being furthered by actions of joint struggle in and among sub-regions.

We insist that every regional project involving our countries should be broadly informed, discussed and previously validated by the citizens, also by the indigenous peoples in their own forms of discussion and by the social sectors and political forces in each country. The Forum considers as fundamental the increasing incorporation of women and young people and their organisations and movements, as a decisive force in this process.

No project of development and integration is viable in our region without having removed the obstacle imposed by the foreign debt. Consequently, this Forum has advocated the creation of a Pact of Debtors for the defence of the right of each country to renegotiate or not pay the illegitimate, fraudulent foreign debt.

To advance in the development and recuperation of an emancipatory thinking in our America, the parties and movements forming the Forum of São Paulo reaffirm their engagement with the humanist principles that have been defended by our heroes and martyrs. Our struggle is for political, economic and social transformation. It is a battle of ideas for a better world.