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UNESCO and World Social Forum 2002
31 January - 5 February 2002, Porto Alegre, Brazil

UNESCO, as a laboratory of ideas and as the organization responsible for international intellectual and scientific cooperation of the United Nations system must naturally take an active part in the global movement in favour of social development, by contributing to the progress of knowledge and the establishment of principles and policies. It is for this reason that UNESCO renewed its participation in the WSF 2002.
UNESCO, in cooperation with its partners in civil society, proposed three workshops that focussed on contemporary issues relating to the Organization’s fields of competence – Education, the Sciences, Culture and Communication – while trying to establish links between scientific knowledge and public action.

The time has come to ask ourselves: What are the possible alternatives when confronted with a globalization process that is exclusively market-driven and devoid of solidarity? Is it possible to implement the processes of globalization with social justice as the main goal?

UNESCO and WSF share the conviction that they must reinforce the collective and alternative building of a new social order. Strengthened with realistic strategies, this joint utopia may one day see the human aspiration to a fairer world come true, and globalization and human rights become two converging movements. During the first World Social Forum, UNESCO instigated a debate on democratic governance. This was a strategic theme that was proposed to build upon in a political and future-oriented discussion.

At the centre of this debate, the contributions of the African, Asian, European and Latin American participants covered four basic questions:

  • the role of the State and of social movements in reinforcing the capacity of democracies to oppose and manage globalization to the benefit of their citizens;
  • international regulating bodies already in existence and those needing to be set up;
  • the means of introducing governance of the global system founded on democratic principles;
  • the roles for the United Nations and for non-State actors, particularly NGOs, in such global democratic governance.

    It has been seen from the different publications covering this debate that there is a need for deeper analyses of democracy as a complex system for managing conflicts that favours the political over economic aspects. Hence the generative question: how should democracy be viewed in the face of the political representation crisis and the emergence of new forms of citizenship?

    With "Democratic governance" as a general strategic theme, the debate in 2002 is more focused, dealing with specific issues situated historically in a particular time and place. The programme that UNESCO proposes for WSF II had three themes that were developed in three seminars:

  • Democracy, governance and associated complexities: The challenges involved in recognizing cultural pluralism.
  • Urban planning: what's on the horizon? Governance, management and policies.
  • Creating learning societies: participation, citizenship and governance.

    The seminars aimed to promote an open debate on the main themes of the WSF, and more specifically on:

  • access to possessions and sustainability;
  • dynamics, social movements and governance;
  • principles, values and cultural identity.

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