"Democratizing globalization" is possible


The World Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights started on March 2, 2004 with an opening ceremony which gathered more than 1500 people in the "Casa de la Cultura" in a tribute to the Columbian human rights defenders. Distinguished speakers included Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace price, Sidiki Kaba, President of the FIDH, Ricardo Ulcuango, President of the Indigenous Parliament, Alirio Uribe, President of the Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo" in Colombia, Patricio Ben Alcazar, President of INREDH in Ecuador as well as victims of human rights violations in Colombia.

About 400 human rights activists from all parts of the world attended the plenary session of the forum "Democratizing globalization" on March 3, 2004, to discuss how to make real the popular slogan of world social forums "Another world is possible".

The Forum started with an analysis, by Jean-Pierre Dubois, deputy Secretary General (France) of the FIDH and Francisco Soberón, Vice-President of the FIDH (Peru), of the new patterns of globalization, including dramatic changes in economic thought, the emergence of non-state actors on the international scene, and the evolution of public international law which challenges the human rights movement. Four themes will lead the discussions throughout the Congress: "Peace and democracy", "Security and Democracy", "Human Development and Democracy", "Cultural diversity and Democracy".

Bruno Cathala, Registrar of the International Criminal Court, intervening on the issue "Peace and Democracy", outlined how new international regulation institutions, including the ICC, could could help a democratised globalization.

General Robles, from Peru, a symbol of the fight against impunity in Latin America, introduced the concept of "democratic security" opposed to state-centered security. "Real security is based on the full respect of human rights, including social and economic rights", he said. To Peter Weiss, President of the Center for Constitutional rights (USA), three elements are detrimental to human and global security: widespread violations of economic and social rights, the US crusade against international law, and new nuclear threats.

Nilmario Miranda, the Brasilian Minister of Human Rights, insisted upon the choice for leaders not to be slaves of "realism" and on the political possibility of realising economic and social rights.

Introducing the theme "human development and democracy", Manfred Max-Neeff, economist, clearly distinguished between development and economic growth. He invited the public in travelling back into history and into choices that were made but are still possible. Comparing neo-liberalism to a new dominating religion, he concluded that being heretical could be salutary... Patricio Pazmiño, from the Ecuadorian Commission on Economic and Social Rights, strongly denounced the burden of external debt as well as free-trade agreements in the Americas leading to impoverishment of entire sectors of the Latin American societies.

Finally, Driss El Yazami, Secretary General of the FIDH, presented the tension between the indispensable respect for cultural diversity and the universality of human rights, rejecting both blind equality and cultural relativism.

The forum is to continue until 4 March 2004 evening, with examination of reports from its working groups.

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