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Neoliberalism and the attendant financial globalisation were a common enemy that unified and mobilised activists of the most diverse tendencies who founded, ten years ago in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, the World Social Forum (WSF) as a space to meet, reflect and debate, under the slogan "Another World Is Possible".
But in its 11th year, the WSF is meeting Feb. 6-11 in Dakar, Senegal, at a time when neoliberal, free-market policies stand out less in a world threatened by collapse from a combination of crises: financial, climate change, food and water.
U.S. imperialism, another favourite target of the activists, has seen its economic clout wane while another superpower, China, emerges with its own colonial practices, although without militarism or the export of its belief system and way of life -- for now.
The dynamic growth of the emerging economies has pulled hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty. But inequality in the world and within countries is still marked, as is the hunger people face on many parts of the planet.
The climate threat is felt in the rising number of people killed and displaced by extreme weather events, and the increasing losses suffered by agriculture.
Finance has a strong destructive force, with 860 trillion dollars in speculative capital circulating around the globe -- 13 times global GDP -- according to the Bank of International Settlements.
All of which is aggravated by "planetary misgovernance" -- the lack of institutions capable of dealing with "global problems," according to Brazilian economist Ladislau Dowbor, who is heading to Dakar to share the ideas of a group of intellectuals who, under the title "Crises and Opportunities", are discussing systemic solutions for the "convergent crises."
The growing concentration of wealth that has left two-thirds of humanity excluded from progress and living on just six percent of global income is not sustainable, said Dowbor, a professor at the Catholic University of São Paulo.