Wednesday, January 28, 2009
19:56 Mecca time, 16:56 GMT
Tens of thousands of people have opened the World Social Forum in Brazil, offering an alternative to the World Economic Forum in Davos.
About 100,000 people, ranging from environmentalists to political activists and indigenous Indians, were taking part in the forum held in the city Belem to draw attention on the destruction of the Amazon forest, officials said on Wednesday.
The event was being staged in contrast to the meeting of the world's political and business leaders meeting in Switzerland.
The gathering, which is entering its second day, is set to focus on issues including deforestation and development in the Amazon as well as the rights of indigenous peoples and the global economic crisis.
Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Belem, said: "The World Social Forum was built to be an anti-World Economic Forum.
"It is not for the rich, not for the well-connected and it is not 'invitation only' - just the opposite of everything in Davos.
"The interest in the Economic Forum might be down a little bit because of the global economic crisis, but here ... it is just the opposite. The interest has actually increased because of the global crisis."
Participants also said the global economic crisis gave legitimacy to their calls for alternative economic systems.
Elizondo said: "So many here are saying that now is the critical time for these people ... to really be getting their message out because of the state of the global economy.
"They say, 'We can't trust the people of Davos to fix the world economic situation because they are the ones ... responsible for causing it'."
The annual forum, now in its ninth year, began in 2001 in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.
Five Latin American leaders are expected to attend to the gathering.
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