The 12 WSF’s, until now concluded took place in Porto Alegre (Brazil) in 2001, 2002, 2003; in Mumbai (India) in 2004; again in Porto Alegre (Brazil) in 2005; in 2006 it was performed for the first time in different places: Bamako (Mali), Caracas (Venezuela) and Karachi (Pakistan); in 2007 for the first time it traveled to Africa (Nairobi - Kenya); in 2009 it returned to Brazil (Belem); in 2011 (Dakar - Senegal), in 2013 and in 2015 (Tunisia - Tunisia) it faced the Arab world and in 2016 Montreal (Quebec-Canada) it moved for the first time to the north of the globe.
A charter of principles established by the WSF International Council on June 10 2001, defines its broad orientations, its values and its basic rules of operation. The charter consists of 14 articles that describe the WSF as "an open meeting space to intensify the reflection, the democratic debate of ideas, to develop proposals, the free exchange of ideas and the articulation of effective action on the part of groups and movements of civil society". Under the slogan "another world is possible" the WSF opposes "the neo-liberalism and the domination of the world by capital" and runs counter to a "process of globalization, commanded by the large multinational corporations and by the governments at the service of their interests".
The WSF is, therefore, "a process of global character and all its activities have an international dimension" and should promote a "globalization of solidarity that respects universal human rights", the citizens of all nations and the environment.
Some articles have been demonstrated as limitations to the effectiveness of the WSF: "Participants should not be called upon to take decisions by a vote or acclamation, …, on statements or proposals of action involving all or most and that are intended to be placed by the Forum as a Forum". Although it "must be ensured to organizations or groups of organizations participating in the meetings of the Forum, the freedom to decide for them, on statements and actions that choose to develop", by these limitations, the WSF is somehow reduced to an experience of participation and of meeting without operational efficacy.
The WSF "is a plural and diverse space, non-denominational, non-governmental and non-party" that aims to always be "a space open to the plurality and diversity of commitments and activities of the organizations and movements that want to participate". This is a wonderful statement, the consequence, however, is that the WSF is managed either by the International Council, or by the most highly organized groups, those that in the end have more financial capacity. And this although it is said in article 10, "The WSF is opposed to any totalitarian vision and reduction of the economy, development and history… and advocates respect for Human Rights, the practice of real democracy, participatory, by relations of equality, solidarity and peace among peoples, ethnicities, genders and villages, condemning all forms of domination and subjugation of one person by another".
However, the WSF "as a space for exchange of experiences, encourages the knowledge and recognition of the organizations and movements involved in it, appreciating its exchange, on everything that society builds to focus the economic activity and political action in the satisfaction of the needs of the human being and respect for nature". In this way the WSF "is a process that encourages organizations and movements that participate in it to place their actions from the local to the national level looking for an active participation in the international forums".
As always, these declarations of principle must be turned into practical actions; and Montreal had shown the gap existing between ideas and reality. Montreal lacked the word of the South. About 70% of the requested visas by foreigners were denied and the realization of the WSF in a rich country, during high vacation season became economically prohibitive for many Africans and Asians. Therefore, the question that became insistent at the end of the Montreal WSF was "What do we have to do from here onwards?"
In many countries there are winds of instability blowing. Democratic values seems to fall apart undermining the referential values needed to build in harmonious agreements a just and respectful coexistence. The violence of terrorism forecloses the confidence in the dialog and in the coexistence of the differences. The language of the multinational corporations creates the illusion of a change, the growth of sensitivity to social and ecological justice, while increasing the search of partisan interests to ensure benefits always for the known few. In so far, the distance between the Forum with the South of the world is still too huge and does not allow it to focus with specific strategies in the solution of global problems.
In this context, the WSF is becoming more and more necessary but has to evolve in its strategies. How? In deepening the thematic meetings? Taking advantage of the great power of influence that organizations and social movements are granted to make the WSF a tool of advocacy in defense of human rights and alternative proposals? Making the WSF a globalization of solidarity?
What is true and perceived by all participants, is that the WSF continues holding its values and should continue, but it needs also to leave a certain stagnation and recover the freshness of its beginnings, drawing water for a new social commitment from the meaning of life, from the stories of peoples and communities that protect their way of life, and, (why not?), from the yeast of religion. If capitalism is a religion, with its rites of consumption and its mystique of induced desires, dreams that feed on what is the deepest of the human being, it cannot do without religious inspiration and even without the Gospel.