A Tale Of Two Fora

The World Economic and World Social Forums

By Byron Toben

One hundred and forty nine years ago, Charles Dickens penned A Tale of Two Cities, which famously began:

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times
It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness
It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity
It was the season of light . It was the season of darkness
It was the spring of hope. It was the winter of despair

While the novel was set during the French revolution (1789-98), these dichotomies seem apt today as history may not repeat, but certainly rhymes. London and Paris are replaced by international fora.

The Montreal (World Social Forum) meeting in 2016 is the first in North America.

The established order and influence of money and power celebrate its annual rite in mountain top Swiss city Davos at the World Economic Forum. Established in 1971, its invitees are limited to political leaders, top business leaders and “selected” intellectuals and journalists. Twenty-five hundred participants are invited each year of which 1500 are business leaders from companies with more than five billion dollars in turnover. Its motto is “Committed to improving the state of the world”.

By contrast, the World Social Forum was established in Brazil in 2001 to bring together NGOs and other social movements seeking international solidarity. Its meetings have been in Africa, South America and Europe. Its motto is “Another world is needed.”

The Montreal meeting in 2016 is the first in North America. It formally began on August 9 and ends on August 14. About 20,000 participants are expected.

The 114-page trilingual (English, French, Spanish) program lists hundreds of workshops on themes ranging from the environment to self determination, to culture and militarism.

Some famous Canadian names expected include Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis, Maude Barlow and Warren Allmand. An opening outdoor concert included Moe Clark and mother/daughter singers Karen Young and Coral Egan. US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was slated for last night.

See detailed reports in next week’s

The World Social Forum continues until August 14. Registration is only Can $40.
For more information visit

Image: Andrew Burlone

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club

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