London welcomes forum for sustainability and global justice

This year's European Social Forum (ESF), championing human rights and environmental sustainability, was welcomed by London in an opening ceremony this week at Southwark Cathedral.

Issues explored by the forum in a series of lectures and seminars will include globalisation, environmental crisis, sustainability, social justice, democracy and human rights.

Speakers at the ceremony included daughter of Ernesto (Che) Guevara, Aleida, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, third world specialist Dr Susan George and London Mayor, Ken Livingstone.

Emerging from the deafening chants of activists trying to force entry into the cathedral, opening speaker Dr Susan George told delegates how it was vital to end US domination in order to achieve environmental sustainability and social justice globally.

She stressed the importance of ridding the world of GMOs and achieving freedom "from the clutches of the WTO", but stated that global solidarity was the only way to achieve this, and the ESF was a step towards bringing countries together to work towards these goals.

"We have to take the 'e' in the ESF very seriously and combine our forces, using democracy as a means to improve standards in the European Union, as well as the rest of the world," Dr George said.

Following a statement from the TUC that the entire world could be provided with clean water if every American gave up just 1% of their salary, Gerry Adams took the stage and stated:

"It is criminal and morally wrong that 11 million children under the age of five die every year from curable diseases caused by issues such as bad sanitation."

He added that the EU needed to behave in a more globally responsible way, and fair trade now needed to prevail over free trade throughout the United Nations.

Host Ken Livingstone stated that the Bush Administration had caused the deterioration of environmental and social issues on a global scale. He added that if George Bush failed to win the up-coming presidential election it would provide an opportunity to start repairing "everything most rotten in the world at the moment".

Mr Livingstone also highlighted the urgency to act on environmental issues now, saying it was essential to take on board a green agenda now "so that we do not pollute and poison ourselves to death".

The London Mayor stated that the ESF would be the largest conference in British history for over 2,000 years, with an attendance of up to 30,000 people from around the world.

"The European Social Forum will bring tens of thousands of people to London to discuss strategies to achieve global justice," Mr Livingstone said. "As a major international city, London has a direct interest in all these issues. I have no doubt that the ESF will provide a real opportunity for vigorous debate on key issues."

Accommodation for delegates with sleeping bags has been provided by the Mayor at the Millennium Dome for £10 a head.

Deputy General Secretary of the TUC Frances O'Grady commented: "I always knew that it would come in useful for something."

By Jane Kettle



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