The São Paulo Forum’s origin can be traced back to a call made by former presidents Lula and Fidel Castro to all leftist parties, movements and organizations in July 1990 to reflect upon the events in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall and upon alternative and autonomous paths from the standpoint of the Latin American and Caribbean left that would go beyond the traditional responses.

The first meeting was held in the city of São Paulo, in July 1990, and brought together 48 parties and organizations representing the multiple experiences from all across the Latin American and Caribbean political and ideological spectrum. From that meeting came the São Paulo Declaration (Declaration), a historical document that expresses the aspirations, principles, and goals of every party and movement present then. Highlights of the Declaration are the following goals: 

Push forward with consensus proposals for unity of action in the anti-imperialist and people’s struggle.

“We shall promote specialized exchanges focused on economic, political, social, and cultural issues

“[…] in opposition to the proposal for integration under imperialist domination, [ to define] the cornerstones for a new concept of continental unity and integration. 

At the following meeting, held in Mexico City in 1991, the name “São Paulo Forum” was adopted, setting in motion a coordination of Latin American and Caribbean political parties and movements opposing neoliberalism and imperialism and committed to the regional integration, sovereignty, and self-determination of Latin America and the Caribbean and of our nations. 

The following meetings reaffirmed the political will to continue on that path of dialogue and exchange among a number of political parties and movements of Latin America and the Caribbean. Year after year, political accomplishments showed the growing influence of the São Paulo Forum parties in the region. Throughout the 1990s those parties engaged in resistance against the orthodox policies of the neoliberal model and reached out to the social, trade union, and grassroots movements in the scope of the campaigns against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and for building the World Social Forum (WSF). Between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s, many of those parties reached for the first time the national governments of their countries with a series of landmark regional electoral victories.

At the Forum’s annual meetings, as well as at the subregional and sectoral meetings, were consolidated the anti-neoliberal platforms that would become the blueprint for the victorious tactical and electoral programs of leftist parties and progressive coalitions, allowing the  São Paulo Forum to call for regional and international political backing for the Latin American and Caribbean progressive administrations. 

In spite of each country’s social, economic, and political specificities, in broad lines and to various degrees, the new leftist, progressive, people-democratic governments managed to reduce the historical inequalities present in our continent by means of a range of public policies of an inclusive nature, and applied autonomous foreign policy and regional integration guidelines clearly expressed in, for instance, the political reorientation of the Common Market of the South (Mercosul), the creation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUL), and  the Latin American and Caribbean Community of States (CELAC). 

In a context of a strong neoliberal counteroffensive in the continent that began in 2015, the Working Group of the São Paulo Forum submitted, in January 2017, to the Forum’s member parties a new document – the Our America Consensus (Consensus) analyzing our trajectory that far and proposing new debates and courses. During the 23rd Annual Meeting, in Managua, Nicaragua, in July 2017, this document was used as the source for debate within parties and with our region’s social and grassroots movements.

That new document’s starting point are the values and principles built throughout the Forum’s existence that unite us as political instruments of change:

  1. Equality, equity and social justice;
  2. Democracy and the struggle for freedom, led by the people, direct, participatory, and communitarian;
  3. The unity of our forces and organizations and the indissoluble relation with our peoples;
  4. Rejection of any expression of fascism, racism, xenophobia, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia, and of discrimination of any origin and nature;
  5. Solidarity with other peoples and nations, as well as the full realization of the right to Peace;
  6. The right of every country to choose the political and social system their peoples democratically decide to adopt;
  7. Ethics, honesty, the transparent exercise of government and the administration of public and collective goods, and the unrelenting struggle against corruption are values of the leftist organizations;
  8. Sovereign regional integration as a strategic goal.

As a new beacon, the Consensus interprets the present moment as being one of changes in the regional correlations of forces and points to a new assessment and debate of the Latin American and Caribbean left’s proposals. By means of trial and error, we may legitimize our struggle and our projects, seeking to face and overcome the current situation we are going through.

The Consensus also submits to debate its strategic orientations, premised on the idea that the transformations needed to change and develop Latin America and the Caribbean go beyond a national project and require the development of a regional community with general and common goals and principles, adopted in solidarity and conscious of national specificities.

We underscore some of the orientations needed to face and defeat the neoliberal counteroffensive:

  1. Economy.

Build a sovereign economic and social integration process guided by a cross-country complementary regional development perspective and leveraging the region’s economic advantages such as natural resources and the scientific and technological know-how of each country’s workforce. Regional integration is the condition for the region’s sovereign participation in a globalized world while preserving decision-making capacity.

A regional market must ensure the sustainability of the economic model chosen and be an alternative to the instability of the extra-regional market. It does not mean isolating ourselves from the world, but engaging for better economic conditions, social development, and preserved independence.

The State must play a key role as regulator of the economy, ensuring the distribution of wealth and the implementation of people-led economic and social development plans, and in line with regional integration. We do not exclude the private sectors, both national and international, yet under the guidance of a development plan oriented toward the strengthening of domestic markets, higher value-added exports, and in compliance with, among others, labor and environmental laws.

  1. Society.

Equitable distribution of wealth is one of the left’s core projects. Fiscal policies must consider there is no true development without social inclusion,  equal opportunities, and access by all men and women to the socially produced goods and services. 

Education and health must be within each one’s reach and must be driven by humanist and in solidarity principles, constituting an ongoing concern of States in implementing public policies and eradicating such neoliberal scourges as poverty and destitution, drug dependence, social alienation, and recklessness toward the most vulnerable sectors, including disabled persons, the elderly, and children, together with those historically discriminated against like women, African descendants, original peoples, and LGBT communities.

  1. Environment.

Our development must be sustainable. We must strike a balance between the need for development and the rights of nature, changing processes inherited over the centuries.

  1. Culture.

We must further develop, strengthen, divulge, and enrich the cultural wealth of our peoples, enabling a cultural revalorization against the alienating values of capitalism. 

And work for an intellectuality that has been excluded by the hegemonic power and that may be capable of generating truly decolonizing contents, with sound cultural references in a world increasingly more influenced by consumerism and banality.

As a strategic document, the Our America Consensus points to organizational and ideological challenges such as unity of action, a profound connection with the people and their organizations, people engagement, and the need to embed the youth and their dreams in the struggles of our peoples.


Structure and functioning

The São Paulo Forum, as a coordination of Latin American and Caribbean political parties and movements, today counts 123 member parties from 27 countries that gather for an annual meeting, and a Working Group with representatives from 16 countries that meets periodically.  

The São Paulo Forum has three regional departments: the Southern Cone department, headquartered in Uruguay; the Andean Amazonian department, temporarily based in Colombia; and the Mesoamerican and Caribbean department, headquartered in El Salvador.

Lastly, the São Paulo Forum has an Executive Secretariat, which is responsible for carrying out the decisions made at the annual plenary meetings and regional meetings, and by the Working Group, and is presently headquartered in São Paulo.

The annual meetings bring together, in addition to member parties, guests from social movements and political organizations from other continents. Among the activities carried out, we highlight the general plenary sessions; the sectoral meetings: Women, Youth, African Descendants, Original Peoples, the Foundations and Schools Network, among others; thematic workshops: Media, Anticolonial Fight, Seminar on Progressive Governments, among others; and the Training School.

The São Paulo Forum is in close and constant dialogue with representatives from the continent’s social movements and organizations for the purpose of building common agendas and actions, including among others, the World Day against Imperialism, the Hemispheric Day for Democracy and against  Neoliberalism. The São Paulo Forum also has exchange and cooperation relations with political and social forces from other continents, having actively participated in several World Social Forum meetings, among other world and regional events.

The São Paulo Forum has political relations with other initiatives by Latin American and Caribbean political parties, like the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean (COPPPAL) and the Latin-American Socialist Coordination (CSL), as well as with organizations from other continents.


Foro de São Paulo – 30 anos