|BARCELONA, Spain - It is billed as a summit that will move the world, but the world\'s leaders are not invited.|
The idea? Five million people from across the globe meet in a huge new complex - sustainably developed - and discuss the world\'s problems.
After 141 days of talks, as well as music, dance and other cultural events, ideas about how to make the world a better place will be presented to leaders in something like a Barcelona Declaration.
More than two billion euros ($2.3 billion) are being poured into Barcelona, Spain\'s ever-developing second city, to build the infrastructure for the gathering. Organizers hope the event, called Forum Barcelona 2004, will become as much as a feature on the international calendar as the Olympic Games.
\"This is a gathering of civil society, of citizens, not of government...It\'s an Expo of values,\" Forum director general Jordi Oliveras i Coll told Reuters, comparing the event to the high-profile World Expo fairs.
Organizers plan to set up a foundation in the next few months to choose a different city to host a Forum every four years.
The Forum\'s debates, conferences, shows and exhibitions are all based around three themes: sustainable development, cultural diversity and conditions for peace.
At the heart of the new complex is a vast Plaza - second in size only to China\'s Tiananmen Square according to organizers - where a vast market, with produce from around the world, will be held. The complex also hosts a Speakers\' Corner, modeled on the famous spot in London\'s Hyde Park.
Despite the ban on political figures, several are set to attend, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton.
An exception has been made for present leaders to allow Brazil\'s left-of-center President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva to be invited.
Nobel prize-winning author Jose Saramago, Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes, film actress Angelina Jolie and singers Bono and Sting are also on the list, organizers said.
The United Nations organization for culture and education UNESCO is supporting the event. TRENDY BUILDING FOR BARCELONA
For the organizers, what the event will do for Barcelona - arch rival of Madrid and capital of a fiercely nationalistic region - is just as important as the Forum itself.
\"(Barcelona) has to keep inventing excuses for development projects,\" said one source.
Already a major tourist destination, Barcelona raised its international profile with the successful hosting of the 1992 Olympic Games and wants to do the same with Forum.
The jewel in the crown of the new developments, which cover a total of 230 hectares (568.3 acres), is a bright blue triangular building designed by Swiss architecture duo Herzog & De Meuron.
With ragged-edged windows breaking up the 180-meter (590- foot) long facades and water streaming into the interior through elongated sky-lights from a roof-top pool, the organizers hope it will be as much of a boon for Barcelona as Frank Gehry\'s Guggenheim was for Bilbao.
The 1992 Games gave Barcelona an excuse to redevelop a disused industrial zone and the Forum construction project starts where the Olympic village ends.
Organizers say the Forum will create 56,000 jobs and add 4.2 billion euros to gross domestic product.
The development will be in line with one of the Forum\'s themes, sustainable development. A river polluted with industrial waste will be cleaned up, artificial marshes are to be constructed to tempt back migratory birds and Barcelona will gain another couple of kilometers of beach.
Next to Herzog & De Meuron\'s water-topped triangle is a new enormous convention center, making the city more competitive in the lucrative convention hosting market.
The Forum\'s own 330 million euro budget - a mix of local, regional and national government cash, sponsorship and ticket sales - is dwarfed by the overall 2.2 billion euro investment in infrastructure.
Just under half comes from the private sector with the rest from regional government and European Union funds. As a totally new kind of event, there is nothing Forum\'s success or failure can be measured against.
\"If we are capable of introducing just one word onto the agenda of those who govern us, we will have achieved a part of our goal,\" Oliveras said.
Story by Emma Ross-Thomas
|REUTERS NEWS SERVICE|