Universal Forum of Cultures

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Universal Forum of Cultures, Barcelona 2004

The Universal Forum of Cultures (Catalan: Fòrum de les Cultures, Spanish: Fórum de las culturas) is an international cultural event intended to take place every three years. This event is organized by Forum Foundation.

The first Forum was held in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain), from May 9 to September 26, 2004. It was organized by Barcelona's local council, the Catalan government (the Generalitat de Catalunya), the Spanish Government and UNESCO. It was conceived by Catalan prime mover (Pasqual Maragall, then Mayor of Barcelona) as a way of promoting the city's burgeoning tourist industry in the wake of the 1992 Summer Olympics. The official aims of the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures included support for peace, sustainable development, human rights and respect for cultural diversity. However, many NGOs (including Greenpeace and Amnesty International) criticised the event for failing to live up to these lofty ideals and boycotted it as a result.

The event was controversial, with critics pointing to the $2.3 billion price tag and commercial sponsorship by multinationals (Endesa, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Telefónica, and Indra) with dubious reputations in the Third World. Several groups also criticised the massive property and coastline destruction involved in building the Forum site. This may explain why the Forum fell so far short of its projected attendance figures for the 141-day event. The forecasts were progressively scaled back from the planning stage, to 7 million and then 5 million during the event. The official final attendance figure was around 3.5 million, although even this figure is hotly disputed.

The 2007 Universal Forum of Cultures was held in Monterrey, Mexico. The event promoted Native American and "White" cultures.

For the third edition (2010), candidate cities were Chicago (USA), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Fukuoka (Japan), Alexandria (Egypt), Suwon and Gwangju (South Korea), Santiago de Chile and Valparaíso (Chile), Budapest (Hungary) and Durban (South Africa). Valparaíso, Chile was selected as host for the 2010 Universal Forum of Cultures. Naples, Italy was selected as host for the 2013 Universal Forum of Cultures, while both Quebec City, Canada and Amman, Jordan were selected to host the 2016 forum. Quebec City decided to back off and give Amman the whole organisation of the event.

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