International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development
March 1, 2006
Message from the Editorial Team
Development controlled from below
A vision from Hungary
Global Democracy: Civil Society Visions and Strategies
Conference held in Montreal, May 2005
European Institute of Solidarity-based Economy (INESS) Newsletter
An invitation to subscribe
Message from the Editorial Team
In this issue, we are presenting an excerpt of an article published by Éva G. Fekete of Hungary describing an approach to development controlled from the bottom. Besides some more theoretical elements prepared in a chart by Mrs. Fekete, the text explains the challenges of local and regional development in Hungary. The complete text of 12 pages is available upon request (English only).
Mrs. Fekete is a social geographer attached to the Center of Regional Studies of the Academy of Science of Hungary and to the University of Miskolc. She is involved in many organizations in Hungary and Europe. Notably, she is a member of the board of directors of VIRGILE, a European network of associations for rural development. Mrs. Fekete was a founding member with Francisco Botelho and Yvon Poirier of the project for an international network of actors of local development (2002-2003).
In another article, Martine Theveniaut analyzes and summarizes a report, which has just been released, on the Conference of Montreal in 2005 dealing with the development of visions and strategies of the civil society in order to build a world democracy.
For us, it is encouraging that this approach makes a place for a bottoms-up construction of these visions and strategies and that it grants a central place to the cultural dimension as one of the decisive forms of resistance to the dominant models and to democratization.
Finally, we invite you to subscribe to a new Newsletter about socio-solidarity economy in Europe.
Some aspects of the Regional Development from below
By Éva G. Fekete
In this text the author explains that throughout history geographical space has lived in alternation of two models of development. We believe that externally-controlled (from above) and internally-controlled (from below) phases of regional development have traded places throughout human history (p.1). Therefore, during recent times, the failure of development initiatives in the countries of the third world called attention to the deficiencies of neo-classical development concepts and of the regional policies built upon them. The regional differences did not decrease at all as a result of external development (from above); instead, the gap widened further (p. 2). Thus, alternative approaches consisting of a more self-reliant development appeared. These aim to satisfy local needs by mobilising local resources, by local organisation and control of external support (p. 3).
Moreover, it appears that the differences between the policies of local and regional development controlled by the top and by the bottom are not limited to the decentralization of the decision-making.
A brand new philosophy shall support it. The most important elements of these two development models can be compared in Table 1. (see the chart p.2-3)
Characteristics of development controlled from above and from below
Development controlled from above
Development controlled from below
Theory of development^
Monolithic theory of development, backed by a uniform system of values and a concept of human happiness, which automatically or by political pressure infiltrates the entire society
Different elements can be the vehicle of development in the case of different communities, the systems of value are variable and multicolour
Neo-classical concept of development theory of growth pole
Alternative theories of development
Driving force of development
Development starts pursuant to external need from relatively few dynamic sectors and geographic areas and expands to the other sectors and areas
Stimulated and controlled from below
Competition based in the exploitation of comparative advantages
To satisfy the basic need of those living in the given area
Development target group beneficiaries
Large companies are thought to be the engine of development
Small and medium-sized ventures: civil society and production sectors controlled by and co-operating therewith
Women, people of decreased ability to work, minorities, informal participants of economy
Development methods and tools;
Large, basically city-like, mainly industrial capital-intensive projects connected to high
Small projects utilizing the local resources, country-centred, labour-intensive projects utilizing the technology most appropriate under the circumstances, instead of high technology
Basic hypothesis of development•
Functional or regional integration
Wide range of organisations intermediating development
Serious re-distribution mechanisms:
• development is generated by a few selected participants
• the remaining part of the population is unable to initiate development;
• only a few participants are able and are ready to allow others to take part in the development process;
• others are ready to take over the intermediated development model;
• the initiated development is the most appropriate for every member or the system becoming more and more interactive
Regional inequalities are basically due to the differences in living conditions arising from inappropriate preparation of major economic interventions.
Regional inequalities are basically due to the differences in living conditions of populations which explains that they are not prepared for major economic interventions
Development potential is determined by the cultural and natural resources and only to a small extent by the nameless market mechanisms
It is not obligatory that the poor develop only in the ways the rich think to be good, thus the only way of development is not necessarily to increase the production (but with reduced costs) for the markets of the developed, with technology, capital and organisational model taken over from the developed
Spatial networks, disadvantages
Vertical, hierarchical spatial organisations, not taken into consideration:
• the multi-colouredness of systems of values and intentions;
• the variability of natural resources;
• the fact that the underdeveloped groups will progress in an even more disadvantageous situation if they take over the systems of values of the developed;
•dependency is generated, the adversary effects of dependency;
Historical spatial organisation:
• more difficult to organise, to follow;
• its management time and labour consuming
•professional soundness can be jeopardized
In the continuation of her text, Mrs. Fekete explains the importance of this approach controlled from below for a country like Hungary, because during the time which preceded the collapse of the centralized regimes of Soviet type, the development was uniquely an approach from the top. In Hungary, as in the case of neighbouring countries, all was to be rebuilt in order to support an approach controlled from below, to build associations and civil society as well as to organize local representative democracy. Thus, a good understanding of the model of development for the country, particularly in the light of the evolution of the paradigms of development in a great number of countries of the South, will have made it possible to adopt such an approach in Hungary. The work is always a process, but it progresses. The article by Mrs. Fekete summarizes the situation.
Synthesis and presentation by Yvon Poirier
A Report on the Conference on Global Democracy:
Civil Society Visions and Strategies (G05), Montreal, May, 2005
Approximately 400 participants from 45 countries gathered in Montreal, Quebec, from May 29th to June 1st, 2005. Work was divided between plenary sessions and discussion groups within the framework of the six tracks of the G 05:
1) Intervention of the civil society: territorial priorities in change?
2) International treaties, international law: a hierarchy of values?
3) World security: a threat to democracy?
4) Participation of the civil society: possibilities and responsibilities?
5) How to control the world economy in a democratic way?
6) Maintaining cultural diversity in world solidarity?
It is impossible to give an account of the debates, which are well synthesized in a thick report of 85 pages. Here are a few excerpts.
Serious observations. Rajesh Tandon, founder of Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), and President of the executive committee of G05 underlined the gravity of the crisis in world governance. He explained that the social, human, and economic agenda decisions made in the 1990s have not been implemented because of ineffective enforcement mechanisms, particularly at the UN level. Most governments (particularly those in rich countries) of the world have reneged on their commitments, especially in environment and development. In addition, the proliferation of agreements and regimes has resulted in confusion and conflict between jurisdictions…. Most citizens of the world have been treated as mere voters, and more efforts are being invested into fixing elections than in engaging citizens. National governments are often run by a few ministers and a “large coterie of unelected officials”. (p 2).
What is civil society? Nothing is less clear. And the vision of what it is does not achieve unanimity. The term is too generic. It includes a vast range of organizations and objectives. It creates confusion, because it implies solidarity between its members, whereas in reality, there may be vast differences among groups. (p. 17).
The base, a lever of world democratization - A minority speech
Lalita Ramdas, a community educator involved with Greenpeace India and PRIA, described her personal journey to make linkages between working locally on the west coast of India (the source of her inspiration) and thinking globally. She explained that she had consulted with the women in her village about their message for G05 and their issues were clear: peace, education, shelter, employment, and health. The women pointed out that lack of peace comes from lack of water and other basic needs. “How do you build a truly peaceful democratic polity when that is the situation on the ground?” Ramdas asked. She added: “I do not believe we have any deficit of vision at the local level.”… . In India, for example, a massive grassroots movement has mobilized to protest against a new forest bill being presented in Indian parliament. Indigenous people who have lived all their lives in the forest have come together and descended on Delhi “This is how you begin to influence public policy,” she said…. The framework for developing democracy is very much in place, but civil society members need to work together to identify the obstacles on the ground and overcome them. (p. 6-7).
Cultural diversity: a major concern at all levels
Cultural diversity is an asset, an inalienable right, and the basis for any sustainable democratic gain. For culture to be sustainable, it should therefore be higher up on the agenda of international NGOs active in governance issues, the present Forum included. It needs to be articulated from the international to the national to the local level, and vice versa, and the language used should be understandable at the local level. (p. 65).
The two global objectives from the framework of Regional Blocks
1. To encourage and promote regional integration among civil society organizations, in order to enhance their role and influence in regional blocks and treaties. Beyond abstract goals like coalition building and networking, there is a need to develop substantive strategies, tools, and mechanisms to optimize civil society engagement in global governance.
2. To create alternative, community-based knowledge, drawing from and responding to community needs. The creation of regional clearinghouses would improve discourse among regional coalitions. Many processes, networks, campaigns, and initiatives already exist. The Global Campaign Against Poverty is a good example of how mobilization can take place using existing global networks. (p. 25-26).
Available on the site of the Montreal International Forum: www.fimcivilsociety.org
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