Sunday, October 01, 2006

International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development

Newsletter #32 - October 1, 2006


Message from the Editorial Team

Sustainable Social Development and Networking
Contribution from Rosemary Gomes (Brazil)

New policies on aid for development
Impacts on sustainable local development

News briefs
The Home of World Citizenship of Mulhouse (France)
Katrina one year later: civil movements demand right of return

Message from the Editorial Team

The articles dealing with networking in our last newsletter gave rise to many positive and encouraging comments.
Rosemary Gomes of the Brazilian Forum on Solidarity Economy (FBES) forwarded to us a text in Portuguese, as well as to several mailing lists in Brazil and Latin America. We are reproducing this text because it brings very relevant comments and questionings.
The text stresses the essential character of the circulation of information directly elaborated from the social practices of actors. It therefore carries value as an example for others. Furthermore, it stresses the importance of learning how to essentially communicate in comprehensible terms for all the public, to bring closer the points of view, beyond the ideologies: in the South and North relations, but also to facilitate relationships being established in a long-lasting way between actors of the South and the South, which is also the intent of this newsletter. Indeed, information, when it is adopted by the actors at the grassroots level is a good, which multiplies when shared, and which increases the capacity for action. The text by Rosemary Gomes opens from this point of view a prospect for dialogue, which is interesting and courageous by its clarity. It is necessary to congratulate her.
In addition, we wish to bring your attention to the major impact of the Paris Declaration regarding the policies of development. If it is not already done, we suggest that organizations devoted to local development and social solidarity economy hold this debate, because the role of the civil society in regards to development is in jeopardy.
We are SUSPENDING INDEFINITELY the publication of this Newsletter into Spanish. Thus, we wish to reiterate our call for volunteer translators, especially for the Spanish version.

Francisco Botelho
Yvon Poirier
Martine Théveniaut

Sustainable Social Development and Networking
Contribution from Rosemary Gomes (Brazil)

The International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development in its last edition (#31), brought to the forefront important questions on the present day debates concerning Networks and the social actors who live – act – and take a stand in their midst. It deserves an attentive reading by all:
• who follow the development of methodologies of the life of networks and the multiplicity of the forms that they have assumed these past years, especially in Latin America.
• who are concerned by a better way of reinforcing our camp, always characterized by its diversity (actors, “flags”, causes, social movements…)
• who want to avoid fragmentation, the multiplication of structures and the unnecessary repetition of the same financial and human investments.

Major challenges
We believe that we can work together effectively. The complementarity and integration (whether inter, intra or supra) will enable us to progress very much, not because it is pleasant to work jointly, but because it is only by combining our efforts that we will manage to produce changes in real life.
This politization moves us away from the assistance, of aid practices. The echo of the South speaks about radicalization… that of North to work in the direction of international institutions. But in the South, there are also actors who aspire to promote, to take part in the design of new approaches. The need for producing real alternatives to globalisation leads to very distinct dynamics that meet.
For such an important challenge as that of globalising solidarity, I believe that we should also act so that the co-operative sectors of production are convinced - and even conquered - by the will to work with a new type of relations of international co-operation. To make the producers perceive themselves as actors of development, and not only as producers or consumers. Producers who also perceive themselves as entities bearing rights, duties, and strengths to build new territories, new markets. It is necessary to finish with the existing myth of the Market in which it is necessary to participate. The experiences where markets were born from the will of ethical and solidarity economic relations should be shown. That does not occur spontaneously, and that is where the role of NGOs intervenes, in the processes of Networks and International Forums.

Information: a crucial question

The topic of a constant, fluid communication (in our various languages and dialects), transparent and frequent, could gradually bring a greater perenniality to the processes, apart from the moments of meetings in Events. But who will finance such dialogues when they are not bilateral? Especially the South towards the South?
It is also important to specify and highlight that communication is not only information or connection.
Information can be transmitted, used and abandoned; all depends on the use, which one makes of it. Then, the need appears in the Networks to promote training for effective use of Information Technology (IT), since it is not always adapted for those who need to use it. Then, there is the lack of time, dedication and especially financing for this training in the use of these instruments.
This year, with the use of the GNU free software, we made fantastic things addressing solidarity economy, but they were not completely adopted by the users whether they be co-operatives, or young people who develop…
It would be necessary to define the (re)significance of the concept of information, in an era of digital and information technology.

The Life of Networks
Networks need both direct meetings and mechanisms of communication in order to create bonds of confidence, to look at each other face to face, eye to eye, to see the products, to learn the techniques, to know the position of each one… The use of Skype and teleconferencing have facilitated things and saved many resources.
Those who use and master these new instruments are still very few, either because of technical inability, or because they are not at ease. There are still human limitations to be surpassed.
But it is a priority to decentralize information, because otherwise the elite and “the experts” will continue to be the only ones who are always well informed.
What do our leaders think of the production of an Alternate Globalization? What is missing to launch a campaign, a “flag”, a cause (I know that many exist - but we need to prioritize and to practise this internationalism)? I am sure that there would be no lack of arms, legs, voices, everywhere in the five continents – what is missing is the political direction of the process. To be less concerned with the wording of the international platform - it already has our minimum agreement - than to start to unite ourselves in concrete actions.
Part of the politization passes by the need to combat internally our ambivalences. Topics like the model of consumption, either in North or in the South, are often circumvented because they generate dead ends… Should Solidarity Economy take a more radical form in order to build another model of production or proceed in a way to mitigate the consequences of an unsustainable model? And the question of the precariousness of the social rights in solidarity enterprises? We always advocate in documents the defence of economic and social rights. What does that mean in the solidarity economy? And the topic of the financing of development?
What is our agenda for development; does this agenda have a North and a South? The moment to work the interactions or interrelationships between the Networks has it not arrived?

The reading of this Newsletter reinforces these questions, these doubts.

Rosemary Gomes

New policies on aid for development
Impacts on sustainable local development

An important debate within the aid for development sector has been provoked by the adoption of the Paris Declaration in March 2005.

The provisions of the Paris Declaration
At this meeting, 90 donor countries and multilateral agencies adopted the Paris Declaration on the effectiveness of aid. The Paris Declaration was adopted to bring about reforms regarding the rules governing aid in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
“We recognize that while the volume of aid and other development resources must increase to achieve these goals … aid effectiveness must also increase significantly” - Paris Declaration
The Declaration asserts five principles for development aid: strengthening partner countries’ national development strategies; increasing alignment of aid with partner countries’ priorities; reforming and simplifying donor policies and procedures; implementation centered on performance; enhancing donor’ and partner countries’ respective accountability. At first glance, these principles seem positive since they clarify somewhat the rules applicable to aid, and normally they will force recipient countries to increase transparency, better management, etc. Therefore, international NGOs in general agreed with the principles.

Contrasting impacts
However, the Paris Declaration has very serious omissions that have greater impact, including some negative and bad effects. A first negative impact has been a large decrease in funding for projects managed by international NGOs. As donor Agencies transfer directly funds to partner countries, the programs supporting civil society, community organisation and local development, have largely decreased (sometimes by over 50%). This is not very surprising since the Paris Declaration does not even mention once the concept of civil society.
In certain cases, these new aid policies aggravate existing problems. For example, during the Summer University organised by the Groupe d’économie solidaire du Québec (GESQ) last June, representatives of NGOs explained that in certain countries corruption practices have worsened since most aid has to go through Ministries. One NGO told us that last year, they were retained after a tender process to implement a program to sustain agriculture. Just before signing the contract, the Minister asked “What is there for me in this agreement”. Since the NGO refused to pay a kickback, they did not obtain the contract.

Questioning by the NGOs
However, the response is increasingly more animated. In Canada, as in many other countries, the NGO sector and development networks question their respective Agencies. There are encouraging signs. Agencies such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) now recognizes that they went too far in reorienting the practices and that they need to reintroduce aid programs for civil society and other practices that involve development by local populations themselves.

The Centre d’études et de coopération internationale (CECI), a Canadian international aid NGO with a long experience in development asserts: The CECI observes on the terrain that the vitality and diversity of civic engagement is a better approach to ensure winning results than government action. In disadvantaged communities where there is insufficient government support, and with almost no private investment, the partnerships that CECI weaves with the organisations that the populations have given themselves to assure their.
In summary, the situation is similar in countries of the North and the South. Without an organised civil society to build influence, without strong involvement of local populations in neighbourhoods and villages, without populations taking charge of their own development, important government policies and all funding programs will only reinforce the faults of approaches that only rely on the private sector, or on the State. Experience shows whatever the diversity of situations or levels of poverty, the development process needs to make place for a third pillar - civil society, and needs to rely on similar values and practices of empowerment, of civic participation and of taking charge by the part certain failures which we have witnessed.

Yvon Poirier
The Paris Declaration is available in different languages at the following website:
CECI website (French, English, Spanish)
Yvon Poirier

News briefs
The Home of World Citizenship of Mulhouse (France)
Nestled within the borders of the cultures of Switzerland, Germany and France, the Home of World Citizenship’s ambition is to show on a daily basis, through a citizen action, that another world is not only necessary but also possible. How? By “daring to go against the flow”. By combining reflection and experimentation. A whole series of topics which cross everyday life are taken into account: citizenship, solidarity economy, culture, popular education, willingness to grow by being involved in diversities, by discovering common roots, while resting on a spirit of solidarity.
Some examples: the Home of World Citizenship (MCM) accommodates Citizens’ Forums every Saturday morning, as well as an annual transborder meeting. In 2005, it became the Regional Center of the Citizens of the World and launched a project of World Games for Peace. The multicultural activities multiplied: public writer, asylum seekers, search for housing and work, multicultural meals, meetings on specific topics, conversational French classes. These various activities occur mainly under the sponsorship of the JID (Justice-Immigration-Rights), which is to some extent, the permanent and privileged partner.
Lastly, with regards to solidarity economy, the MCM follows specific projects (solidarity restaurant, social grocery store, solidarity housing project, a free shop - “Umsonstladen”), a Center of Resources and Competencies, a partnership with the Bank of Projects and the start-up of a data base, the pursuit of the solidarity market (through a complementary currency: the “PLUS”) and… today, the possibility of branching out to the Alsace area through the project SOL (SOLidarity).
“It is a question of showing through these experiments, projects, reflections that the economy must become distributive, to be of service to man and not to money and that the human person must be taken into account as an individual and not as factor for production”.

Summary by Martine Theveniaut
For more information : and

Katrina one year later: civil movements demand right of return
On August 29, 2005 Katrina demolished the United States Golf Coast with catastrophic results, previously known only to residents of the poorest countries like Bangladesh.
After the emotion and the initial phase of confusion, the Bush Administration declared that America was able to handle the catastrophe on its own, refusing the assistance of countries that like Cuba, were ready to send urgently needed assistance. The government recently affirmed that in excess of 70% of the 110 billion dollars allocated for reconstruction had been utilized or was available.
The reality is quite different. One year later the networks are on the brink of war because nothing has changed. The solidarity initiatives, the marches, the protests, the lawsuits, the network proposals, the citizens’ organizations, the labor unions (are) relegated to the local news.
Survivors’ testimonies given in front of the First National Truth Commission … in July 2006, brings light to the situation: persons forced to survive on 123 dollars a month, evacuated thousands of miles or simply disappeared. The major portion of these are poor and African-American… 38 of the 47 poorest New Orleans districts were literally swept away by Katrina.
The first anniversary of the hurricane has seen major movements focus on making available the truth to the USA and the world: in the Fall of 2006 a delegation of Katrina evacuees will travel to Geneva … to hear a UN Special report on human rights violations and poverty in the USA, a true first for this state ; initiatives (are) scheduled for the International Human Rights Day on December 10.

Finally, in March 2007, the development of the International Tribune on Katrina , organized by the Black Activist Coalition on Katrina and the People’s Hurricane Relief and Oversight Coalition, preceded by a special international inquiry commission composed of delegates from South Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean and Venezuela among other countries.

Excepts from an article by Cesare Ottolini, Coordinator International Alliance of Inhabitants
For more information: Newsletter # 9, September 2006
Summary by Martine Theveniaut

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