Friday, November 02, 2007

International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development

Newsletter #43
November 1, 2007


Message from the Editorial Team

Local development as democratic and productive mobilization
Opinion – perspective from Brazil


Message from the Editorial Team

We thought it appropriate to share with you an opinion article by Caio Silveira, coordinator of Expo Brasil. The challenges outlined for local development in Brazil are often the same in all countries.

This year's meeting, Expo Brasil VI, will be held from December 3rd to 5th in Natal, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte.

We wish much success to our friends in Brazil who work in local development.

Editorial Team
Francisco Botelho
Yvon Poirier
Martine Théveniaut


Local development as democratic and productive mobilization

Opinion – perspective from Brazil

The centralizing and client-centred political culture still predominant in Brazil is put into check in many spheres of the country by democratic and participatory dynamics, which are opening new development alternatives. This is where we see the thrust for local development: understanding that the mechanisms producing inequality and exclusion cannot be deconstructed from the top or by systems of decision-making outside the constituent power of local populations.
Such is the hypothesis, such is the challenge: to mobilize democratic and productive territories as a means of social transformation. There are fundamental questions - which are not limited to one country or region of the world - which allow the emergence of this hypothesis. They reside to a large extent, in the current context which combines productive restructuring, crisis in society of salaried work and the primacy of non-material labor (information, communication, knowledge). They reside particularly in the potential which is opening - taking the opposite view of the dynamics of domination and exclusion – to achieve an over-lapping between the deepening of democracy and the creation of new opportunities for productive cooperation. In other words, for the growth of democratic and productive territories. In this way, one can articulate the hypothesis of development from the local level.
The displacement of a logic of sectoral or punctual actions towards a systemic logic of territorial development is presented here as a vigorous path of social inclusion. Without cooperation in the territory, without collective intelligence circulating in the local networks, will it be possible to include and give impetus to the "bottom level” of the lower circuit of the economy, beyond the reproduction of the informal and the precarious?
The emphasis on democratic mobilization and productive territories is inseparable from the perception that economic growth, while essential, while accompanied by some redistribution of income, does not guarantee social inclusion and the reduction of inequalities. Rather, one should distribute with the goal to develop. And not only distribute income, but also knowledge and power – and this cannot be done from the top towards the bottom or from the outside towards the inside.
This means moving towards strategic agendas outside the parameters focusing on the market or the state. Local development expresses this inflection, by differentiating itself from market forces, as well as centralized and sectoral planning models. It is important to perceive the territories, not just as places of intervention (to use the jargon which still predominates in our institutions), but as an environment to constitute new movements, deconstructing the association still so common between vertical action and structural change.
This is not an idea out of context. On the contrary, this is something that is already there, that is made visible by the profusion of initiatives and experiments showing that the capacity exists to establish new democratic and productive territories from the bases of society.
The obstacles and resistances to the processes of this nature are numerous, beginning with our political culture, strongly client-centred, centralizing and corporate. Even so, Brazil is today the scene of lively innovative actions where local communities are the protagonists. These are certainly embryonic actions, with advances, setbacks and new challenges, but which already indicate development alternatives which have their bases in social networks and in local democracy.
More than a mere tactic refuge (while the "grand destinies" would be plotted by others), the search for alternative territorial and basic development touch fundamental questions, because it relates directly and concretely to the mechanisms which reproduce domination, social segregation and environmental damage.
There are reasons for the strengthening of the perception that the profound social changes - that is, changes that are not imposed, changes are not just replacements of "the men of power" - require democratic mobilization and productive territories, require the power of local realities in synergy, as forces capable of generating politics, the economy and culture in the form of new bonds.
It is in this context of initiation of alternatives that Expo Brazil Local Development is now on the national scene, proposing to be a channel of visibility, debate, learning, networking of actors and strengthening of actions relating to local development. And it is indicative, very encouraging, that every year so many people attend this event: people from all over Brazil as well as other countries and continents.

Caio Silveira is a sociologist, coordinator of special projects of Rits - Information Network for the Third Sector and coordinator of the Expo Brazil Local Development.

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Special thanks to:
Évéline Poirier from Canada for the English translation
Brunilda Rafael from France for the Spanish translation
Michel Colin from Brazil for the Portuguese translation

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Yvon Poirier