Monday, April 02, 2012

International Newsletter of Sustainable Local Development
Newsletter #87
April 1st 2012
New directions and connections for the solidarity economy and people-centred development. Kochi, Kerala (India), 2nd – 4th March 2012

Message from the Editorial Team

Yvon took part in the COMMACT network conference in India, as a representative of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNET). He had also taken part in the COMMACT meeting in Liverpool in September 2004. Martine took part as delegate for the Euronetz network, joint organisers of the meeting; Judith was present as an interpreter. Yvon also participated in the following meeting that was held in Brisbane (Australia) in October 2008.

These meetings, as well as the Asian Solidarity Economy Forum in Manila in October 2007, Tokyo in 2009 and Kuala Lumpur in November 2011, helped build and strengthen sustainable relationships and networks with Asia in particular. We, in Europe and North America are often less aware of what is happening in civil society movements in Asia. In the last two of these meetings, Yvon and Martine worked together very closely on the European activities of the Pactes Locaux, both of them aiming to promote a democratic territorial approach to the organisation of solidarity. Judith has opened up new relationships with the aspect of food sovereignty and international networks that are more implanted in the English-speaking world.

Those of you who subscribe to our newsletter are probably aware that the guiding light of our editorial committee has always been to focus on the way people and communities find sustainable ways of solving their problems and meeting their needs. That is why we are committed to informal networking in social and solidarity economy, inasmuch as these organisations and practitioners do not approach the development issues from the thematic or sectorial angle, but are interested in a more holistic approach and the overall dimension of local to global issues in communities and local authorities. The key question is how to organise locally at the different level in order to achieve a democratic contract and rebuild territorial development to confront globalisation? This is the recurrent theme from one issue to the next, and one that we try to illustrate and inform our readers through examples.

The meeting in Kochi also enabled Yvon to visit ASSEFA again, for the first time since 2002. This association now brings together 10,150 villages, and is as inspiring as ever in its practice. We described the work carried out by ASSEFA in number 60 of this Newsletter. We shall write more in the near future.

Judith Hitchman
Yvon Poirier
Martine Theveniaut

New directions and connections for the solidarity economy and people-centred development. Kochi, Kerala (India), 2nd – 4th March 2012

By Yvon Poirier

It was under the theme of New directions and connections for solidarity economy people-centred development that about sixty participants came together in India. There were 30 from India, 18 from Malaysia, 4 from Australia, 3 from the UK and the author of this article represented Canada.
The meeting was organised by the COMMACT network – the Common Wealth network for People-Centred Development. This network was originally created for organisations in the British Commonwealth, and first met in GOA in India in 1988. Since the network no longer has ties with the British Commonwealth, it now calls itself a network for the «Common Wealth». The network meets every 2-4 years. COMMACT is legally domiciled in Australia, with David Thompson of Jobs Australia as president. David is also a member of the Board of RIPESS, the International Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy.

As most of the COMMACT members are based in Asia, the organisation is also a member of the Asian Solidarity Economy Coalition (ASEC), the continental member of RIPESS. There is a strong determination to work together in the Asian context. Denison Jayasooria, Asian member of the RIPESS Board was present at the Kochi meeting.

Seated : Noël d'Silva (India), David Thompson (Australia), Bhanwar Singh (India), Devasmitha Sridhar (India), Jenny Mercer (Australia) et Ganesh Purohit (India). Standing: other participants from India

L. Kumar, David Thompson, S. Loganathan, Yvon Poirier

The conference provided an opportunity to listen to speakers with a long-standing experience in community development based on communities’ needs. Four speeches were particularly interesting:
• S. Loganathan of the Sarva Seva Farms Association (ASSEFA) spoke of his 40 years dedicated to local village populations. There are now over 10,000 villages and 5 million people in this network involved in self-help holistic development, inspired by Gandhi.
• Professor Datuk Yusof Kassim, president of COMMACT Malaysia explained the role of people-centred policies in the government’s development plans; he proposed concrete methods for a more inclusive approach for disadvantaged populations, particularly in the regions that are distant from Kuala Lumpur.
• Paul Sinnapan, of the Binary University (Malaysia) presented his long experience with disadvantaged communities in rural areas, and especially the approach whereby the co-operatives use savings and loans as a key instrument in their communities. There are over 500 organisations of this kind, some of them not yet legally constituted, and that have been created by the grassroots communities themselves.
• Jagananda, a long-standing activist in civil society organisations, is now the Commissioner for Information in the State of Orissa in India. To help communities to become empowered, it is important that public services meet the citizen’s requests for the right to information. He told us how in the case of PPPs (public-private partnerships), the private companies had refused to share information in a transparent manner, as it was part of the private sector. He ordered them to do so, as 49% of their funds are provided by the public sector. The Supreme Court of India ruled in favour of his request!

There were many other speeches during the plenary sessions and the workshops; they enabled participants to gain a deeper understanding of other subjects, such as social and solidarity economy and the challenges of networking. The participants clearly expressed their desire to continue their mutual support through networking activities and to exchange information.

About the Newsletter
This Newsletter is published in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese, It has been produced on a totally voluntary basis since the first issue in 2003.
The Editorial team wishes to thank the following volunteers for their support in translation and revision:
Michel Colin (Brazil)
Paula Garuz Naval (Ireland)
Évéline Poirier (Canada)
Brunilda Rafael (France)
We also wish to thank the Policy Research Institute for the Civil Sector (PRICS) of Seikatsu Club in Japan for the Japanese translation.
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Yvon Poirier

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