1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword - Americas, Americas

  • Transformation and the Tax Collector. How to Make Tax Reform Work for Sustainable Development (20 Oct 2016) | Katja Hujo
    Mobilizing sufficient financial resources to implement the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is one of the key challenges countries and the international community face in the run-up to 2030. But the challenge is not only to increase the quantity of revenues. The quality of financing policies also needs improvement. This blog discusses how mobilizing domestic resources can impact positively on production and employment, redistribution, social inclusion and gender equality, as well as sustainable use of natural resources.
  • When Can Public Policy Work for SSE? (5 Oct 2016) | Peter Utting
    An increasing number of governments are adopting policies and programmes that aim to support different types of SSE organizations and enterprises. This potentially bodes well for implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But whether or not such initiatives are effective is an open question. The state-SSE relationship is fraught with tensions and contradictions, which under certain conditions may be mitigated. This blog post explores how.
  • How Feminist Activism Can Make States More Accountable for Women’s Rights (31 Mar 2015) | Andrea Cornwall, Jenny Edwards
    Despite the gains made on women’s rights since the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, we still have a long way to go in terms of enjoying a gender-equal world. We also need to be vigilant against sliding back on progress already made. This article recognizes the crucial role women’s organizing plays in holding states to account on obligations made under international agreements. Drawing on examples from Brazil and Egypt from the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment programme, the article demonstrates the contribution of women’s organizing to: mobilizing around injustice, harnessing the power of ratified agreements to bring about change in legislation, working on the design of progressive laws, and then ensuring the laws are effectively implemented. In order to be truly successful, however, women’s organizing needs to be matched by responsive, effective government. It is only when citizen voice works in unison with the state that commitments made on women’s rights can be comprehensively achieved.
  • Activists and Extractive Industries: An Alliance Against Social Development? (23 Jul 2014) | Martin Tengler
    This paper argues that activists and corporations in extractive industries depend on each other for power. This might seem to be a positive outcome for social development. However, activists do not always have a positive impact on social development. In fact, relying too much on activist interventions creates a risk of government and public complacency, which shifts discursive power toward extractive industry corporations. This paper argues that if extractive industries are to have a positive impact on social development, the state needs to break the activist-corporate dependence cycle.
  • Extractive industries, power struggles and the battle of ideas (23 Jul 2014) | Karolien van Teijlingen
    Over the past decade, there has been rapid growth and expansion of the extractive industries in the Amazon, accompanied by a rise in social mobilization and conflicts. This think piece scrutinizes the discourses that have been used, and are still being used, to legitimize powerful actors’ interventions in the extractive industries and local social development in this region. Various examples from South America confirm that rather antiquated top-down discourses of resource abundance and progress still guide the interventions of states and companies, despite recent discursive innovations of the concepts of sustainable and harmonious development. In some cases however, counter-discourses gain ground and enable marginalized communities to take control over their own social development. This think piece concludes by inviting actors involved in extraction-related conflicts, in particular young scholars, to critically consider the role of discourses and discursive power.
  • Paving a national avenue on top of a complex network of trails: Contentions around mineral extraction in Ecuador (23 Jul 2014) | Duygu Avci
    Since his election in 2007, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa has embarked on a post-neoliberal development strategy based on mineral extraction. The main justification of the government for promoting mineral extraction is that it will serve the ‘national interest’ and provide the resources to finance social policy. Although mineral wealth, if properly managed, can contribute to social development, pursuing this strategy at all costs might indeed prove counter-productive for the long-term development of the country. In some particular places, extractive activities might threaten diverse social experiments with alternative models of development, and harm processes of institutional innovation and social learning. What can be learned from such social experiments can potentially be important for facing future development challenges in a world characterized by complexity and uncertainty. A more integral development strategy should take such complexity and uncertainty seriously and allow diverse social experiments to multiply and flourish.
  • Are conditional cash transfers having an impact on achieving access to education? Some answers from Argentina (27 May 2014) | Gastón Pierri
    Several Latin America countries, including Argentina, have established conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes for families in need to further development but also to meet their human rights obligations. The expansion of these programmes invites scrutiny with regard to their effectiveness. Using the Argentine case, this think piece briefly assesses whether CCTs are having a positive impact on the human right to education.
  • Conditionalities, Cash and Gender Relations (1 May 2014) | Maxine Molyneux
    Is the empowerment of women through conditional cash transfers illusory? It is important to distinguish between the positive effects of conditional cash transfers and ‘empowerment’ as well as between different degrees of empowerment. But to effectively and sustainably tackle women's poverty and vulnerability we must support women’s capabilities and income-generating capacities, and understand the gender dynamics within households. Only then can we speak of cash transfers leading to meaningful empowerment for women.
  • Finding Synergies between Political Support, Legal Frameworks and Funding for Sustainable Social Protection Programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean (3 Apr 2014) | Simone Cecchini
    Implementing social protection policies and programmes (SPPPs) in the absence of clear and specific legal and institutional frameworks entails a number of risks, not only in terms of their continuity, but also of scope, legitimacy and the protection of human rights standards. However, a proper legal and institutional framework is a necessary but not sufficient condition to ensure the success of SPPPs. This think piece reviews other factors and discusses progress made in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Adopting Comprehensive, Coherent and Coordinated Policies in Social Protection: A View from the Americas (27 Mar 2014) | Alexandra Barrantes
    In the context of the principles of social protection, through the Social Charter of the Americas, the countries of the region acknowledge they have “a responsibility to develop and implement comprehensive social protection policies and programs, based on the principles of universality, solidarity, equality, nondiscrimination, and equity that give priority to persons living in conditions of poverty and vulnerability, taking into account their national circumstances.” Countries in the Americas have also recognized the central role of the state in the fight against poverty, inequity, inequality and social exclusion. Even though coordination of social protection policies has improved throughout the region, it continues to be a challenge, mainly due to the complexity of the issues at stake and the multiplicity of approaches and sectors involved.
  • Social Economy Policies in Argentina: Potential and Limits for the Development of Associative and Cooperative Work (7 Mar 2014) | Malena Victoria Hopp
    This think piece analyses the potential and limits of Social Economy policies implemented in Argentina since 2003. The hypothesis that guides this work suggests that the main limits seen in the development of the Social Economy sector are due to the secondary role occupied by Social Economy in the government's social-economic strategy. This relates to the particular institutional framework of the programmes promoting associative and cooperative work. They are mainly implemented by the Social Development Ministry, a state agency which historically provided social assistance.
  • Do Informal Initiatives in the South Share a Capitalist Logic or Are They the Seeds of a Solidarity Economy? The Case of Santiago de Chile (9 Dec 2013) | Thomas Bauwens, Andreia Lemaître
    The problem of informality represents one of the major challenges in the fight against poverty. To address this issue, the traditional response has often been to apply Western entrepreneurial rationality to informal actors and consider small informal productive units as pre-capitalist firms whose growth potential can be realized, it is supposed, by providing them with adequate tools such as credit or training. But do informal initiatives really share the capitalist spirit of entrepreneurship or do they develop other rationales, such as the ones which spread in a “solidarity economy”?
  • Community Development Banks: Enabling Access to Finance for Poor Communities (17 Sep 2013) | Camille Meyer, Leonardo Leal
    Community Development Banks (CDBs) are a growing and dynamic manifestation of the solidarity economy in Brazil. This unique system of solidarity finance is currently in place in more than 100 Brazilian municipalities. Created by local associations to (re)organize local economies, they develop financial tools (microcredit, social currency, correspondent banking) governed and organized by the users themselves. In this article, we outline a general overview of these initiatives. First, we explain some characteristics of CDBs. Second, we present the experience of two CDBs, Banco Palmas and Banco Bem, which have excelled in promoting access to the means of production, consumption, education and training for large sections of the population of the neighbourhoods in which they work. Finally, we study the relations between these CDBs and public banks.
  • Social Enterprises for buen vivir in Chiapas: An Alternative to Development (28 Jun 2013) | Michela Giovannini
    Indigenous peoples in Mexico, as in many other countries, experience hard living conditions and socioeconomic marginalization. In this think piece, Michela Giovannini argues that this is because mainstream development programmes have failed to address their needs, and neoliberal policies have sacked their territories and natural resources without making a significant positive impact on their well-being. She suggests that a Latin American indigenous “alternative to development”—buen vivir—may offer a way out of this situation. Based on her qualitative research in the Mexican State of Chiapas, Giovannini argues that social enterprises created by local Mayan communities can be a way to pursue buen vivir—well-being grounded in harmony between human communities and the natural environment—and offer an example of how indigenous communities themselves devise and implement strategies to fulfill their economic, social, environmental and political needs. The analysis presented in this think piece leads to important policy recommendations.
  • Legal Frameworks on Social and Solidarity Economy: What is the Role of Civil Society Organizations in Policy Making? (29 May 2013) | Rafael Peels
    To respond to the fragmented landscape of legal frameworks on Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) a variety of countries have been taking initiatives to create overarching legal frameworks that apply to the whole sector. One field within the sector that is characterized by much confusion and that receives little attention is the political participation of non-state actors in recent legal developments concerning SSE. In other words: how do various legal frameworks take into account the policy participation of SSE organizations? In this think piece, I take a closer look at five recent legal initiatives in Spain (2011), Ecuador (2011), Greece (2011), Mexico (2012) and Portugal (2013) and can show that approaches differ in these countries.
  • Connecting the Right Dots: Economic Integration and Solidarity/Social Economy Supply Chains (9 Apr 2013) | Maliha Safri
    Mainstream economic and business management theorists have often used large for-profit firms as their default units of analysis, and measures such as return on investment as proxies for performance. Once the determinants of performance are identified, they are distilled into models that are disseminated across the economy through universities, consultancy firms and policy experts. These models tend to become standardized across for-profit firms, not-for-profit organizations, NGOs and government agencies.
  • Worker Solidarity Confronting the Crises of Capitalism: Bottom-up Solidarity Economy and Political Ecology in South America (9 Apr 2013) | Cristián Alarcón, Cristobal Navarro
    In times of combined social-ecological crises of capitalism there is an urgent need to link solidarity economy to the understanding of ecological processes. For example, if solidarity economy practices remain linked to oil consumption and ecologically unequal exchange, the fundamental contemporary problems of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption continue to be reproduced. Insights from political ecology are a way to fill a gap in terms of awareness about social-ecological relations in the understanding of and theorizing about solidarity economy. Concrete examples from South America reveal the importance and potential of linking solidarity economy to political ecology.
  • La Economía Solidaria como política y estrategia de desarrollo. Políticas públicas, movimiento social y desafíos en Brasil (11 Mar 2013) | Ana Mercedes Sarria Icaza
    Este artículo aborda los desafíos actuales de la economía solidaria en Brasil, partiendo de la constatación de que, a pesar de los avances significativos en los últimos diez años, ésta no ha logrado entrar como una pauta prioritaria en la agenda del desarrollo nacional. Explorando los dos elementos fundamentales que la sustentan –la organización de una red de actores sociales que funciona con una dinámica de movimiento social, y el apoyo y fomento de los poderes públicos- se identifican una serie de cuestiones sobre su potencial y su proceso de construcción, mostrando las diferentes visiones y sus implicaciones en los procesos de promoción y construcción de las experiencias.
  • The Politics of the Cooperative Sector in Developing Countries: Insights from Argentina, Brazil and Colombia (26 Feb 2013) | Andrés Spognardi
    Although cooperatives are widely recognized as key drivers of economic and social development, the type and scope of the policies aimed at promoting the formation, expansion and consolidation of this form of social business vary considerably across the developing world. Even in countries with a long tradition of cooperative entrepreneurship, government policies toward the cooperative sector differ considerably. The question that naturally arises is: What accounts for such divergences?
  • The Social Side of Biofuels in Brazil, India and Indonesia (20 Jul 2012) | Mairon Bastos Lima
    The move away from fossil fuels towards cleaner fuels such as biofuels has been seen by some countries as an opportunity to both increase energy self-reliance and create an additional market for agriculture. However, the social implications remain understudied. This think piece, based on extensive field work in Brazil, India and Indonesia, looks at what this process means for social equity, especially for vulnerable groups, and whether biofuels could be an effective way to tackle rural poverty.
  • The Challenge of Political Empowerment (24 Mar 2012) | Peter Utting
    In the struggle over ideas in the development arena, terms that are associated with more radical perspectives are often picked up by mainstream actors and organisations. And this has been the case with ‘empowerment’. But such mainstreaming can cause original meanings to be modified or become obscure. From the perspective of strategies that aim to improve the well-being of small-scale farmers, there are various risks inherent in the way the term ‘empowerment’ has been taken up by international and bilateral development agencies.
  • Green Growth, Social Agency and the Regulation of Agricultural Production in India and Brazil (10 Feb 2012) | Diego Vazquez-Brust, Evelyn Nava-Fischer
    Green growth is being promoted as a new paradigm that encompasses economic growth, environmental sustainability and social inclusion. However, some developing countries have been questioning its relevance for their development. This paper shows how this paradigm is challenging, and being challenged by, traditional social norms and practices in agricultural production in India and Brazil, and how the commitment and agency of supply chain actors—both of which are key for resource efficiency and social inclusion—are affected.
  • Emerging Governance in the Transition to a Green Economy: A Case Study of Public Sector Food Procurement in Brazil (8 Nov 2011) | Kei Otsuki
    Changes in public sector food procurement in Brazil have improved not just the quality of school meals; they have led to a reduced ecological footprint and a more engaged civil society. In this article, Kei Otsuki explores the processes of decentralization and localization that have taken place in Brazil since 1997 through the lens of food procurement. The case demonstrates how an active civil society can lead the charge for better, more sustainable and locally supportive practices.
  • “We Have to Correct the Errors of our Ancestors”: Policy Implications of Environmentalism and Gender in Intag, Ecuador (7 Sep 2011) | Linda D'Amico
    A community in Ecuador has found ways to improve its livelihood and well-being through ecologically responsible actions. Responding to local manifestations of global crises, community members have developed creative solutions that balance economic, social and environmental concerns.