In an opinion column published on Firday, October 14, 2016 in the French newspaper Libération, Thierry Jeantet,president of The Mont-Blanc Meetings talks about social and solidarity economy, a sector composed of numerous actors which plays a more and more major role in the economy and is now coordinating at the international level.
“This is an odd period, during which liberalism comes back to the forefront in order to better back-pedal or to be a kickstand for any project. It has come to the point where any alternative to this highly political issue seems to vanish, in spite of the brilliant arguments set out by the defenders of a different growth, of more market regulation, more integration of social as well as technological innovation. The economists, too, have their quarrels, some even calling others negationists – no less.
In the meantime, the good old-fashioned globalization lingers on despite signs of fracture. The damage it causes is venomous, up to the point where it fuels withdrawals, brutal nationalisms, painful migrations, and multiplied confrontations. Europe is one sad example.
Do we however have to give in to pessimism and simply give up? Absolutely not. Signs of positive and constructive impulses emerge. Regardless of criticism and doubt, the COP 21 conference and the Paris agreement are part of those. But this long struggle in favor of the environment is not the whole process.
In opposition to the former “dominant” model, another movement indeed emerges on all continents: social and solidarity economy (SSE, with more than a billion people concerned with cooperatives), founded on values such as democracy, fair distribution of created resources, private and collective property, and solidarity. This model is organized, for instance, around “free seeds” and many agricultural cooperatives in India, women in charge of new energy associations in Guinea, or leaders of associations for the use of argan oil in Morocco; citizens supporting inhabitants’ associations in Mali and Senegal; micro or macro cooperatives in Brazil and the rest of Latin America, social cooperatives in Japan, Poland or Italy, accorderies in Quebec, “social companies” adopted by SSE in France; around the big cooperative banks, health and insurance mutual funds, industrial cooperative groups or more and more international services (with a turnover of 2.2 billion dollars for the 300 most important cooperatives and mutual funds). Young people also actively participate in that evolution, such as in Africa where a meeting called “Jeun’ESS” will take place in Togo very soon.
This movement led to the creation – as requested by the Rencontres du Mont-Blanc/International forum of the SSE leaders – of the “International SSE pilot group”, designed to promote public policies in favor of SSE. The pilot group just met for the third time in New York, in parallel to the UNO general meeting. It regroups states, the task force of UNO agencies dedicated to SSE, and SSE itself with large global networks of cities. No one would have dared to imagine that only four or five years ago.
Even more so that an increasing number of cities take action, by creating districts or areas of social economy such as in Montreal, Seoul, Paris, or Porto Alegre. Representatives appreciate the anchoring of these companies in the territories, and their ability to create decent jobs (SSE has been a net creator of employment in France for more than 30 years). The global forum of cities (Habitat III) will consecrate those public-SSE partnerships in Quito in a few days. This is another step forward.
The path to “another development” – more humane, according to the criteria set out by the United Nations programme for development and the sustainable development objectives defined during the UNO general assembly – still needs to be considerably augmented and consolidated. The social and solidarity economy argument demonstrates, quietly and lastingly, that beyond, or regardless of, the never-ending debates evoked before, it is a solid and pioneering axis of social, civic, and environmental as well as economic progress. The course towards globalization is changing indeed!”