Vapaa yliopisto/Solidarity Economy as a response to our social and economic crises? Perspectives from Brazil, India, and Mali

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Undernourishment, high levels of inequalities, land grabbing. These are only few examples from the global South that remind us that we continue to starve for alternative economic models that challenge the core issues of how production is organized, distributed, and with which purposes in our societies.

It is not that we are without alternatives – they just need to grow stronger. On Sunday January 25th at 16:00 the question of alternative economic models is addressed in Kallion Kulttuurikammari (Kaarlenkatu 15, Helsinki) from the point of view of Solidarity Economy and the ways in which it is played out in Brazil, India and Mali.

The key questions are: What is it that we in the global North could and should learn from different Solidarity Economy examples and experiences in the global South? How should we start putting this learning into practice?

The problems and solutions will be presented and discussed by Isabela Nogueira de Morais (Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Finnish Solidarity Economy network members Niklas Toivakainen (University of Helsinki), Ruby van der Wekken (Siemenpuu), and Sanna Ryynänen (University of Eastern Finland), having three countries from the global South as their case studies. Teivo Teivainen (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies) will join the discussion with fresh insights from Brazil – but only if he manages to leave an alternative solidarity culture Fora do Eixo house in Macapá, Brazil and to return in Finland before next Sunday…

The discussion is in English, and it is hosted by the commons.fi / Solidarity Economy network and Vapaa yliopisto (Helsinki Free University).

Tervetuloa! Bem-vindos! Welcome! Bienvenue!

BRAZIL. For the past decade, Brazil has been presented as a successful development case by mainstream commentators and pictured as being capable of reducing poverty and inequality while coupling social programmes with business as usual – or without major structural changes from the economic or social point of view. In addressing the current economic and social situation in Brazil, Isabela Nogueira de Morais argues that this successful image is not accurate and that inequality has not been falling in one of the most unequal countries in the world.

At the same time Brazil is one of the few countries that have advanced Solidarity Economy both in the grassroots and at the policy level. Cooperatives of recyclable material collectors in São Paulo and more than one hundred Solidarity Economy incubators across Brazilian universities are used as examples to discuss the potentially transformative power of Solidarity Economy initiatives from social, economic, and environmental perspectives.

INDIA. During the earlier half of the 90's, India opened up its economy and agriculture to the rising global markets. As a consequence, today India finds itself in an agricultural crisis with nearly 45% of the population in a state of undernourishment (2010). The pressure to modernise/industrialise farming, the pressure to compete with multinational mega-scale agribusinesses and consequently the growing dependency on these market structures, have all contributed to the crisis and have generated a wave of farmer suicides. What does a solidarity economy response to such a crisis look like?

MALI. In the 1990’s, following the lead of the International Development Association of the World Bank, Mali relaxed its mineral code, and with this attracted numerous foreign investors, specifically in the gold industry, which stands in for 80% of mineral mining in Mali. Land grabbing is on the rise in Mali due to mining developments, whilst profits from the mining mainly circulate outside of Mali. Increasingly also artisanal gold mining is taking place, having its own social and ecological consequences.

In the North and in the South, the response to mining by communities has been different. So one response by communities in Mali has been to want to bring companies to more accountability and for communities to receive a part of the profit. Putting on Solidarity Economy and commons lenses brings up further perspectives from which to look at the issue of mining; as well as further perspectives from which to look at the furthering of other local economy practices in a locality wanting to uphold instead of an extractivist logic, one of Ubuntu (I am, because you are).