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My one problem with the Sustainable Development Goals that drives me crazy

By on May 21, 2017

No more poverty, no more hunger. Protect the forests and oceans, clean renewable energy for all. World peace. This isn’t a John Lennon song, it’s UN policy. All these and much much more make up the Sustainable Development Goals – the globally agreed wish list for saving the world and building a better future. If... Continue reading

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Peace vs. Development: The Untold Story of the Colombian Civil War

By on April 27, 2017

By Martin Winiecki and Alnoor Ladha, originally published on Truthout.org San José de Apartadó, Colombia — This is a significant feat, given that it is the leading peace community in Colombia, born in the heart of a civil war between the Colombian government, right-wing paramilitaries and the guerrilla army of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of... Continue reading

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New Municipalism in Poland

By on February 23, 2017

This post originally appeared on European Alternatives Today’s challenges, from the flight from war-refugees to the management of the commons, and the environmental crisis, are being tackled at the local level from some City Councils across Europe. Some cities are proving to be spaces with an outstanding capacity to confront and face reality with reachable... Continue reading

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French Development Agency Champions the Commons as New Vision for Development

By on January 18, 2017

The word “development” has long been associated with the Western project of promoting technological and economic “progress” for the world’s marginalized countries.  The thinking has been:  With enough support to build major infrastructure projects, expand private property rights, and build market regimes, the poor nations of Africa, Latin America and Asia can escape their poverty and become "modern" -- prosperous, happy consumers and entrepreneurs poised to enter a bright future driven by economic growth and technology.

That idea hasn’t worked out so well.

As climate change intensifies, the ecological implications of growth-based “development” are now alarming if not fatuous. The 2008 financial crisis exposed the sham of self-regulating “free markets” and the structural political corruption, consumer predation and wealth inequality that they tend to entail.  And culturally, people are starting to realize, even in poorer countries, that the satisfactions of mass consumerism are a mirage. A life defined by a dependency on global markets and emulation of western lifestyles is a pale substitute for a life embedded in native cultures, languages and social norms, and enlivened by working partnerships with nature and peers.

It is therefore exciting to learn that Agence Française de Développement (AFD) – the French development agency, based in Paris – is actively considering the commons as a “future cornerstone of development.”

A key voice for this shift in perspective at AFD is Chief Economist Gaël Giraud, who boldly acknowledges that “growth is no longer a panacea.”  He compares the current economic predicament to the plight of the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, who had to keep running faster and faster just to stay in the same place.  (For a short video interview with Giraud, in French, click here.  Here is an AFD webpage devoted to various commons issues.)

In a blog post outlining his views of the commons and development (and not necessarily reflecting those of AFD), Giraud cited the loss of biodiversity of species as a major reason for a strategic shift in “development” goals. “The last mass extinction phase [of five previous ones in the planet’s history] affected dinosaurs and 40% of animal species 65 million years ago,” writes Giraud. “At each of these phases, a substantial proportion of fauna was lost within a phenomenon of a massive decline of biodiversity.”

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It Belongs to Everyone

By on March 12, 2016

We share so very much…but who does it really belong to?   The many efforts of groups around the world are converging for justice, peace, the end of poverty, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and the restoration of