“Each meaningful economic decision made in one part of the world has repercussions everywhere else; consequently, no government can act without regard for shared responsibility.
If we really want to achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard for the sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being of all countries, not just of a few. In the end, a peace which is not the result of integral development will be doomed; it will always spawn new conflicts and various forms of violence.”
Extracts from Evangelii Gaudium, POPE FRANCIS
Globalization, which is hegemonized by concentrated financial capital, is putting at risk the international agreements on the basis of which human beings try to live together in peace, giving rise to xenophobic and warmongering nationalisms, which will only deepen social and territorial inequalities.
This happens because the international political system, laboriously built after the great wars of the twentieth century, loses legitimacy when social rights are grossly violated and the concentration of wealth acquires degrees that affect the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the planet.
Migrants fleeing desperate from their countries to clash with the fears of the inhabitants of the more developed regions, an increase in xenophobia, even in the speeches of the former liders or candidates, walls, arbitrary restrictions on immigration, exacerbation of nationalisms: all this cannot but evoke the worst experiences of modern history.
On our continent, the worst example of this trend is the wall that the US government wants to build on its border with Mexico.
Right there, on that border where violence to avoid immigration already carries more dead than the Berlin Wall. 28 years after the fall of that wall that ought to separate authoritarian systems, we are living the heyday of new walls that seek to severely separate peoples to defend the same system.
If we want to avoid tensions between States and with it violence and war, it is necessary to reduce the development gap between them and to create conditions for the effective exercise of social rights by the inhabitants of each national territory.
This is not new, it is the hard learning that made humanity in the twentieth century and now is at risk for leaving the reins of the world in the hands of concentrated capital.
The Charter of the United Nations, adopted in June 1945, at the outbreak of World War II, stated that “the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations” and for that they shall promote “higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development” (Article 55)
Shortly afterwards, in December 1948, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these obligations assumed by States are recognized as rights of every member of the human family. In particular, every person has the right to obtain through national effort and international cooperation “the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality” (Art. 22), and even have the right to “entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.” (Art. 28).
All these obligations of States and human rights are finally perfected by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted in 1966 and in force since 1976.
In sum, these international agreements reflect the consensus reached at the cost of suffering the catastrophe of the two world wars, and point to the need to guarantee the social rights of all human beings as a basis for achieving peace, and that this is a right that every woman and man can claim to all States and international cooperation.
Today’s political leaders are just the children or grandchildren of the generation that signed these agreements. It is inadmissible not to have memory of these learning. Any chauvinist and racist rhetoric, any appeal to self-development at the expense of exclusion from the rest, any measure that brings misery and violence to less developed people, violates international norms and attacks peace.
In the Americas, the international agreements adopted in the last decades also clearly reflect this consensus: integral development is a common and joint responsibility of all the States party to the Organization of American States.
The OAS Charter of 1967 establishes among its principles that “Social justice and social security are bases of lasting peace” and the “Economic cooperation is essential to the common welfare and prosperity of the peoples of the continent” (Art. 3).
To this end, in the same Charter, Member States, “inspired by the principles of inter-American solidarity and cooperation, pledge themselves to a united effort to ensure international social justice in their relations and integral development for their peoples, as conditions essential to peace and security.”
There is no peace without integral development, a concept that ” encompasses the economic, social, educational, cultural, scientific, and technological fields” (Art. 30).
Achieve this overall development is not only the responsibility of each State, as stated in Article 31: “Inter-American cooperation for integral development is the common and joint responsibility of the Member States, within the framework of the democratic principles and the institutions of the inter-American system”.
This institutional framework was later refined by many inter-American treaties such as the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José de Costa Rica) or the Protocol of San Salvador of 1988, which advocate in the same sense.
That is, there is a history of at least 48 years of inter-American agreements that seek to constitute this one in a region of peace, understanding that “the true significance of American solidarity and good neighborliness can only mean the consolidation on this continent, within the framework of democratic institutions, of a system of individual liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man” and that for it “will increasingly require intensive continental cooperation” (PREAMBULE OF THE CHARTER).
On the other hand, the OAS Charter recognizes inequalities among its members and promotes international cooperation and Latin American unity as answers to this.
In Article 44, the States Parties agree that “technical and financial cooperation that seeks to promote regional economic integration should be based on the principle of harmonious, balanced, and efficient development, with particular attention to the relatively less-developed countries”, and, in article 42, states that “that integration of the developing countries of the Hemisphere is one of the objectives of the inter-American system and, therefore, shall orient their efforts and take the necessary measures to accelerate the integration process, with a view to establishing a Latin American common market in the shortest possible time”.
In summary, the agreed path is not a free trade agreement of the whole continent, hegemonized by the more developed countries under the premises of neoliberalism (as was the FTAA project), far less is the construction of walls or aggressive nationalisms of the economic powers that disengage from the integral development of the whole continent.
The agreement of the peoples of America reflected in the Charter of the OAS is the unity of Latin America to promote its development, and international cooperation as a continental responsibility for achieving social justice and integral development as indispensable conditions for peace and security.
In this way, in the 21st century, the peoples of South America have sought to deepen their integration with the creation of various international organizations, such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which has among its specific objectives energy, infrastructure, financial and productive integration, and even the “consolidation of a South American identity through the progressive recognition of rights to nationals of a Member State resident in any of the other Member States, in order to achieve a South American citizenship“.
And so, while in many of the central countries prevail political discourses that urge societies to find in the immigrant the responsibility for political and economic disorders, the countries of South America, with governments of all political signs, have defined to work for a common citizenship, an overcoming concept of the mere common market. This political decision must be deepened and broadened as the alternative and sustainable path to the discourses of xenophobia and warmongering nationalism.
Together with UNASUR, there are other organizations that are equally oriented to the promotion of different regional spaces within Latin America and the Caribbean, with similar integration objectives for economic development and the expansion of social rights, such as ALADI, SELA, CAN, MERCOSUR, ALBA and CELAC. All this represents a formidable experience that can be the basis for an authentic Latin American unity that will take over the political project of the Patria Grande and show the world an alternative model based on dialogue, inclusion and the search of opportunities for all men and Women of good will.
However, this path will not be successful if it´s not understood that the concentration of economic power leads to social injustice, and that this is the basis gnawing peace among peoples.
In the words of Pope Francis: “Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 59).
To build an economy that responds to the needs of the community, and not to insatiable profit, is a path that is necessary to walk, being aware that this involves disputing spaces with concentrated economic power.
In this sense, the cooperatives of the Americas have been very clear in the Final Declaration of the IV Summit (Montevideo, November 2016): “Alarming data on inequality in the distribution of wealth on a global scale are the result of processes linked to enormous imbalances of power on planetary scale. In most cases, the strategies for the positioning of these actors will depend on having market power. The power of some of the major economic groups global nature has long surpassed the role of Nation States, and even the various international intergovernmental fields, which stresses the concepts of democracy and alternatives for the development of most of the countries of the globe. To dispute these processes of concentration and to reach societies closer to the aspirations of the international cooperative movement in terms of welfare for the majority of the inhabitants of the world implies the dispute for the parcels of power that today the groups of transnational capital concentrates. Achieving the aspirations of equality and equity that inspire our movement requires conscious and systematic action. There is no place or time for naivety. The dispute is economic, social, cultural and communicational, political, territorial and environmental”.
In this way, it is necessary to fight for the peoples of America to work for economic democracy, as a model that faces the concentrated economic power. To democratize the economy implies to promote the access in conditions of equity to resources and services that the inhabitants of each territory require, and to promote companies democratically managed with the objective of satisfying the needs of the people over the retribution to the capital. At this point solidarity economy, and in particular co-operativism, has wide experience to offer.
As the Alliance has already stated, “Co-operatives have at their core a set of values and principles designed to advance the cause of peace. The values of solidarity, democracy and equality have helped many millions of people throughout the world build social harmony through a more secure economic future. Co-operatives play a role in helping to address problems, which lead to conflict. They arise out of the need for economic stability whether it is through securing employment or affordable housing, access to credit or consumer products, insurance or markets or the myriad of other needs. By ensuring that people have real alternatives to the failures of markets or governments, co-operatives help provide structures which engage and involve people. By providing a path of inclusion rather than exclusion co-operatives empower people to help themselves and hence help eliminate many of the conditions which can lead to conflict within and between communities” (Message from de International Co-operatives Alliance, International Day of Co-operatives 2006, , july 2006).
The agenda of economic democracy involves establishing norms and policies that limit the power of oligopolies in each of the sectors, and promote an offer of goods and services in the hands of the solidarity economy that guarantees their access in conditions of equity, which includes: promote solidarity banking, controlled by the community, to ensure that the regional savings is reflected in local investment; build a marketing network that guarantees the defense of the interests of the agricultural producer committed to its territory; forge medias of communication that guarantee the democratization of the word in front of the monopoly that today the main multimedia groups have; promote the organization of workers for the management of their own enterprises as a way of guaranteeing decent work and commitment to local development; promote urbanization and housing processes at the service of the community and not real estate speculation; generate marketing channels controlled by consumers committed to responsible consumption, and many other initiatives that seek to change the specific conditions of production and consumption as a way to build another economy.
Expanding and developing the solidarity economy within a perspective of Latin American unity would promote sustainable development, generate structural conditions to guarantee peace within States (its role is crucial, for example, in the post-conflict process in Colombia), to assimilate immigrants within a perspective of inclusion and social responsibility, and to avoid conflicts and war between States.
Peace must be sustained by an economic model that promotes it. This has been and is a permanent concern for the co-operativists. An example is the pronouncement of the ICA Congress of 1913, in Glasgow, at the gates of World War I: “The Congress further desires to impress upon the public opinion of all nations the fact that the reasons for the continuance of armaments and the possibility of international conflicts will disappear as the social and economic life of every nation becomes organised according to co-operative principles, and that, therefore, the progress of Co-operation forms one of the most valuable guarantees for the preservation of the world’s peace.”.
Consistent with this line of thought, which has been permanent in the co-operative movement, it must be pointed out today that there is no possibility of promoting sustainable development as a guarantor of peace if economic power is not democratized. If the current situation is a product of the concentration of economic power, the way is the de-concentration of that power. If there is no democracy in the economy, the world is not sustainable. Therefore, there will be no conditions for peaceful coexistence.
Conflicts are not resolved with walls or monopolies. They are solve with democracy, with equity, with services and products designed from the needs and projects of the community, and not from the raw interest of capital.
To ensure that women and men see not expelled by violence and poverty, it is necessary to rebuild the social framework. And for that it does not reach the economic market, where there are only relations of exchange. Relations of reciprocity and community commitment must be built. It must be built an economy that allows people’s relations, where you can decide how to produce and what to produce based on commitment to the community, not the profit motive of the most powerful.
Throughout these lines, a deep concern has been expressed about the devastating effects of financial globalization and neoliberal policies, and the growing change of policies of the most powerful countries, which rely more on walls than on dialogue for sustainable development.
In the Americas, this implies a clear departure from the mandates of the OAS Charter, so it is necessary to remember its full validity and demand the reversal of policies that clearly violate its mandates. In particular, it is necessary a pronouncement from the majority of this continent against the wall that the US wants to build on its border with Mexico.
It has also been said here that in America there is clearly an imbalance in the development of the different nations that are part of it, and that in order to reverse this, it is necessary for the less developed countries to be integrated, as Article 42 specifically mandates the OAS Charter.
The way for the consolidation of sustainable development across the continent is then Latin American unity and the effective implementation of the commitments of inter-American cooperation among all signatories States of the Charter of the OAS.
Finally, it has been said that this road will be successful if we consolidate a strong sector of solidarity economy, which contributes to economic democracy, and disputes spaces to the concentrated economy that is responsible for social injustice that jeopardizes peace among peoples.
However, all this vision of Latin American root and vocation of solidarity will only be possible if similar paths are adopted by the rest of the peoples of the planet.
If what is to be faced is a global model of exclusion and concentration of wealth, then, are also required global responses based on human rights and solidarity.
In this way, it is necessary that all men and women, and especially those who make up the cooperative movement, demand a significant increase in international cooperation efforts aimed to reduce the huge social gaps that are provoking violence and growing political instability, within the framework of the commitments assumed in the Charter of the United Nations and the rights recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and demand the abandonment of any policy of exclusion and violence and of all chauvinistic and xenophobic rhetoric.
But this will not be enough, if we can’t consolidate, on a global scale, an integrated co-operativism that, as the axis of the construction of a broad field of solidarity economy, that will be able to contribute to a new economic order, without financial globalization and without walls.
The unity in solidarity and democracy of consumers, producers and workers of each territory and of the whole world must be the tool to challenge economic power and promote a different economy that is compatible with the objectives of peace and development that prevail in all international agreements.
Otherwise peoples will be trapped between the variants of financial globalization and their neoliberal policies, and the warmongering chauvinism that focusing their hatred on others, whatever these may be, will justify defending the interests of the same concentrated capital.