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Think Locally, Act Globally: Global Meetings on Community Economic Development


Sherbrooke Declaration

More than 800 participants in the field of local development and community economic development from 40 countries located on five continents convened in Sherbrooke, Canada, at the 1998 Global Meetings on Community Economic Development. Participants included supporters of worker cooperatives and also a broad range of local community development advocates. They clearly saw the dangers to local communities of the globalization process spurred by the transnational corporations. The participants adopted the following declaration:


Our World

We live in a world where poverty is gaining ground in all societies, even the richest ones; in a world of triumphant inequalities between men and woman, between countries of the North and the South, between young and old, between cities and countryside, between human beings and the planet that supports us. We live in a world dominated by a sole system, neo-liberal capitalism, based only on warlike competition and driven by the religion of °the Market.Ë

We live in a world where international institutions, far from taking humanity in their care, are brewing Multilateral Agreements on Investment which protect the °rightsË of investors against State sovereignty and against the rights of the people, and allow markets everywhere to gain ground over programs designed to encourage education, health, social security programs, etc. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we see that human rights are all too often neglected, denied or commercialized.

We also live in a world where determined citizens launch initiatives, projects and movements to change the face of the Earth by combining an openness to the world with the local satisfaction of their needs. We, the players in local development, are part of this determination. We wish to share with you today our common beliefs, our collective strategies and our joint communities.

Our Common Challenges

We come from various organizations: some involved in rural or urban development, others devoted to job creation or the fight against exclusion; women╬s or young people╬s movements; groups devoted to peace education and the emergence of participatory democracy; organizations defending those excluded or marginalized by society; organizations supporting local, integrated and viable development. We have identified five common challenges:

  1. The challenge of satisfying basic needs (to solve issues of poverty and access to health care, education, housing, drinking water, etc.);
  2. The challenges of the economy, entrepreneurship and work (to allow everyone access to a decent job, to control the production and the distribution of wealth within a territory, to develop economic alternatives, to balance economic and social goals);
  3. The challenge of revitalizing social bonds (to weave anew the social fabric, to enhance the feeling of belonging, to foster inclusion in society and the economy, to bridge the generation gap, to develop equity in the relations between women and men);
  4. The challenge of participation, democracy and recognition (to create links between elected representatives, public administrations and local populations, to foster equal recognition and participation of women and youth in all fields of local development, to obtain recognition of local development);
  5. The challenge of linking local and global levels (to fight racism, to foster solidarity between nations, to identify a global strategy and a planetary vision in the field of development).

Our Vision of Development

Local development and community economic development are different references, different bases from which to approach globalization. They do not mean trying to build an alternative self-focused model, but rather to re-appropriate globalization from different perspectives to give it relevance through local action. This development is based on:

  1. The importance of each and every person's becoming a participant in and author of development in his or her territory;
  2. A global approach to the reality of individuals, combining concerns for solidarity, economic development, the struggle against exclusion, and environmental preservation;
  3. A connection between the indispensable capacity of local initiatives and a necessary coherence with national policies must exist at the local level to identify common interests, build integrated development and renew social cohesion at all levels;
  4. The recognition of the specific contributions of women, of their often invisible work towards the well-being of the people close to them and their community.

Regions practicing local development can be places where answers are provided daily to the challenges mentioned above. Local development and community economic development help find new ways of producing and sharing wealth, help put new life in citizenship participation and new growth in democracy, in order that each may have enough-and a reason-to live by.

Local development organizations are catalysts that value our particular strengths and wealth: the ability to imagine and develop collective projects, our solidarity, entrepreneurship, partnership and creativity. Since our local and regional structures play a role, it is important to first ensure that they are representative, and then ensure that they are recognized. We affirm that it is essential for the various types of associations (intra-regional. inter-regional, and even international) to bring together elected representatives, participants in local development and citizens in pursuit of this goal. Similarly, we insist that non-government organizations (NGOs) and all civil society╬s institutions be recognized.

Our Demands

We, the participants in local development and community economic development, call for:

  1. The implementation of a global social contract for the satisfaction of basic human needs. Citizens and social movements would be associated in the definition of its clauses. Such a social contract would include elements that respond to the major challenges outlined above;
  2. Recognition by our respective governments of the need for local development. We ask our governments to consider local participants as full partners and to adopt social, financial and fiscal orientations and policies that foster local development while ensuring equity between communities.

Our Commitments

We commit ourselves to:

  1. Promoting, fostering and highlighting the universal dimensions of local development, so we may face common challenges on an international scale through a network based on solidarity and the sharing of common values;
  2. Interceding with our respective governments so that they choose local development by establishing new social and economic policies;
  3. Calling on other partners, including public and private corporations, to increase their participation in this approach to development;
  4. Demanding from our governments a new and international social contract giving precedence to individual and collective needs;
  5. Demanding that our government pull back from MAI negotiations, and generally from any negotiations giving precedence to market forces to the detriment of state sovereignties;
  6. Creating, by December 31st, 2000, a global network of local development players to promote a permanent dialogue between themselves and their partners, and to support the sharing of local development experiences at all levels;

Thus we conclude the Global Meetings on Community Economic Development with the deep conviction that a movement is now on the march, and that we have created the links needed for our local actions to take a meaningful place in building our planet. In opposition to the neo-liberal globalization, we put forward our globalization of solidarity.

From: The Proceedings of the Global Meetings on Community Economic Development (1998); IFDC; 420, Rue Saint Paul Est, 23 etage; Montreal, Quebec, Canada, H2Y 1H4;
Tel.: (514) 281-2081;
Fax 514-281-5010;
E-mail: rmdl@ifdec.qu.ca . Website: www.ifdec.qc.ca.

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