The 6th Mont-Blanc Meeting, a biennal conference for social and solidarity economy (SSE) leaders, took place from 09th to 11th November 2013. Some 350 people from 45 countries were present at Chamonix, France, just next to the famous Mont-Blanc, to debate, to exchange experiences and to elaborate projects.
The conference began with the presentation by Prof. Abdou Salam Fall (Senegal) and Ms. Sudha Reddy (India) on achievements and challenges of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) of the United Nations which expire in 2015, proposing for SSE after 2015, “Be aware of the interdependence of this planet’s inhabitants“, “Define the values of the commons in the global scale and create a partnership for the production and the fair access of these goods“, “Forbid the private appropriation and management of commons and realise an appropriate governance“, “replace the logics of competence and achieve social and environmental results, but also on the basis of the entrepreneurial models of ESS which privilege the individual emancipation and the prosperity“, “Creation of qualitative indices on welfare, as well as new indices to measure the progresses of the MDG post-2015, such as the creation of SSE enterprises, the number of created and mantained jobs, the stability of created structures and the ecological footprint of different human activities“, “People’s participation by way of SSE vision in favour of a responsible production and consumption, a fair sharing of wealth” and “Structuring of exchanges around the three strategic axes: Change the course, Change the entrepreneurial method and model and Change the scale“. Then Ms. Bouchra Taouifk (Morocco), director of the social economy in the Ministry of Handicrafts and of Social and Solidarity Economy, appeared and mentioned that the poverty still exists today despite efforts to eradicate it, highlighting the importance to establish other goals after 2015. She underscored the new Constitution of 2011 which is more progressive in her country’s democratisation, deals with the Human Development National Initiative which was put into effect in 2005, and shared the phrase by the King Mohammed VI: “No social development is possible in the absence of economic growth. Also, it’s necessary to build a new economy capable of accompanying the globalisation and facing with its challenges. Although we’ve opted for market economy, it doesn’t mean that we should look for a market society, but a social economy where the economic efficiency and social solidarity play together“. She also said that cooperatives integrate women and more and more youth is interested in cooperatives, that 24 mutual societies exist in her country and explained this sector’s limits (lack of resources, of creativity, of innovations, of access to market, of synergy and coordination, among others) and finished by presenting the Moroccan government’s strategies to promote SSE.
After that another session took place on public policies and three speakers presented each country’s situation. Mr. Benoît Hamon (France), Delegated Minister in the Ministry of Economy and Finances in charge of Social and Solidarity Economy and Consumption, explained about the Social and Solidarity Economy Act project, which is in process in the National Assembly, saying that France is quite eager to learn from what’s happening in Latin America (and actually an agreement was signed between the French and Ecuadorean governments) and also to collaborate with other countries in the world (Africa and US, among others) and defined SSE as strategy of inclusive growth. Ms. Doris Josefina Solis Carrión (Ecuador), Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion, told that, even SSE was made visible with the new Constitution of 2008, it has always been an important part of her country’s economy as it churns out jobs, income and redistributes the wealth, referring to the concept of Buen Vivir. On top of that she said that 17,000 SSE bodies produce 25% of GDP, 60% of jobs and 65% of basic consumption and that the government helped poor craftsmen get out from subsidies. Ms. Nadira El Guermai (Morocco), governor of the Ministry of the Interior and coordinator of the Human Development National Initiative, presented her work as “struggle against poverty, exclusion and precarity“, explained its structure at the local, regional and national level, and highlighted that between 2005 and 2012 7 million people and 32,000 projects benefited from this programme, with the global investment of 20.6 billion dirhams (1.86 billion €, 2.50 billon $). Then a partnership agreement was signed between Québec and France on l’Accorderie (time banks) and the following projects were presented: Carrot Mob (France), APES (Association for Solidarity Economy Togo) and Microfinance sans Frontières (France).
Between Saturday, 09th in the afternoon and Sunday, 10th in the afternoon a number of workshops took place on the three above-mentioned axes (“Change the course”, “Change the entrepreneurial method and model” and “Change the scale”) to come up with proposals, such as:
- Education to strengthen SSE identity
- Territorial development with other players
- Visualisation of SSE
- Micro- and macro-economic indices
- Influence international organisations
- A working group within the Mont-Blanc Meeting to ponder on the transformation of the commons
- Understand the partnership mechanism and look for institutions in charge
- Favour collaborative projects for SSE
- Collaborative processes
- Creation of a group for deliberation
- Understand the needs
- Intervention for the cooperativism
- Favour the intersectorialities
- Promote the farming space
- Elaboration of SSE action plans for women
- Elaboration of appropriate regulations to promote women in SSE
- Change the evaluation method
- Emancipation of young women
- Access to the land and financing offered for women
- Promotion of women’s network
- Co-construction of education
- Education adapted for SSE values
- Enhancement of formal and informal education
- Search for commons
- Establishment of indices for SSE education
- Strengthen the financial capacity by professional warrant
- Leverage national development banks
There were other presentations too. Mr. Yousef Alayasa (Palestine), Managing Director of Cooperatives in the Ministry of Labour, highlighted the importance and potential of cooperatives in his country’s economy despite so many hurdles. Dr. Francisco Antonio Pacheco Fernández (Costa Rica), president of Banco Popular y de Desarrollo Comunal, showed the role that his institution plays, highlighting that it has 4 billion $ of active and 3 billion $ of credit, among others. Mr. James Mwai (Kenya), executive director of Fairtrade Africa, talked about its growth (its annual budget grew from 300,000 $ to 2,000,000 $) and compared the private sector which monetarises everything with the commons economy. Ms. Pauline Green (UK), president of the International Cooperative Alliance, pointed out five challenges of the cooperativism: participatory governance (especially inclusion of the youth), sustainability, identity, legal framework and capital. Ms. Simel Esim (Turkey) from International Labour Organisation explained the projects by United Nations in terms of SSE, highlighting that cooperatives do contribute to MDGs, although commitments are still lacking from cooperatives’ side.
On Sunday other projects were presented, such as Utile in Montréal (student housing), GERES CO2 Solidaire in France andAPROFEM in Mali. Sergi Morales Díaz (Spain) told about the insertion cooperative SUARA.
On Monday, 11th November the following projects were presented: “SSE month” (November will be SSE month when different events will take place to visualise SSE), “Le Labo“(a think tank on SSE), “International Network of SSE Women” and Latin America’s commitment for SSE. And finally the Final Declaration was read.
I found it interesting that Mont-Blanc is making efforts to include the youth into SSE: this meeting’s organisation had already sent youth to other events to establish relationships and also to stimulate projects, and this congress was a step forward to concretise them. I hope it to continue to be a place not only of reflection but also of socioeconomic laboratory where new SSE initiatives kick off.
It’s been a pity for me, however, that not enough attention was paid to the solidarity economy in Latin America nor to how to link Latin American experiences with other continents: I had the impression that, despite the trilingualism (the official languages were French, English and Spanish), the atmosphere was predominantely French-speaking and it seemed to me that all discussions went around the French-speaking countries. It would be better if next editions could think of increasing Latin American participation to allow its wonderful experiences to be shared with other continents.