This morning Caritas Internationalis brought to Rio+20 a strong reflection about the possibilities of sustainable development through “solidarity economy,” the expression used by Benedict XVI as necessary openness to break the binary model of market-plus-State, “while economic forms based on solidarity, which find their natural home in civil society without being restricted to it, build up society” (CIV, 39).
Caritas describes “solidarity economy” as an alternative way of keeping economic relations where the person is put at the centre and not the market. It “changes the market paradigm by establishing cooperative exchanges between, on the one hand, unions of producers created to offer products of greater quantity and quality (e.g. solidarity consortia of coffee or handcrafts producers) and, on the other, consumers grouped together to access basic goods and services (e.g. community organizations, joint purchases, consumers and users co-ops), taking even the form of solidarity financial mediation. Solidarity economy is thus a global strategy, with the potential of encompassing all sectors and all phases of the economy: production, distribution (fair trade, solidarity finance), consumption (ethical consumption) and realization of wealth (solidarity economic development).”
Caritas brought to Rio many years of experience on the field promoting this kind of economic relationships, especially in Latin America; cooperatives of coffee producers in Costa Rica or many income generation activities in Brazil, especially for women, are big initiatives1 bringing together producers and consumers w, and were presented this morning at Rio.
Prior to the conference, Caritas Internationalis released a statement entitled “We’re all hungry for justice, equity, ecological sustainability and joint responsibility.” Caritas states that we are facing a combination of crisis as never before, that we are in front of major changes for the world and they “are calling for a paradigm shift, a new civilisation of love for humanity, which places the dignity and wellbeing of men and women at the centre of all action.”
Caritas states that this paradigm shift in our civilization should be ruled by five principles:
1) A future without hunger, the right to food has to be assured to all, everywhere
2) A future with a vision, more concretely Caritas proposes that the Millennium Development Goals can become this vision as a sort of road map for a fairer world
3) A future in which we look after our home: creation; the environment as “resource” endangers the environment as “home,” and life only can be assured if the environment is respected and protected.
4) A future with a new green economy framework, that cannot be considered by any means as “business as usual” or a simply adaptation of our present economic system. The person has to occupy a central place, and then employment must be at the core of any future transformation.
5) A future that respects men and women created in the image of God: a new social contract that includes participatory democracy and promotes human dignity, sustainable human development and distribution of risk.
Most of us will agree with these five points, and of course many would add new elements or reinforce some others, but undoubtedly we appreciate the decision and the step forward given by Caritas. When so many and sometimes ourselves, complain about the lack of vision towards the future, it is quite encouraging that Caritas makes a concrete proposal just at the moment of these discussions in Rio.