On the 4th of July 2019, in Lyon (France), RIPESS Europe with the support of the Municipality of Lyon organised a round table meeting on “Cities and SSE: practical policies to transform the economy”. In preparation of the World Social Forum on Transformative Economies to be held in Barcelona in 2020, it marked the beginning of the RIPESS Europe General Assembly which took place from the 4th to the 6th of July in Lyon. Given the fact that public authorities play a key role in defining policies which impact communities at different levels (housing, tourism, health, finance…) the occasion was given to highlight major practical trans-local and open, participatory policies which transform the economy.
The three-session event brought together RIPESS Europe members and partners, policy makers, local actors who shared their experience. The first panel on “Transforming cities through SSE practices and public policies” facilitated by Jason Nardi, the RIPESS Europe General Delegate was composed of Dounia Besson, Deputy Mayor of Lyon and representative of RTES (SSE Mayors network), Jeanine Verna, Director of the Arobase Vocational training centre and Julie Maisonhaute of Commerce equitable France (Fair trade movement).
For Dounia Besson, the strength of SSE is determined by its territorial anchoring and it is more than crucial to place the “inhabitants at the centre of all preoccupations regarding SSE initiative before shareholders”. In the dynamic of valorising and reinforcing SSE initiatives, the label LVED (Lyon ville equitable et durable / Lyon fair and sustainable city) was put in place. With regards to environmental protection, health, citizens’ participation, education, cultural development, the LVED SSE organisation of Lyon plays an active role in transforming economic practices and building a human society.
Jeanine Verna sees in the sustainability of SSE actions a vocational training dimension based on SSE values and principles. The Arobase vocational training centre created 30 years ago has trained more than 2000 SSE professional and promoted the convergence of different SSE families, in partnership with the XES Catalonia network and REVES network, through a recent European project. Therefore, training SSE local actors constitutes an essential resource which needs to be popularized and supported by local authorities.
Sustainable production and consumption has been at the heart of Fair trade movements and is today more necessary than ever. Julie Maisonhaute outlays an optimist view of a modern society bringing together citizens, civil society organisations, enterprises, local authorities with a common objective of mainstreaming fair-trade practices. Commerce equitable France has as its main mission to transform consumption modes, promote effective fair-trade skills, promote equality in public policies and help structure the fair-trade sector, therefore developing a strong alliance with local authorities is inevitable, which is what the Fair Trade Towns network is trying to do.
Josette Combes of MES (the French Solidarity economy Mouvement) facilitated the second session on “Citizens movements – Transformative cities”, with Melissa Koutouzis of the Transnational institute (TNI) and Geneviève Brichet of Mouvement Utopia as guest speakers.
The Transformative Cities Initiative, explains Melissa Koutouzis seeks to learn from cities and collectives working on solutions to ensure access to water, food, energy and housing. These basic human rights are threatened by the ongoing climate crisis and our increasingly dysfunctional political and economic structures, and the states, international institutions and transnational corporations that support them. “Strengthening local initiatives can induce a radical change at the global level” says Melissa. That is why TNI in partnership with several other networks, including RIPESS, is promoting the Transformative Cities Award and the Atlas of Utopias, which showcases inspiring stories of communities challenging entrenched power and boldly developing alternatives. These range from grassroots movements in Zimbabwe and Palestine to international cities like Paris or Barcelona that have defeated transnational corporations and hostile national governments to deliver democratic, people-powered solutions for access to basic human rights.
By putting in place a space of dialogue in between elected authorities and citizens, citizens participation is reinforced to induce endogenous change at the level of the society. This is the essence of the Citizens’ Transition Pact (Pacte pour la Transition Cityoenne), as Geneviève Brichet explains, a tool to promote and organize citizen participation to enable change in all municipalities, by encouraging dialogue between citizens and elected officials in the context of the campaigns for the 2020 Municipal Elections in France. The Citizens’ Transition Pact is at the same time: a list of 3 principles and 32 concrete and applicable measures in favour of the ecological, solidarity and democratic transition; the support by the transition network, through 50 partner organisations (Emmaus, Greenpeace, Enercoop, France Nature Environnement, etc.); a digital platform to connect, train and support participants.
Finally, the last session on “Convergence between initiatives to transform the economy and to free humanity” facilitated by Drazen Simlesa, RIPESS Europe Coordinator, had in its panel Elisabeth Voss from NETZ für Selbstverwaltung und Selbstorganisation (Germany), Iris Avinoa from the organising committee of the World Social Forum on Transformative Economies in Barcelona, Jean Roussiaud of APRES-GE and Geneviève Ancel, Coordinator of the Dialogues en Humanité.
Despite the plurality of SSE movements in Germany, a difficulty exists in federating these actors with the need to set up a concert space for common action. Therefore, “by supporting grassroot initiatives and Solidarity Economy, NETZ helps put in place a network of different actors to engage collectively”, says Elisabeth Voss. Regarding this, issues like climate change, and the future of work need to be approached in a sustainable way considering future generations.
The World Social Forum on Transformative Economies to be held in Barcelona in 2020, is another means of convergence between initiatives to transform the economy. Actors from all around the world will have the opportunity to meet and share their experience of major practices transforming the economy as wells as diverse approaches. Iris Avinoa made an overview of the preparation of this forum and the process behind it.
Jean Rossiaud presented the Jai Jagat initiative led by Rajagopal (which some are calling the new Gandhi) of the Ekta Parishad Movement in India. Starting on the 2nd of October 2019, it is a 10 000 km march from Gandhi’s resting place in New Delhi, crossing through 15 countries (Pakistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia and Italy and the Switzerland) and will promote the nonviolent economy movement’s perspective.
Geneviève Ancel concluded with a presentation of the Dialogues en Humanité, an international event where people from different origins, cultures, convictions all around the world meet to discuss about the practice of community building. The theme this year was let’s talked about tomorrow around 3 major themes: “All responsible for the rights of every one”, “Tomorrow, all nomads, tomorrow, all migrants” and “Inventing tomorrow by questioning the stories that shape our lives”, which and took place also in Lyon from the 5th to the 7th of July 2019.