Redefining the economy on a territorial basis

Meeting essential needs locally

Territory does not have the same meaning in different cultures and languages. First and foremost, it provides the geographical basis for social existence. It is a human construct that combines the most material of concerns with the most essential of relationships. This is where each society solves its problems, meets its needs and makes its dreams come true by constantly producing mechanisms and regulations capable of sustaining collective modes of operation.1 Still today, this context continues to demonstrate the vital function of proximity, even though production and trade have become globalized. Economic globalization affects even the smallscale units of personal and social life. Territorial localizations are specialized and seen as an adjustment variable in an economic approach that puts them into competition with each other. Management of food, work, natural resources, security and even cohabitation is rooted in interdependent relationships. Inhabitants’ power to act and the conditions in which local authorities can take action in managing resources are greatly modified.

Organizing and managing ties of solidarity on a territorial basis

A territory marks out an expanse of land over which authority is exercised within a geography of powers. It is a link to be managed within a dialogue between the encompassed and the encompassing. A state governance model has been imposed on the world. The separation of powers has encouraged the promotion of a rule of law. But the process has gone too far in the wrong direction, to the detriment of diversity—diversity of stories, situations and the advantages of local cultures. A movement in the opposite direction, towards decentralization, began in the 1980s to correct the excesses of the world economy, which moves on once the profits have gone, leaving lands and factories abandoned. The damage kept on growing, but decentralization continued to turn its back on any questioning of economic growth. The authority to manage was delegated to local and regional councillors who were not always prepared to exercise it, and their available means therefore remained concentrated. International organizations and UN agencies have supported the decentralized approach as an instrument adapted to disadvantaged countries, regions and populations, particularly in preparing the Millennium Goals. This makes it infinitely more complicated to integrate all the data on the problems that need solving, starting from the bottom up.

Democratic territorial governance (multiple social, economic and ecological levels)

“ – between all these components and much larger (macro) or much smaller (micro) entities. … Because today’s world contains increased levels of interdependency. The process of solving the most concrete problems must take into account: - the drawbacks and advantages of globalized production and distribution of goods and services; - the current incapacity of international governance to fairly and efficiently manage natural and cultural resources; - new links and forms of organization (institutional, economic and social as well as cross-cutting, financial, fiscal and technical) that territorial governance must create.”

Global dimensions of multi-level territorial governance

How can we introduce regulations that respect ethics in a world where interactions are intertwined? “Between private and public capitalism, there is no place for people’s real participation. Since 1945, there have only been two players: the state and the market. When it works, the public gives the private a go, and when it doesn’t work, it’s the other way round. If these players stumble, the third player, the third sector, can grab the ball, but without having learned how to do it! People need to be taught how to govern themselves. A government’s other role is ensure the security of public goods (people, currency and the redistribution of wealth.) The third sector’s mission is not to claim this position, but to demand that the public actor plays its role: proper redistribution and the teaching needed for civil society to become the main player.”

The role of territories in economic transition

Since the end of the 20th century, institutions have responded to globalization and market homogenization and the ensuing social and environmental consequences by promoting the notion of local sustainable development.A local territory, the geographical basis of social existence, could now once again take on an important role.