Organizing and managing ties of solidarity on a territorial basis

“- between organizations with multiple functions (businesses, authorities, states, mutual aid networks, sectors, etc.);” “- between these people and these organizations with a given biogeographical environment”

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.

European institutions have been focusing on diversity and encouraging local development since 1993, a bold move and something of a gamble in a context of high unemployment. They sought to stimulate joint research with national governments. A European inventory of areas of activities produced by local initiatives was carried out in 1994. It came up with four major areas: daily life, life styles, leisure activities and the environment. The results exceeded expectations. Hundreds of projects were registered and compared and obstacles identified. The European strategy incorporated the Local Employment and Development Initiatives (LEDI) as of 1995. The hopes placed in diversity as an active element in social transformation did not lead to the implementation of strategies, mechanisms and development resources that reflected the potential that existed. Even though political and public leaders continue to turn to local development in order to guarantee the support of citizens and local actors, “it is seen as a third-rate option, or even as the last resort for anyone who can’t deal with market competition.”

A variety of roles inhabit every individual, alternately or simultaneously: the citizen, the elected representative, the elector, the user of services, the neighbour, the parent, the colleague, the friend, the consumer, the saver, the investor. In the new order, at least in countries with well-rooted democratic foundations, everyone has the power to take action and a margin of influence within the framework of their professional functions, mandates and responsibilities. They have different degrees of power, influence and impact. However, the increased importance of the role played by these inhabitant-citizens means that the public spaces they bring to life are in conflict with the sphere inhabited by the public authorities. Both sides seek to take action in the name of a collective will, in similar areas but with different forms of legitimacy, in order to manage a resource or good that is put to multiple and sometimes conflicting uses. Overall, the territory continues to serve the purposes of local government, but without any discussion of the real issues.

Approaches that are more open and cooperation-based have produced results (see Theme 8 – public policies). Various initiatives, particularly in Quebec and Brazil, have helped to lay the foundations for a new approach. Interactions have multiplied—sometimes conflictual, often concerted or even convergent—between different categories of actors that share basic concerns and the same local contacts. Improving the well-being of members of the community means taking the right decisions and adopting appropriate measures.

It is essential to learn lessons from the actions taken by inhabitants involved in territories’ social landscape. There is a vast amount of literature on the subject. The goal of this dossier is to provide illustrations and analyses that apply specifically to horizontal interactions that incorporate citizenship. They serve as the underpinnings of all stages in a “complex” democracy, from managing the problems of daily life to the conditions for creating a dynamic and differentiated link to the globalized economy.

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A pedagogical tool

3 case studies

9 Analyses/working papers/articles

3 public contributions

5 articles