This initiative, launched in early June 2020, is promoted by a group of people and organizations from different Latin American countries. We are motivated by the urgency of building social dynamics to respond (and counteracting) the dynamics of capitalist rearrangement, concentration of wealth and destruction of ecosystems in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. We seek to build, together with those who wish to join us, a collective horizon of transformation for ‘Our America’ that guarantees a worthy future. More information: https://pactoecosocialdelsur.com/
For a long time, the elites told us that the market and the great machine of capitalist accumulation cannot be stopped. But it turns out that it can – that it is possible to activate the emergency brake when life is deemed to be at risk.
The crisis laid bare by the pandemic has worsened inequalities and shows that our future is at stake. Some people are under lockdown; others are facing contagion, repression and hunger. Indigenous and Afro-Latin American peoples are exposed to a new wave of extermination; patriarchal and racist violence and femicides have increased. Meanwhile, powerful groups both old and new are taking advantage of the emergency to make sure that “the return to normality” or “the new normal” does not deprive them of their privileges.
The pandemic is a tragedy for many people, whose pain we share. But the pause imposed on global capitalism due to COVID-19 also represents a major opportunity to bring about change: to build our future based on caring for life.
Although nature remains profoundly damaged, this enforced brake has also meant a slowdown in the destruction of ecosystems, due especially to the reduction in CO2 emissions. Middle classes around the world are collectively realizing that it is possible to live without that unbridled consumption that causes environmental destruction and threatens life itself on the planet; they are seeing that happiness and quality of life have dimensions more relevant than owning and accumulating things, such as living in a network of reliable caring relationships.
It has become evident that rural life, and the sense of community, caring and reciprocity, are key to sustaining life; that, in spite of living within capitalism, we do not live by and for capital. We are becoming aware that direct trading and bartering in networks outside capitalist markets are today meeting many of our basic needs; and we are realizing that they have a place and potential for the future.
Even in institutional settings, ideas that were previously unthinkable or seen as unviable are now high on the global agenda. Economic agencies such as ECLAC are proposing a universal basic income, and even the International Monetary Fund is advising governments to introduce a wealth tax to counteract the scandalous inequality and reduce fiscal deficits. In the global North, social and political movements are fighting for a new global ecosocial pact that unites social justice and environmental justice to save the planet.
Proposals for a Social, Ecological, Economic and Intercultural Pact for Latin America
Taking up proposals developed collectively in different contexts, we are proposing a Social, Ecological, Economic and Intercultural Pact for Latin America. This Pact is not a list of demands addressed to the governments of the day. Instead, it is an invitation to build collective ideas, agree on a shared path to social change and provide a basis for shared struggles in all the different sectors of our societies. It calls together social movements, territorial, labor and neighborhood organizations, communities and networks, but also alternative local governments, parliamentarians, magistrates or public servants who are committed to change, to alter the balance of power by means of plebiscites, proposals for legislation, and many other strategies that can make a real impact and enable members of society who are organized and mobilized to impose these changes on existing institutions.
Accordingly, the points outlined below seek to connect redistributive, gender, ethnic and environmental justice. Some of them envisage more of a leading role for public institutions, while others refer more to de facto practices and changes that are developed from below and spread horizontally.
- Solidarity-based tax reform. National proposals for tax reform based on the principle of “who has more, pays more – who has less, pays less.” This should include taxes on inheritance, extreme wealth, mega-corporations, financial earnings and, as a transitional measure, damage to the environment. Instead of everyone paying universal taxes but only some people getting social protection, we propose that only the wealthy should pay taxes while everyone should be protected.
- Cancellation of the external debt, and a complete overhaul of the global financial system. In these extraordinary times, ceasing to pay the external debt is justified. It was done in 1931-32, and is now being proposed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), French President Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis. Cancelling the external debt of countries in the global South is a first step towards historical reparations for the ecological and social debt built up by the industrialized countries since colonial times.
- Creation of national and local systems of care that place the sustainability of life at the center of our societies. Care is a right and, as such, it should include a more active role for the state and the private sector in constant consultation and shared responsibility with peoples and communities. This will make it possible to tackle labor precarity and achieve a fairer distribution of caregiving tasks in terms of social class and gender, as this work usually falls unequally upon families and, within them, upon women. We need to promote public policies that link care to social protection, meeting the needs of older people who depend on being cared for by others, children, people with severe disabilities, and all other individuals who are unable to meet their basic needs.
- A Universal Basic Income that unifies social policy by introducing a basic income for all to replace the targeted conditional cash transfers inherited from neoliberalism and enable people to get out of the poverty trap. ECLAC recently recommended such a policy to Latin American governments. The working day should be made shorter without reducing wages, in order to redistribute both formal employment and the work of caregiving.
- Prioritize food sovereignty. At a time when Latin America is the region with the highest levels of land concentration in the world, the priority must be to develop policies aimed at land redistribution, access to water and a sweeping reform of agrarian policies, moving away from industrial agriculture for export, with its harmful environmental and social consequences. We need to prioritize agroecological farming, agroforestry, fishing, small-scale farming and urban agriculture, promoting the dialogue of forms of knowledge. Strengthen local and farmers’ markets. Create seed distribution networks to ensure that seeds can circulate freely, without intellectual property rules. Strengthen rural-urban distribution networks and community certification between consumers and producers. Promote social, collective and community ownership of land, giving sovereignty to those who care for and work it, and protecting them from speculators.
- Build post-extractivist economies and societies. To protect cultural and biological diversity, we need a radical socio-ecological transition, an orderly and progressive move away from dependence on oil, coal and gas, mining, deforestation and large-scale monocrops. We need to shift to renewable energy systems that are decentralized, decommodified and democratic, as well as collective, safe and good quality transportation models. We must reduce the risk of climate collapse – a threat more serious than the pandemic, as demonstrated by floods, drought, landslides and forest fires.
- Restore and strengthen modes of information and communication that are rooted in society, rather than dominated by today’s commercial and social media controlled by the most powerful corporations of our time. We need to struggle over the historical meaning of coexistence, from citizen media but also from the street, the square and cultural spaces.
- Autonomous, sustainable local societies. The pandemic has revealed the fragility of global production chains, but also the wide range of local and national efforts. The enormous creativity of Latin America’s peoples must be the basis for policy changes that promote the autonomy and sustainability of local territories and societies. We need to strengthen the economic, political and cultural self-determination of indigenous, rural and Afro-Latin American peoples as well as popular urban community experiences; demilitarize territories and society as a whole; support local markets; democratize credit, support small and medium enterprises, and achieve local community energy sovereignty based on sustainable and renewable models.
- For a sovereign regional and global integration. It is imperative to promote local, national and regional trade systems at the Latin American level. These would be autonomous from the globalized world market and provide new alternatives to corporate monopolies. We need to introduce currencies parallel to the dollar on different scales, enabling relative de-linking from the dangerous dynamics of the world market, strengthening trade between the region’s countries and complementary economic diversification.
Sign the Pact and contact us
* About us: 1,400 people and more than 300 organizations support the Pact in its first week. The first signatures can be consulted at https://pactoecosocialdelsur.com/quienes-somos/
* Sign the Pact: We invite people and organizations interested in joining to sign the Pact on the website: https://pactoecosocialdelsur.com/
* Press Contacts, comments and proposals can be sent to the Pact’s contact persons:
Bolivia: Mario Rodríguez Ibáñez ([email protected])
Venezuela: Edgardo Lander ([email protected])