Reflections inspired by ASEF III

Yvon Poirier
Canadian Community Economic Development Network
Member of RIPESS North America
November 14, 2011

The promotion of Solidarity Economy in Asia has made great strides in the last years. Having had the privilege of attending ASEF I in Manila in 2007, and Tokyo in 2009; I fully agree with the Ben’s assessment of the progress made over the last years.
I am especially glad that at the October 2007, Ben agreed to formally join the RIPESS Board. Previously, only our Nepalese colleagues, with Sunil Chitrakar, were involved. Since then, the alliance with colleagues in other continents has grown and they now have conferred the task to the Asia Alliance for Solidarity Economy, now ASEC, to organise the 5th Global meeting.
Our movement is still young. The first meeting was held just 14 years ago in Peru. Since then, the movement has grown much, and with the deepening of the many crises of the neoliberal globalisation, and of that model itself, opportunities, and challenges, are greater than ever.
However, we are more prepared than ever to meet these challenges. The great group of young people from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, also gives us much hope for the future. I think we should thank all academics who made the presence of these students possible.
Like in other continents, women are at the core of building social solidarity economy. Over here in North America, over 60% of the workforce in social economy is women. And are more and more in leadership positions. This is huge progress. In the 1960’s, over here in Canada, practically all leadership positions were held by men.
ASEF III was also an important occasion to create relationships between Asia participants and people in other continents. I will mention just three examples:
• Ms Valerie, who is from Kenya, asked for connections in English speaking Africa. She had seen that the African network was planning a meeting in Tunisia in 2012. For different reasons (mainly lack of resources) the network in Africa only has French speaking people. Having had made many links in English speaking Africa, I sent a list of 25 contact persons so that she can do networking in Africa. A member of my network, Ethel Côté (she was on RIPESS Board), who like myself is bilingual French and English is now in contact with Valerie and she will make the links with our two African Board members, Madani Koumaré from Mali and Abdeljali Cherkaoui from Morocco.
• After hearing Prof Farok bin Zakaria from Kelantan Universiti explain what they were doing to help people in communities start social enterprises, I realised that it could be useful to connect with a network of 14 Universities doing this in Brazil. Over there, they call it «Technological Incubators for Popular Cooperatives». There work in poor communities, including shantytowns. I suggested to Farok the name of one of the members of this network, Ana Dubeux, who I recently met at the FIESS meeting in Montreal.
• Noor Zanariah Mohamad who works at the Malaysian Central Bank asked if we had a website with examples of practices in different countries that could be accessed. I explained that we had a mapping of nine social/solidarity economy activities/organisations, but that we were working on this and that her request was important. Some websites have some examples, but we need to see how we can bring this together. As Ben and Nancy know, preliminary work is underway for such a project, supported by the FPH.
All this to mention that besides continental networking, we also need to address the issue of horizontal networking, across continents and sectors, namely in knowledge exchange, including research. This challenge by itself is huge, and with the different languages involved, even more so. However, much of the knowledge exists. We need to organise and systematize.
Closing remarks
I consider myself a privileged person to be involved in a movement that is focused on the people’s needs, in a sustainable manner. The last meeting in KL, and the meeting in Montreal, confirm that all over the world, people – men and women on an equal basis – are deeply committed to building this other world that all people in the world are yearning for.
In his presentation, Paul Sinnappan spoke of how inspired he had been by William Coady (Coady Institute is in Nova Scotia in Canada). His book, «Master’s of there own destiny», published in 1939, is still an inspiration and worthy reading. Our way is not really new. We must always remember that similar minded people have been struggling to build a better future for centuries. This is even more inspiring for me since I was brought up in a community that used the teachings of Coady to build there own future. They created cooperatives to satisfy most of there needs.
Coady dedicated his book «To all those unnamed noble souls who without remuneration are working overtime in the cause of humanity»

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