Bridging the North South Divide


It’s commonly agreed that new economy advocates can benefit greatly by learning from the experience of others.  For those interested in local finance, for example, what could be more valuable than to learn about a successful community bank that’s governed and managed by the residents of a poor inner city neighborhood? 

If you’re a local food activist, how about a project that enabled an undernourished, food insecure community to transform its over-grazed and deforested landscape into a verdant source of food surpluses?  And if you’re working to put limits on corporate control, wouldn’t it be inspiring to hear about an innovative strategy to block agribusinesses like Monsanto from patenting heirloom seed varieties? 

The New Economy Coalition has done a remarkable job of linking together groups from all over North America to share their ideas and experiences, but the projects just described are not from this continent:  these initiatives are underway in Brazil, Zimbabwe, and India, respectively.  

Today, in fact, there are literally thousands of activists and NGOs from diverse cultures all over the world working towards similar ends as new economy activists in the industrialized west. Linking these groups together for mutual exchange, collaboration and inspiration is the goal of the International Alliance for Localization (IAL), which will be formally launched next month.  A project of Local Futures, the IAL’s mission is to share knowledge and experience about efforts to localize economies, build resilience, strengthen food security, and maintain cultural integrity.  It will also be a platform for global partnerships and campaigns to help communities resist the predations of the corporate-led global economy.  

Linking up with like-minded groups in the industrialized world can be greatly empowering to activists in the global South, where the mainstream media emphasizes the wealth, glamour, and seductive violence of the west – and largely ignores our many problems and the efforts underway to solve them. At the same time, greater contact with groups in the South can help Northern groups counter the corporate spin that portrays economic growth as the sole means of pulling people out of poverty.  

Local food advocates, for example, often hear that localization in the North is “selfish”, because it deprives Third World farmers of markets they need to survive.  Closer collaboration with local food activists in the South would make it clear that food sovereignty and self-reliance are their first priority, while selling surpluses abroad is a secondary goal at best.

The IAL will be formally launched at the Voices of Hope in a Time of Crisissymposium, to be held at Cooper Union in New York City on November 8. A short film about the IAL can be viewed on the Local Futures website.  To learn more about the projects described above, go to our Planet Local page.

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