Dr. Singh highlighted India's commitment to achieving a remarkable 500 GW of installed electricity capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030
Latin America is a laboratory of social and political experiments and a rich library of ideas. New thought experiments and innovative democratic practices are currently under way in many countries.
The region is also a promising base for theory development. Latin American thinkers have created models, frameworks, mechanisms and theories which have captured global attention.
Latin American scholars have come out with alternative theories of development, growth, technology, coloniality, indigenous cosmovision and epistemologies.
They have also questioned West’s ontological assumptions. Among the many innovations in recent decades, buen vivir (good living) has attracted the maximum attention globally.
Buen vivir is the Spanish translation of Kechua word Sumak kawsay which is diametrically opposed to the Western image of man and nature, in which the wellbeing and prosperity of the individual come first. The buen vivir is post-development in action.
It is a reflection of the Andean indigenous cosmology. It also has elements from Aristotelian philosophy, ecologism, Marxism, feminism and Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj.
‘Good living’ can only be reached with others through solidarity, reciprocity and communion. ‘Living better’ is rejected as a common goal as ‘better’ implies ‘in comparison with others’ at the expense of others.
Buen vivir expresses harmonious relations between humans, on the one hand, and humans and nature, on the other. It is a model of politics that seeks to replace extraction from nature with harmony with nature and hierarchy among humans with conviviality.
It revolves around the construction of a plurinational state. It means distribution of power and control over territories among fully recognised nationalities in a unified State. Constructing a plurinational state is to broaden the institutionalisation of state.
As proponents of plurinationalism maintain, a vertical state only legislates. For the indigenous and marginalized, the state hasn’t arrived. The state must be pluri-national in that it recognizes each one of the existing nationalities in the country.
Ecuador and Bolivia have adopted new constitutions by incorporating some of the principles of buen vivir. The 2008 Ecuadorian constitution is a major departure from the past.
It grants nature the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. None of the 188 constitutions in the world confers as many rights on the indigenous community.
The indigenous discourse in Latin America on the climate crisis has been a significant step towards an international charter for the protection of the planet, Mother Earth and all forms of life.
What a western linear perception of history condemns as a “turning back of the clock” is viewed in the Andes as the redemption of the future, a past that can yet turn the tables. Latin American states have also taken combined steps to create new models of sustainable development. In 2018, as many as 24 Latin American and Caribbean states signed a legally binding environmental rights pact containing measures to protect land defenders.
The new treaty obliges states to “guarantee a safe and enabling environment for persons, groups and organisations that promote and defend human rights in environmental matters.” The treaty, which was stewarded by Chile, Costa Rica and Panama, also guarantees the right to a healthy environment. Colombia has become the first country in Latin America to pass a law that recognises “the existence of forced internal displacement due to causes associated with climate change and environmental degradation.”
At a time when more and more countries are suffering from democratic backsliding, Latin America seems to be swimming against the tide. It has a far better track record in innovative politics. The region is not only faring better than other regions, it is doing it differently. Instituto Update which studies and fosters political innovation in Latin America, maintains that Latin Americans tend to believe that only through constant innovations can the region’s chronic problems like economic inequality, social injustice, corruption, racism, sexism, and environmental degradation be addressed.
What is remarkable about political innovations is that these are the results of citizens’ own initiatives. Citizens groups have mobilized funds and resources to push for social change. Brazil’s Secundarista Movement pushed educational reforms in Sao Paulo’s public schools which spread across the country. Mexico’s # Yo Soy 132 movement by students protested massively against political corruption during the 2012 presidential elections.
Though the movement achieved little except perhaps a social catharsis, it marked the beginning of the end of the one party system. The citizens groups have adopted innovative ways to explain complex issues to the people.
Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) which started as a hashtag quickly grew into a movement, pushing women’s rights to the top of the agenda in Argentina. It soon spread across South America. Elected officials have sought to make institutions more participatory and inclusive. measures like DemocracyOS (Argentina) and LinQ (Ecuador) to Brazil’s Internet Bill of Rights have made great progress in giving voice to the people in the policymaking process.
Moreover, to monitor and hold politicians and corporations accountable, civil society organizations have used technology and open data. Groups like Paraguay’s A Quienes Elegimos (Who We Choose), Argentina’s Chequeado (Checked), and Chile’s Del Dicho al Hecho (From Said to Done) are using online tools which organise public protests to insist on transparency from the government. Chile is currently engaged in a new constitution-making process after the rejection of the draft text finalized by the 2021- 22 Constitutional Convention.
The climate and ecological crisis are receiving a lot of attention from delegates to the Constitutional convention. Latin American countries are never shy of taking a road less travelled. For example, the previous Chilean convention deliberated on questions like who owns Chile’s water, what exactly is water and is brine, the saltwater beneath the desert, technically water?
Why do Latin Americans continue to construct alternative utopians? Peruvian novelist Santiago Roncagliolo seems to have the answer. He says that “there is a feeling in Latin America that good ones were not so good and the bad ones were not so bad.” Dreams and imaginations never die and Latin American intellectuals, novelists and writers “dare to be a Daniel’ and ‘dare to stand alone!”
(The writer is director, Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi)