We all take economic decisions in our everyday life yet we are led to believe that "economics" is best left to the experts - that it is a beast beyond most people's understanding and control. This book is one representation of the efforts of everyday people to take matters into their own hands. It is a compilation of materials developed by community groups and economic educators who have collectively explored local, national and international systems and dynamics. It represents voices that, like the vast majority of people, don't benefit from economic policies but together say "We can understand economics. We know what is at stake. And we demand a voice at the table of economic decision-making, alongside the lobbyists and politicians". The book is divided into five sections:
À Popular Patterns (in our experience)
À Threading it Together: Activities
À The Fabric of our Work: Issues and Analysis
À Expressions (of our discontent): Using Multi-media Creatively
À Resources: Individual and Organisational Contacts
The purpose of the book is to share these activities with other people in the interest of economic and political empowerment. It aims to get rid of confusing language and put economics into terms that everyone can easily understand. It provides copious tools: it is full of activities that encourage involvement, understanding, learning and action.
What is democracy? Freedom, equality, participation? Everyone has his or her own definition. Across the world countries have a least the minimum trappings of democracy, but for many this is just the beginning. Following decades of US-backed dictatorships, civil wars and structural adjustment policies in the South, and corporate control, electoral corruption and fraud in the North, representative politics in the Americas is in crisis. Citizens are now choosing to redefine democracy under their own terms: local, direct and participatory. In Brazil, they have installed participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, in Venezuela President Chavez came to power with the promise of granting direct participation to the people, and all across the Americas social movements and constitutional assemblies are taking authority away from the ruling elites and putting power into the hands of their members and citizens. This DVD features interviews with Eduardo Galeano, Amy Goodman, Emir Sader, Martha Harnecker, Ward Churchill and Leonardo Avritzer as well as cooperative and community members, elected representatives, academics and activists from Brazil, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, United States, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia and more. It takes us on a journey across the Americas in an attempt to answer the question "What is Democracy?"
Budgeting for women and men: a handbook for local government councillors, district planners and leaders of civil society organisations
This handbook is intended to assist Ugandan officials and activists at District Level to include the concerns of women, men and children in district budgets. It was prepared to introduce the national priorities in the Poverty Eradication Action Plan, to provide guidelines on how to identify gender issues and how to examine a sector policy and budget with a 'gender lens'. An examination is undertaken of gender roles and of concerns and gaps in the sectors of education and health, with questions at the end of each section to guide the investigator. Additionally, advice is given on a gender analysis of the budget, and on how the district budget fits in the national budget, including step by step instructions on the budget process, the preparation of the budget, and monitoring and reporting on the use of funds.
Budgets are the starting point of this book, and it continues with different types of revenue and taxes at the local level. Tax Justice is introduced and finally the book explains decentralization and the dilemma local government has in terms of limited independent space for planning and implementing plans. The book is designed for field workers and civil society organisations at the local level. Whilst the political context is very different in each country, it is hoped the book can inspire engagement in budget work at the local level. The book includes tools for analysing budgets and understanding political economy at the local level.
Can civil society add value to budget decision-making? A description of the rise of civil society budget work
The purpose of this paper is to examine the expanding contribution of civil society organisations to public budgets in developing countries. It provides examples of civil society budget activities in a variety of country contexts in order to measure the value of this work to public budgeting. The intervention of civil society has generally enabled broader understanding and participation in the budget process. In part, these benefits occur indirectly through other organisations or legislatures as a result of training and dissemination activities that deepen public debate and expand public participation. Many groups are still developing skills and organisational capacity. Some examples are cited which point to a significant impact of this in Mexico, Israel, South Africa and Russia.
It is noted that applied budget organisations may add value to budgets in the following ways:| Able to bring new information to the public debate on citizen priorities;| Through training, the capacity of communities to take part is built;| The contribution of applied budget organisations includes building budget literacy and training and analysis that brings a pro-poor perspective;| Help in the collation of information on programme impact;| Able to play a bigger role in helping legislatures to monitor the impact of the official audit and in interpreting and disseminating the findings of the auditor-general.
Can participation 'fix' inequality? unpacking the relationship between the economic and political citizenship
This paper, based on a lecture given at the University of Sussex, UK, takes on the issue of growing inequality. Arguing that we know more about how economic inequality affects political participation than we do about how participation and voice affect economic inequality, the author describes ongoing work to identify participatory practices that offer some precedents for linking strategies for narrowing political and economic gaps from below. These combinations in turn contribute to challenging these intersecting inequalities and hold promise for transformative solutions across the global North and South.
This collection of eleven cases from Canada and the United States gives expression to the ideal of a new economy based on fairness and environmental sustainability. Grappling with complex problems in their local communities, organized citizens are forging innovation, prying open cracks in the prevailing economic system and seizing opportunities to redirect economic life.
Featured here are examples in urban and rural contexts and ethnically diverse settings — First Nations, Inuit, Latino, African American, predominantly white, and mixed communities — where citizens are challenging the short-term focus of political leadership and taking action now to pave the way for an economy that can sustain future generations. They illustrate a new way of working, tying economic justice to the creation of multiple types of environmental, economic and social assets or forms of wealth.
This paper describes the development of a children's participatory budget council in the city of Barra Mansa (Brazil), to which 18 boys and 18 girls are elected by their peers to ensure that the municipal council addresses their needs and priorities. This council determines how a proportion of the municipal budget (equivalent to around US$ 125,000 a year) is spent on addressing children's priorities, and its child councillors are also involved in other aspects of government. Each year since 1998, more than 6,000 children have taken part in discussions and assemblies to elect their child councillors and discuss their own priorities. The elected children learn how to represent their peers within democratic structures, to prioritize based on available resources, and then to develop projects within the complex and often slow political and bureaucratic process of city governance. This process has extended to children the concept of participatory budgeting that is now widely used in Brazil for increasing citizen involvement in urban governance. It is encouraging similar innovations in other cities in Latin America, as the example becomes better known and as more people visit Barra Mansa.
Public awareness of the role of the WTO has largely focussed on the protests surrounding its biannual ministerial meetings, most recently in Canc·n. In some southern countries, however, a less visible process of dialogue between civil society and trade policymakers has been developing at the national level. This paper discusses this process of dialogue in Uganda and Kenya. It describes the institutional context of trade policy processes, and the spaces which civil society occupy within it. It also highlights some of the existing barriers to CSO influence. In both countries, stakeholder consultation processes suffer from lack of formal legal status, which deprives them of influence. CSOs are overstretched and crying out for increased capacity on trade policy issues. In both countries, however, involvement has enriched CSOs, helping them understand better how the global trading system impacts on the lives of the poor. In Uganda, CSOs have formed a single coordinated network, whereas in Kenya, CSO participation remains more ad hoc and sporadic. The authors argue that civil society needs to move beyond an events-based culture, whether at national or international level. The way to influence outcomes is through a strategy of continuous engagement, since most important decisions take place in between the high-profile events.