Solidarity Economy What is Solidarity Economy? “Solidarity Economy” is one of terms used to describe all those economic activities and regulations which are based upon cooperation and solidarity, so as to place human beings and social relationships back at the core of the economic activities. There are other names being used for the initiatives of a growing number of individuals, companies and cooperatives who have decided to integrate ethical, social and environmental principles to their daily economic activity. In Asia, titles like “People’s Economy”, “Compassionate Economy” or “Solidarity-based economy” are often heard. Regardless of the way we call it, Solidarity Economy is a growing option for all those who choose to operate within the market but with a completely different approach, those who believe that economic activity should not be exclusively driven by competition and profit maximization. Instead, the motivation for economic activity should be the improvement of the quality of life of all human beings. In practice, there are Solidarity Economy activities in all regions of the world and in all phases of the economic cycle. Responsible consumption, corporate social responsibility (CSR) in production and distribution, share-holder activism, Fair Trade, Ethical Banking and Microfinance are some examples of these activities. A whole body of economic thought and beliefs have emerged as a consequence, as for example the belief that wealth should be redefined in order to integrate social and environmental externalities and, thus, to be measured by a whole different set of indicators. CSRSME Asia defines Solidarity Economy as - a people- and eco-centered governance of the production, financing, distribution and consumption of good and services in order to generate sustainable conditions for self-managed development of each and every member of societies, the peoples and the planet. Based on this perspective, CSRSME Asia organized the sessions and workshops of the Asian Forum 2007 in Philippines along four key themes to help delegates understand the basic dynamics of solidarity economy. These are: - Socially Responsible Governance (SRG) - Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) - Socially Responsible Enterprises (SRE) - Socially Responsible Financing (Microfinance) Yoko Kitazawa, founding member of Pacific Asia Resource Center in Japan says ― Solidarity Economy is an economy which does not seek maximum profit, but works with solidarity among people Christopher Shun, Finance and Administration Director of Foundation for Community Studies and Social Development (YKPM, Malaysia) says - ―Solidarity Economy is free, harmonious, mutually binding, and organized, wherein the relationships are of cooperation and for the construction of a social power. To him Solidarity Economy looks to create economic growth stressing the importance and priority of the well-being of society and seeks to preserve and sustain the original indigenous culture, which is the source of personal identity, heritage and legacy. The delegates to the Asian Forum 2007 have understood Solidarity Economy to stand for an economic system that is oriented towards people and ecological balance as opposed to the mainstream economy which gears towards maximization of profit and wanton accumulation of private wealth. Some countries (e.g. France, Canada) adopt the term, social economy instead of solidarity economy, the latter being more widely used in Latin America. The important point is that both terms (Solidarity Economy and Social Economy) share similar basic principles For example, the five key principles established by the Chantier l‘ Economie Sociale of Quebec to distinguish social economy enterprises can well be applied to solidarity economy initiatives. These are: ● the objective is to serve its members or the community, instead of simply striving for financial profit; ● the economic enterprise is autonomous of the State; ● in its statute and code of conduct, a democratic decision-making process is established that implies the necessary participation of users and workers; ● it gives priority to people and work over capital in the distribution of revenue and surplus; its activities are based on principles of participation, empowerment, and individual and collective responsibility. At the conclusion of Asian Forum it was emphasized that youth have a crucial role to play in promoting Solidarity Economy. Dr. Habito stressed the importance of highlighting this as a personal conviction, given that he has five youths in his own family (plus the recent addition of a daughter-in-law and a grand-daughter) – which has reminded him even more acutely that the driving reason for all our efforts is to provide a much better world for these generations who will succeed us. (Source: Asian Forum Report 2007) Global Citizens for Sustainable Development will engage youth in the movement led by CSRSME Asia along with many partners globally on ‘Solidarity Economy’ and have more YOUTH representation at the Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy to be held in Japan in 2009 and in India in 2011.