Vivir Bien

The recent financial and climate crises clearly demonstrate that paradigms built on infinite economic growth are impossible. Yet progress in addressing these issues lags behind the changes rapidly affecting our societies and planet. Those in power continue to pursue economic growth, while indigenous peoples, peasants, and other marginalized groups continue to struggle to preserve their ways of life and our planet.

Plato wrote the familiar phrase: "a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of invention." Maybe it is not surprising, then, that the most novel proposals for how to solve the current crisis and all the damage it has wrought on people and the planet aren't coming from Wall Street or the World Bank; they're coming from the places that have suffered the most at the hands of the economic downturn, the tsunamis and other natural disasters, the loss of farmland to drought and industrial farming, and the gobbling up of forests and natural resources by corporations. 

More than 50 representatives from indigenous communities and social organizations in the Philippines, India, and Thailand are meeting Manila and Cebu from April 29 to May 2nd with indigenous leader Blanca Chancosa from Ecuador to discuss the native Andean concept of vivir bien (“living well”) and related alternative visions from indigenous peoples in Asia and to speak about struggles to achieve their rights.

Focus on the Global South recently undertook a series of exploratory discussions with indigenous peoples, social movements and civil society organizations in Asia to see what can be learned about the concept of “Vivir Bien” as developed in South America; how similar concepts are practiced throughout Asian societies, and whether these concepts can provide feasible alternatives to the neoliberal model.

This publication is based on those discussions, which occurred in Thailand, India and the Philippines in the first months of 2013.

Vivir Bien is a Spanish phrase used to describe the way of life of indigenous peoples in the Andes region of South America.

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