Credible Rights Based Alternative VS Economic Alternative

I wrote this text as an answer to some questions Nazmul Ahsan (Senior Program Officer at ActionAid Bangladesh) asked to the colleagues. Maybe it could be useful to clarify some issue at stake in our program work.

Does Economic Alternative can create credible rights based alternative? it is complementary or supplementary?

First of all, I think is necessary to agree about the terms. In the ActionAid Human Right Based Approach manual, People’s Action In Practice (available here: only feminist economic alternatives is defined, as “innovative solutions that seek to address the gender biases in the present economic system (at both micro and macro levels) and that recognise the significance of unpaid care work”, while alternatives are defined as “ideas which stretch the scope of our existing interventions or frameworks – promising something different for the future, something positive, something that changes systems”.

Whithin this framework, we must consider as economic alternative only a structural change, as, for instance, a more fair fiscal system? Maybe not: further in the handbook the scope of economic alternative is narrowed a little bit; we read “A lot of our work in promoting economic alternatives for women will focus on young women, reducing the multiple responsibilities of care work they juggle and helping them find new forms of sustainable income“.

Holding that true, we can say that economic and right based alternative are intertwined and complementary.

Intertwined because, for instance, a fairer tax system is both a right based and an economic alternative; the same is for a minimum income scheme.

Complementary, because, for example, strengthening small business held by people in poverty, is an economic alternative (to overcome poverty), that, along with other economic alternatives (as strengthening occupability), is necessary, but not sufficient to overcome poverty. For example, not all people could run a small business or find a decent work, because of illness, age, or discrimination.

In the same way, right based alternatives are necessaries, but not sufficient too. A minimum income it’s right to create a safety net for people in poverty, but it isn’t an answer for a young or adult women or man who would like to have a job. To put another example: a universal health system is a fundamental right based alternative, very useful to prevent people to fall in poverty, but it’s not sufficient to overcome poverty in itself.

Where the economic alternative hit to change the structural cause?

Somehow I’ve answered this question above, showing how right based and economic alternatives are intertwined.

It’s clear that the micro economic alternatives doesn’t change the system, but insert some people into the system; they are alternative because they change – or may change – the power relations.

I can add that, from an historical and empirical point of view, the two side have a circular feedback: people who are improving their economic position, will probably fight for their rights (not only economic), while universal civil, political and social rights give all opportunities to have economic alternatives.

What are the key aspects we need to ensure in our work on creating economic alternative?

I think this question deals with many many issues, but I try to answer with three points:

1) Economic alternatives (in the broad and narrow meaning) have to be effective. If a family starts a small business, it has to be sustainable in the long term, and give the family the very opportunity to escape poverty.

2) Economic alternatives has to be also environmental and social sound. This goal, of course, many times clashes with the first point, but an unjust economic activity is, by definition, not an alternative.

3) Said that, the “problem” of the economic alternatives (and, I think of most of the economic realm) is that many changes – not all, but many – are beneficial to someone and detrimental to others, at least in a comparative way. This point has to be kept in mind, notwithstanding it’s quite impossible to deal with it and, at the same time, do something in this field.

The triple helix and the humanist vocation

Triple helix and humanist vocation

The concept of triple helix, in “The Capitalization of Knowledge“, is well conceptualized for technological fields, but not for the humanities. Institution and (social) services are less relevant in this analysis. However, the most relevant innovations may happen in the processes. And processes are governed by discourse, which, in turn, is lead by the humanities, as we can draw from the insightful column by  David Brooks.

But are processes governed by discourse? Actually, most of us, who works as project managers, had lost this very understanding. Can we blame the logical framework model? Maybe; but, if we embraced it, if even us, grown up among humanities have embraced it, it’s only our mistake. Of course: logical framework model is in itself a discourse, but we have to see it as is it, not something that stay before or above any discourse.

We have to use the right words in the right order: because discourses shape the world, and the processes that happen within this world; understand that the way I describe things is more important that things in themselves. Innovation trees grows within this text woven.

(*) John Webster, master orator at his best at Speakers’ Corner, Sydney, dwld from and P. Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, dwld from

Transparency and human rights

Transparency and human rightsPresented at the 10° Nexa Lunch Seminar – Transparency Decree: a FOIA or “just” Open Data?.

It is maybe difficult, at the first glimpse, to draw a strong link between transparency and human rights. However, the relationship is bold, and here I’ll try to highlight briefly some of the issues that put together transparency and human rights. It’s is not by chance that transparency gained importance in the last strategy of ActionAid, the NGO I work for. ActionAid is an international organisation, working with over 15 million people in 45 countries for a world free from poverty and injustice.

Accountability is the first bridge between transparency and human rights. To held someone accountable about something we need to know with a high degree of clarity who the duty bearer is, who is the right holder, to which right the latter is entitled to. Without a clear picture about that, any campaign or advocacy action would be vane, or misplaced, or biased. It’s true that there is a long path from the identification of the right you are entitled to, and who is responsible to that, and the respect or fulfillment of this right. But it is also true that, in a very complex system, as contemporary societies are, the first is already a big step.

The second link is corruption, or, better, freedom from corruption. As a very interesting report by International Council on Human Rights Policy and Transparency International points out, corrupt acts violates human rights directly – for example when you have to pay a bribe in order to be treated by a doctor, otherwise you won’t; or indirectly, when, for example, organized crime could enforce his law, not being constrained by corrupted public authorities. Then, it’s simple to draw the relationship between lack of transparency and corruption.

Good governance is the third bridge between t. and hr.. This relationship is two-folded. One: citizens and civil society has to know the evidence on which the public decision are made; two, they have to know, as far as it’s possible, which is the relationship between the evidence and the decision.

An example from local social policies: the benefits to poor people. As a citizen I have to know:

1) at which level of poverty public authorities understand that a person have to receive a money benefit;
2) how many people fulfil this condition;
3) how many people receive the benefit, and how many fulfil the condition and do not receive the benefit, and:
4) based on what public authorities decide to put the money on these benefit, instead of putting money on housing for elderly people, or to services to disabled people, and so on.

I do think that, in the current situation of spending cuts, this kind of transparency, together with participation and involvement of citizens and civil society, would provide on one hand, better decisions, and, on the other hand, some kind of co-responsabilization by the public for the hard decisions made.

Incentives and impediments in conservation of Euterpe edulis Mart. in quilombolas communities from Ribeira Valley

Juçara inventory
Juçara inventory. Jan. 2010. Credit: Luca Fanelli/ ISA

This paper analyzes the results of an Atlantic Forest enriched with seeds from palm juçara in Quilombo Communities in the Ribeira Valley – SP, as well as the difficulties and bottlenecks involved in implementation of sustainable management of this species. The work was constructed from field survey of populations of the palm and also in workshops and participant observation. The results indicate the need for improving incentives in public policy and in collective management of natural resource.

Luca A. Fanelli, Nilto I. Tatto, Eduardo P. C. Gomes, Clovis J. Oliveira Jr., Incentivos e impedimentos na conservação de Euterpe edulis Mart. em comunidades quilombolas do Vale do Ribeira, «Revista Brasileira de Agroecologia», 7(2): 51-62.

Full text in Portuguese.

The right to change

Cover of the ActionAid's book

On the occasion of the United Nations’ World Day of Social Justice, ActionAid International Italy launched a new book: Il diritto di cambiare. Le sfide della giustizia sociale in Italia e nel mondo [The right to change. The challenges of the social justice in Italy and in the world] (ed. Infinito).

“Social justice – as we read on the back cover – is the opportunity for everyone to be included in her/his own society, to participate to the decision making that affect him/her, and to be granted a sufficient level of security, of education and of access to information”.

But why “the right to change”? In order to mainstream social justice, a deep change is needed; and the willingness of a person and of a community «to engage him/herself is the first requirement for those who pursue a change» (p. 10).

The book points out some cases of promotion of the social justice, in the Southern as in the Northern part of the world, organised in three main areas: food right, women rights and citizen participation.

The book resulted from a joint work within the organisation. I contributed with the research for the case related to food right in Italy.

ActionAid International Italy web site.

Link to book page on the publisher website (in Italian).

New function on tropos: relationships

Now is possible to see if and how two persons/ institutions are related one to another.

On the “list” page of the tropos website, choose two persons/ institutions and see if they are related, and who’s the “bridge” between the two ones.

The results are still limited to a two-step relationship; in other words, if there are three step from one persons/ institution until another one, the relationship won’t be found).