Degrowth Vienna 2020 – A legal approach to beyond GDP indicators: possibilities and limits

Presentation [part of the standard session “Institutional Change 1”]

How can law contribute to the use of indicators that measure progress in an alternative manner? What are the limits thereof? This session will explore legal definitions and operationalizations of “beyond Gross Domestic Product” metrics by examining concrete existing legislation.

Presenters: Norman Vander Putten (Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles)

Language: English with translation to German

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The lens of ecological law: a look at mining

Containing an in-depth study of the emerging theory and core of ecological law, this book insightfully proposes a ‘lens of ecological law’ through which the disparity between current laws and ecological law can be assessed. The lens consists of three principles: ecocentrism, ecological primacy and ecological justice. These principles are used within the book to explore and analyse the challenges and opportunities related to the transition to ecological law and to examine three key mining case studies.

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Alternative territorialities for black peoples in Colombia: a reading of the post-development approach

Esta presentación explica el concepto de ‘territorio’ de las comunidades negras del Pacífico colombiano y su interpretación judicial como alternative descolonizadora del modelo de desarrollo.

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Taxation

Chair: Elly Schlein, MEP (S&D)
Panellists: Tove Maria Ryding (Tax Justice Coordinator at the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad)), Sol Piciotto (Emeritus Professor of law of Lancaster University, Member of the Advisory Group of the International Centre for Tax and Development), Richard Murphy (Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK, Non-Executive Director of Cambridge Econometrics), Philip Kerfs (OECD, Head of the International Cooperation division)

Willkommen bei der Erdbeerernte! Ihr Mindestlohn beträgt…. – Gewerkschaftliche Organisierung in der migrantischen Landarbeit: ein internationaler Vergleich

“Wir bekommen Lohnzettel, wo alles richtig draufsteht. Der Lohn wird jeden Monat am gleichen Tag auf unser Konto überwiesen. Und wenn wir Überstunden leisten, dann werden die ausbezahlt.”

Was nach “ganz normalem” Lohnarbeitsverhältnis klingen könnte, ist hart erkämpftes Terrain: Nach wie vor ist die landwirtschaftliche Lohnarbeit eine der prekärsten Branchen. Bezahlung weit unter Kollektivvertrag, unbezahlte Überstunden, inadäquate Unterkünfte stehen auf der Tagesordnung. Wir haben migrantische Landarbeiter_innen, Gewerkschafter_innen und Aktivist_innen von Irland bis Italien, von Österreich bis Spanien gefragt, wie sie in Europa für Papiere, soziale Rechte und gute Arbeitsbedingungen kämpfen.
(Beschreibung des Verlags)

ISBN: 978-3-200-04799-0

The Right to Development in a Climate Constrained World

Introduction of the summary:
Climate science tells us that we’ve pushed beyond ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,’ and are on the verge of committing to catastrophic interference. In this context, it’s necessary to raise our heads, if only for a moment, from the tactical scrum, and to consider brute necessity. To that end, we argue for a stringent mitigation pathway (one that can only be achieved by way of an international emergency program) that would give us a reasonable probability of keeping global warming below 2ºC. This implies a pathway that would have global emissions peak in 2015 and then drop at a resolute six percent per year, to reach a level of 80 percent below 1990 levels in 2050. Along the way, CO2 concentrations would peak near 425 ppm (with CO2-equivalent levels reaching about 470 ppm) before they began to fall.

Such an emergency pathway is, to be sure, a technical challenge; but it’s even more a political challenge. After all, the defining political reality of the climate crisis is that we confront it within a profoundly and bitterly divided world characterised by staggering levels of poverty amid enormous (and growing) wealth. And while the usual path from poverty to prosperity is via a development process that entails dramatic increases in the per capita use of fossil fuel energy, this path must be closed. Any future in which it’s taken by even a significant fraction of the world’s poor is a future in which dramatically rising carbon emissions make a mockery of emergency rhetoric.

The whole report can be downloaded for free on the webside of the publishers.

ISBN: 978-3-927760-71-4

Trees and springs as social property: a perspective on degrowth and redistributive democracy from a Brazilian squatter community

Abstract: Questions concerning the maldistribution of property and productive resources continue to inform debates about how to bring about societies that are livable, equitable, and ecologically sustainable. In the diverse imaginaries of revolutionary, utopian, socialist, and anti-capitalist politics — together with their adversaries — the notions of “collective” and “private” property have often been conceived as mutually exclusive and exhaustive alternatives. Drawing from several years of ethnographic research with rural squatters in the cacao lands of Bahia, Brazil, the author brings together alternative ways of conceptualizing property that can help overcome this lingering dichotomy and fruitfully inform new political projects. The article examines local practices of property-making through two cases focused on the private ownership and stewardship of natural springs, and the processes whereby squatters convert forest into agroforest. The analysis highlights the ways in which these “private” properties are intersected by “public” interests and “collective” practices, while considering the different kinds of relations that these intersections afford among people and between humans and the non-human environment. Based on these cases, the author suggests that current conversations about “degrowth” may benefit by drawing together frameworks from political ecology, economic anthropology, and property jurisprudence. The presentation concludes by highlighting potential synergies between concerns for degrowth and claims for property democratization.

Journal of Political Ecology 24: 644-666.

This is the fourteenth article in Lisa L. Gezon and Susan Paulson (eds.) 2017. “Degrowth, culture and power”, Special Section of the Journal of Political Ecology, 24: 425-665.

> Introduction and overview over other articles of the Special Section

Sufficiency, degrowth and sustainable consumption

Keywords: Sustainable consumption, sufficiency, Great Transformation, satisfiers and needs, good life, labour, design, human rights

Sustainable Consumption Transitions Series Issue 6, 25

A European Citizens’ Initiative for implementation of The human right to water and sanitation in European law.

Summary: The United Nations have recognised the universal human right to water and sanitation on 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292. In this resolution the UN acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are key factors to the accomplishment of all human rights. The Resolution calls upon States and international organisations to provide financial resources, help in capacity-building and technology transfer with the objective to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. The resolution was hailed by many as a “historic” achievement, but as the international community commemorated the second anniversary of that resolution in July 2012, there was hardly any political rejoicing either inside or outside the United Nations. (IPS, 2012)
“This human right is yet to be fully implemented,” complained a coalition of 15 international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), whose members describe themselves as “water justice activists”. “Two years on we have not yet seen the sort of step change in effort needed to reverse the historical neglect of water and, more particularly, sanitation in international development cooperation” added Tom Slaymaker, senior policy analyst at WaterAid.
The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. The European Union shall contribute to (…) eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights. The rule of law and human rights are not the only principles on which the European Union is founded. The expansion of a common market has arguably been more influential. (Both Ends, 2008)
A European Citizens’ Initiative is a means for participatory democracy. Citizens can bring an issue to the European political agenda by collecting one million signatures coming from at least seven different countries. The European federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) decided to take up this challenge and try to put the ‘human right to water and sanitation’ on the EU agenda, with overarching goal of implementing the human right to water and sanitation in European legislation. The aims of this European Citizens’ Initiative are to ensure water and sanitation for every person in the European Union; to achieve universal (global) access to water and sanitation and to safeguard the limited public water resources for future generations.
Water is not a commodity; it is a fundamental human right and a public (common) good. The campaign aims to ensure that water is seen as a public good and that protecting our water environment prevails over commercial interests. The mind-set of the European Commission is currently that of a market-based approach with the focus on competition. This approach is only increasing inequalities and not serving a more equitable, sustainable and just society. A rights-based approach is advocated.
In the implementation of the right to water and sanitation, special consideration must be given to certain groups: women, workers and rural communities. Women are disproportionately affected by the absence of clean water and the lack of private sanitation facilities, yet often left out of policy and decision-making spheres. Workers in water services should be involved in all aspects of the provision of water services, also in decision-making processes. Rural communities are vulnerable as big urban centres fan out looking for new sources of water. The right to water and sanitation means that they should be in control over their sources of water and watersheds.
Realization of the human right to water and sanitation must be built on justice for all these groups. The ECI is a tool for participatory democracy and to be tested in its usefulness to achieve implementation of this human right and to achieve a (paradigm-)shift in EU (water) policy.

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.

Migrations in the Paradigm of Growth

Abstract: Migration flows are, in a measure, the consequence of dominant economic models, namely the growth paradigm that currently permeates the world. Migrations are the result of different human needs, first of all the need to survive. Naturally, the decision to move towards an unknown destination is also influenced by cultural models: nowadays, the collective imagination of the North is built on the image of an enormous richness in consumption goods. This conviction also applies, on a smaller scale, to the Asian and African megalopolises, that attract masses of poor people pushed by a mirage of well-being. The result is the increase of migration flows both at national and international levels. At the national level, an increasing number of farmers is pushed to leave the countryside, often poor but based on local subsistence economies and rich in social connections, to move to miserable suburbs, surrounded by draws and waste (often imported by the rest of the world).
Migrations towards rich countries are often hindered by national governments but secretly supported by businessmen, pleased by the arrival of unskilled workforce which permits to reduce the labour costs and negatively affects the collective force of national workers. Nevertheless, legislations make it difficult to cross borders. Fences or warships are put in place to stop the flows, thus making the “journey of hope” more expensive and less human: lots of migrants lose their life in the attempt to reach the Western paradise or are subjected to inhuman treatments. If they succeed in reaching the destination, migrants are usually employed in dangerous sectors, underpaid or unpaid or become another puppet in the market of sexual exploitation. By a lucky chance, they might also be employed as domestic help, even though this often means becoming part of the black market. Not even the attempt to escape from inhuman dictatorships guarantees a secure status in accordance with the right of asylum, as demonstrated by the barriers encountered by the refugees landed in the past years in Italy from Libya.
Italy represents an excellent example when referring to migrants and the growth pattern. The legislation is mainly shaped on the model of the liberal economy based on growth: the access to the Italian territory is allowed only in function of economic needs and the permit of stay is strictly connected to the working status of the applicant. Thus, if the migrant is dismissed, he/she will lose the permit of stay, consequently losing all the relationships and the achievements built during the stay. The permit of stay is characterized by a sense of insecurity and precariousness, which makes the migrant weak and unprotected from blackmail arising from the employer, the landlord, even the partner. Migrants easily pass from being a source of profit to becoming waste. Moreover, the legislation hampers the family reunification, the issue of the citizenship as well as the access to the school and the health system. De facto, migrants in Western countries result to be guests, welcome with suspect but strongly exploited to produce useless goods that invade the market at limited prices or to become a good themselves, as in the case of prostitutes. If the migrant succeeds in escaping from this vicious circle, he/she easily becomes part of the criminal system.
Migrants indirectly allow the survival of the economic system, even because they often turn into willing consumers, not extremely wealthy but little conscious and critical in consumption. Moreover, they also import this life-style into their native land. They tearfully become ambassadors of an unreal, shining world, thus unconsciously contributing to the demolishment of the last local economies.

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.

Eco-rifugiati o eco-sfollati? I popoli indigeni e i diritti alla terra, al clima e alla sovranità alimentare.

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012. – only available in Italian

The case of Hirsi Jamaa and others V. Italy and the right to have rights The Migration – Degrowth Nexus

From the paper: The novelty of the Hirsi Jamaa case is the new exploit that the principle of not refoulement, must be observed also on the high seas by the European States, because the rescue operations on the high seas are cases of extra-territorial exercise of the jurisdiction of that State. Under International Law concerning the protection of refugees, the decisive test in establishing the responsibility of a State was not whether the person being returned was on the territory of a State but whether that person fell under the effective control and authority of that State. Accordingly, the events giving rise to the alleged violations fall within Italy’s “jurisdiction” with the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention: “The High Contracting Parties shall secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of [the] Convention.”

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.

How is degrowth possible?

From the introduction: 1. Growth versus universalism – In what sense is growth evil? We can say that it is iniquitous, unjust. Indeed it contradicts the principle which lays down the universal validity as criterion of value since it is good for some people but bad for a lot of other people. Nowadays we could say, referring to “Occupy Wall Street”, that growth is good for 1% of people but is evil for the remaining 99%. Growth being iniquitous is increasingly evident. It is clear as a matter of fact and it is becoming more and more evident also in principle.

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.

The virtuous circle of Degrowth and Ecological Debt: a new paradigm for Public International Law?

From the introduction: The seventh G20 was hosted by Mexico in Los Cabos on the 18 th and 19 th June of 2012. After the USA, the UK, France and South Korea, all rated as “developed”, “high-income” countries, it was for the first time a developing country’s turn to direct the Leader’s Summit. However, the out-coming response put forward as an answer to the global world issues remain unchanged and univocal: growth, growth, growth. As an anecdotal but yet eloquent fact, we noted 55 occurrences of the word crecimiento (growth) in the final Spanish declaration, and Public international law (IL) is no exception in this trend. What has been called since the 60’s «development law», specifically applicable to «underdeveloped countries» is an illustration of this evolution towards a global capitalist order seeking to produce and consume always more. Its ideology rests on Rostow’s take- off theory from the early sixties according to which every country should follow the great path of evolution of first world countries and “grow” toward a society of mass-consumption and productivism, what we would call a “growth society” or “society of growth”.

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.

Organic farming in the Italian penitentiary system to rehabilitate detainees

Introduction: (description of the project / activity) The Italian Association for Organic Farming (AIAB), has been involved in an intense activity on social agriculture within the Italian penitentiary system. The project “Social farming and detention: a future pact”, carried out on 2009 and supported by the Italian Ministry of Labor and Social Policies together with the Ministry of Justice, realized studies, researches and training courses regarding organic agricultural activities within prisons. The project focused on both the census of the activities within the prisons on nationwide and agricultural work quality for the training and rehabilitation of detainees. The project aimed at checking the food activity potential for the inmates and for those people under alternatives to imprisonment. Furthermore the project aimed at checking the employment opportunities to use at the end of the imprisonment, particularly in the organic production sector. The project mainly regarded the following objectives:
-to check the opportunities of agricultural activity to provide new professional skills to detainees, by the use of agricultural lands within prisons;
-to identify employment opportunities in agricultural sector for people under alternatives to imprisonment, according to the Italian penitentiary regulation (L. n. 354/1975);
-to identify the rehabilitation power of the work carried out in an organic system, in order to improve the accountability either the well-being of the detainees and to facilitate the social reintegration at the end of the imprisonment
-to improve the communication and integration between the detainees and the local communities living near by the prison.
The project aimed at creating a less distressing life perspective, enhancing the agricultural work inside and outside the prisons. The activities carried out on farm have highly involved the detainees. The work on the farm is flexible and multifunctional, including a strong relationship with plants and animals. Thus the work showed to have a strong potential in terms of social inclusion and rehabilitation of disadvantages people (with mental and physical disabilities) together with the detainees. The same results have been carried out in the prisons where the inmates work with organic method. The organic production involves all the prisons although not all production is certified.

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.