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What COP20 can learn from the Sumak Kawsay (Good Living) philosophy

What COP20 can learn from the Sumak Kawsay (Good Living) philosophy

By Valeria Vidal

The social philosophy of Good Living must be internalized by both leaders and citizens during COP20 that took place in our country. Good Living has already begun to create changes in South America, especially in Bolivia and Ecuador, and is focused on a search to generate a good standard of living for all, based on placing happiness and quality of life at the center of attention, which Among other things, it involves consuming less and developing a sense of collectivity and cooperation.

The development approach of Ecuador and Bolivia is based on their respective indigenous pasts, on valuing their worldview, incorporating the concept of Sumak Kawsay of the Quechua peoples of the Andes, translated into Spanish as Good Living. Sumak Kawsay describes a life in ecologically balanced and culturally sensitive, centered on community and respect for nature.

Ecuador has made history by incorporating principles and guidelines on Good Living in its constitution in 2008, which has gradually generated a recognized positive social change. This change is part of the construction of a model of life for citizens in which human activity must use natural resources in sync with their natural regeneration. The same Ecuadorian constitution highlights "the exercise of responsibilities and harmonious coexistence with nature" in Article 275.

The economic and social development of a country relies to a great extent on the relationship of the State with the market and society. Recognizing that a fundamental factor was missing in this equation, countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia have included nature as a central part of the Sumak Kawsay plan, which implies “improving the quality of life of the population, developing their capacities and potentialities; have an economic system that promotes equality through the social and territorial redistribution of development benefits; promote the effective participation of citizens in all areas of public interest, establish a harmonious coexistence with nature; guarantee national sovereignty, promote Latin American integration; and protect and promote cultural diversity, ”(Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, Art. 276).

The Good Living philosophy teaches us that life should not be lived based on the economy, but, on the contrary, the economy should be at the service of life. Many countries take attempts in the direction of limiting economic powers, but, on the other hand, they do not strengthen collectivity and cooperation. This is one of the most important pillars of the Sumak Kawysay philosophy.

In many parts of the world capitalism promotes individual rights as a fundamental and overriding principle. In the case of Good Living, it must be exercised as long as it also contributes to the rights of peoples and nature.

This alternative paradigm incites much criticism, but when applied properly, the principles of Buen Vivir can certainly coexist with market capitalism. An economy structured according to the Good Living would require significant changes in the modes of production, especially in agriculture and its size. Small-scale production has a number of advantages: it is more likely to reflect and enhance local culture and needs, include local people, and protect the environment.

The Sumak Kawsay philosophy, like many philosophies, continues to develop and must adapt to modern times, to a global world. In its essence, it describes a way of life and development that sees the social, cultural, environmental and economic in harmony and balance, not being seen and prioritized separately, hierarchically, as is now observed. This is the idea that should inspire our country at COP20 and in the future. Good Living gathers ancestral knowledge that today serves to generate new ideas and perspectives that should guide the development models that the country decides to adopt.

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