Rethinking human development, sdgs and collective capabilities from an andean latin american perspective of buen vivir

Chakraborty, Rhyddhi (2018). 'Rethinking Human Development, SDGs and Collective Capabilities from an Andean Latin American Perspective of Buen Vivir' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The proposed panel aims for rethinking the predominant paradigm of development nowadays, deemed to be universally applicable, underscored by both the Human Development Index and annual Human Development Reports. It does so by comparing and contrasting it with the contribution of a novel paradigm that emerged in Andean Latin America, which draws on indigenous worldviews: Buen Vivir also known as Sumaq Kawsay (Kichwa/Quechua) or Sumaq Qamaña (Aymara). More specifically, the panel seeks to contribute to three growing debates in recent years: (1) how to strengthening the intercultural dimensions of human development, in particular with indigenous ontologies and epistemologies, and (2) how to understand the interlocking of human-nature relations and socio-environmental interconnectedness within the capability approach; (3) how the human development approach and the Buen Vivir can build bridges to contribute, altogether, to the expansion of human freedoms. In light of ongoingimplementations of Sustainable Development Goals, bringing together the economic, social, cultural and environmental dimension of development, it appears therefore timely and relevant to rethink human development from the normative proposal of Buen Vivir.

Although broadly diverging in political scope and application, Buen Vivir (“good living”) and Sumaq Kawsay (“living in plenitude”) encompass different values than those promoted by human development and its underlying capability approach (Merino Acuña 2016). In a nutshell, Buen Vivir and Sumaq Kawsay involve claims to justice restoration (Altmann 2017) with regard to internal colonialism (Casanova 1965) as well as international economic and political power constellations, mindsets and thus prevailing “colonialities” (Maldonado-Torres 2007; Quijano and Ennis 2000) with regard to the validity of non-Western knowledges. In addition, BV and SK put weight on collective wellbeing and harmonious balancing among humans and with nature (Rodriguez A. and Waldmüller M. forthcoming). Thus, caring – understood as a collective endeavor – for plants, natural arising and passing and humans is regarded as a central capability (Chuji 2010; Mujica 2014); once apprehended and incorporated, it enables further capabilities to flourish. Preservation of local cultural threads (Osco 2010) and a cyclical understanding of time are thus important, in addition to a duality of energies, including male and female – which points to highly relevant debates with regard to women rights and gender equality (Vega 2013; Chancosa 2010). Correspondingly, at a macro level, neither economic growth nor individual achievements are regarded as overarching goals that should be realized by any means.

Following the BV doctrine, which was enshrined in the Ecuadorian (2008) and Bolivian (2009) constitutions, further pillars of BV were adopted: rights of nature (Ecuador 2008) or rights of Pachamama (2009), interculturality and plurinationality. There is an ongoing formulation of alternative Buen Vivir goals instead of Sustainable Development Goals to be promoted internationally, which may seem diverging from the human development support to the SDGs. It is therefore highly necessary to rethink key notions of the human development paradigm in and for Latin American contexts, such as “capabilities”, “functionings”, “structures of living together” (Deneulin 2008) “human” and not least “development” (the equivalent term in Quechua is kururay, simply meaning “produce” without any connotation of linear time progress).

By untangling the partly conflictive, partly consolidating nature of BV and human development, papers of this panel will address a number of urgent issues relevant to the region and beyond:

- Gender and indigenous rights in BV

- Extractive economies, HD and BV

- Western law and BV, including human and nature rights

- Measurement and indicators between HD, BV and SDGs

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