The neoliberal period openly declared in the 1990s, flows in the face of a reality of globalisation that capitalises on the deterritorialization of productive processes. This has been made possible by the implementation of policies that have facilitated, as Bourieu (1997) points out, the reduction of labour costs, the reduction of public spending, and the flexibilization of labour. In addition, it guarantees companies the right to overexploit natural resources, commodifying life itself through the deregulation of economic activities.

It is important to highlight that, during this period, both indigenous peoples and small producers have been excluded from a project of systemic destruction of the collective, prioritising private property, individuality, and competition, where these forms differ from the communitarian and solidarity-based logic traditionally experienced by both actors, but which represents an obstacle to the expansion of the free market.

This impulse of the new dimension of capitalism that penetrates Latin America through the so-called Washington Consensus, dictating the public policies applied by the continent’s governments as a condition for the reconfiguration of the foreign debt, increases social inequality, leading to an increase in poverty to previously unrecorded levels.[1]

Society’s response to this panorama has been a path of struggles, proposals, and permanent dialogue at different levels. However, an almost generalized social effect is the emergence of organizational forms that in some cases have had an impact on legal frameworks that have redirected countries, in the so-called new “Latin American Constitutionalism”.[2]

Resistance alternatives, such as the case of indigenous peoples, have played an important role in Latin America, making the continent visible as a multicultural and multi-ethnic territory. They have also promoted environmental rights linked to indigenous rights, giving nature recognition as a subject of rights. To this we can incorporate the contribution of models of coexistence Buen vivir (sumak kawsay) and Vivir bien (suma kamaña).

Other actors appear in search of pathways that offer alternatives to the system, reconsidering the bases of other economies. In this way, a large movement has been built, showing that, based on collective, ancestral, and alternative knowledge, another world is possible, with ways of producing, transforming and distributing in greater harmony with mother earth. Indigenous peoples, farmers, women’s movements, young people, workers, urban and rural movements have built experiences, consolidating from practice the bases for proposals that can move from fact to law.

The experiences of Ecuador and Bolivia, for example, place at the heart of the controversy a discrepancy between the rights of native peoples and the processes of neoliberalism with clear intentions of annihilation. In these territories, diversity seeks space to manifest the wealth of expressions marked in each object that is brought to the market, expanding the structures of exchange that break with monetization, making room for barter, tequio, and other solidarity-based forms of community building.

Both Bolivia and Ecuador have succeeded in bringing the voice of the native peoples to the forefront through important struggles, shaping laws that have been a challenge to put into practice in the face of resistance from the economic powers generated in the neoliberal period. This process has been an unfinished path for organisations that are committed to the day-to-day exercise of their rights with a permanent dialogue that modifies power relations, bringing social democratisation to reality.

In Bolivia, the Solidarity Economy and Fair-Trade Movement (MESYCJ) was born in 2008 from the collective work of textile representatives, farmers, leather artisans, fresh and processed food, as well as artisanal workers. Along the way, various cooperatives producing coffee, cocoa, and quinoa have become involved.

MESYCJ presents itself as a promoter, disseminator, and defender of other forms of the economy where it works with the principles of solidarity, reciprocity, mutual respect, and now, with an emphasis on development in all areas of women.

It has participated in the elaboration and socialization of the Plurinational Strategic Plan of Bolivia in coordination with the Ministry of Productive Development and Plural Economy and the Vice-Ministry of Domestic Trade and Exports. As well as the organization of spaces for debate on the instruments of solidarity economy and fair trade[3].

In the case of Ecuador, organisations such as the Movement of Social and Solidarity Economy (MESSE) as mentioned by Perez (2022)[4], have succeeded in getting small and medium-sized producers in the area to carry out solidarity fairs as a strategy to improve farmers’ commercialisation through short circuits, revaluing the importance of family farming in rural and urban territories, achieving the recovery of fairer social relations of production and exchange between the countryside and the city. It also allows for the conservation and recovery of agro-biodiversity, promoting the recognition of local production, strengthening food security and sovereignty through agro-ecological small-scale farmers.

The experiences of Bolivia and Ecuador are based on profound changes. However, these are long transitional paths with a permanent dialogue of reconstruction to put into practice the results of economic resistance. The participation of social organisations as spokespersons in the construction of public policies allows the institutionalisation of these processes of resistance, positioning self-managed and collective work as a priority.

However, in Latin America, social, political, and cultural processes are as diverse as its territory. There are countries such as Brazil, which is pushing for change based on adjustments to a pre-existing framework, where it is faced with an inequitable distribution of land, and where the search for justice has generated organisations such as the Landless Movement, which has led to mobilisations of more than 60,000 families.

In the case of countries such as Peru and Mexico, public policy initiatives have been carried out because of farmers’ movements, but the constitutional frameworks have not benefited processes of national impact. Despite this, they have generated local initiatives that have managed to put necessary modifications on the political agenda in the face of the effects that arise from a system based on social and natural overexploitation.

In this search for a more equitable and just world, the role of women has been fundamental. Starting from the fact that in Latin America more than 50% of households are headed by a woman, who, with the presence or absence of the man, suffers the effects of lack of job protection, finding an alternative in self-managed work, which allows for economic income, in addition to the task of raising children or caring for others.

Women’s organisations can have various purposes such as empowerment, human rights, feminist, or livelihood purposes.[5]

These organisations face difficulties such as social criticism and family violence because of working outside the home. In the case of many women, they are doing it for the first time. On the other hand, these organisations manage to generate a collective awareness of the condition of being a woman, in some cases modifying their social and political position.

Latin America shows forms of construction in public policy advocacy, with a wide diversity of actors who have experienced the effects of a neoliberalism that has modified an important part of their territory. However, the social movements of farmers, women, youth, indigenous, urban and rural communities demonstrate that another world is possible through organisation, dialogue, collectivity and solidarity.


By Rosario Anaya, Native Peoples Commission and Karin Berlien


[1] 200 million poor. 70 million more than in the 1980s, Calvento, 2006.

[2] Mentioned in the article “Nuevo Constitucionalismo, derechos y medio ambiente en las constituciones de Ecuador y Bolivia” (New Constitutionalism, rights and the environment in the constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia). Aparicio, 2011.

[3]Taken from Document prepared by the Gender Commission of RIPESS LAC.

[4] Pérez Deysi, 2022. Member of RIPESS LAC as part of the advocacy committee.

[5] Cañadel, R. 1996