By: Lucero Adriana Blanco Zambrano, co-coordinator of RIPESS LAC 2023- 2025

With the slogan: “Associativity for the construction of territorial peace“, the XVI International Encounter of Solidarity Economy took place last 27th, 28th and 29th of July in the Colombian city of Neiva, which simultaneously articulated the first meeting of the National Assembly of Solidarity, Popular and Community Economy. RIPESS LAC participated with contributions on a more inclusive, multicultural and critical look at the environmental commitment of the SSE.

On 27 July, the panel “Solidarity-based Associativity on the International Agenda” was held, which provided elements for analysis from the perspective of international cooperation and the various economic, social and political interests. This was followed by another panel on “Alternative Economies” and then by thematic roundtables. In the framework of the thematic tables and specifically in the International Table, the spokesperson of RIPESS LAC participated together with people from the Agroecological Movement of Latin America and the Caribbean (MAELA), the Forum Network of Transformative and Alternative Economies Colombia, LAT; Campaign for a Global Curriculum of the Social and Solidarity Economy; the University of Buen Vivir; the Association of Cooperatives and Solidarity Enterprises of Huila (ASOCOOP) and the Central of Integration and Cooperative Training (CINCOOP).

At this roundtable, the “Latin American Pact for Solidarity-based Associativity for Peace” was worked on and defined, highlighting the intentions to continue strengthening aspects of the integration of the common objectives of the SSE at the Latin American and Caribbean level.

The confluence of the two events, the Meeting and the Assembly, brought together almost two thousand people from the popular, solidarity and community economy movements in Colombia and 16 other countries, thus generating political momentum with the current Colombian
government and its National Development Plan and its emphasis on the popular and alternative economy.

On the 28th and 29th, spaces were created for the participation of the grassroots organisations present, which had previously held regional meetings to analyse their community realities, contexts, challenges and expectations. A great methodological challenge was posed for institutional and community integration where listening and the orderly approach of proposals will be the protagonists.

The event ended on 29 July with the presence of the President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro. This made it possible to make the Solidarity Economy visible and give it a prominent role in the country, but it also showed the need to continue strengthening the organisational aspect of the popular economy in order to bring it closer to the solidarity and community economies.

As a challenge to improve, the low participation of women and young people in the installation and spokesperson spaces became evident. This poses a challenge for the organizers of future meetings where women and young people have a relevant role and where the leadership of the new masculinities and others can bring about these necessary changes for real integration based on diversity while allowing generational changes consistent with what the SSE states in terms of broad and inclusive participation.