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Localisation

Source: Hines, C, 2000, From Globalization to Localization - a Potential Rallying Call, London: Earthscan

 

According to Colin Hines, the core aim of the move to localisation is:

providing basic needs sustainably, improving human rights, reducing the power gaps between different groupings and genders, and increasing equity and democratic control over decision making." p.31

Further:

... does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self sufficient, and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardroms of distant corporations and back to the community where it belongs." Michael Shuman, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC, Going Local, cited in p.28 Hines, C.

His thesis is:

  • Localists of the World Unite - There is an Alternative
  • Not right-wing nationalism, not free-market fascism but Protect the Local, Globally

 

Defining local

Different approaches are used to define the boundaries and area coming under the term 'local' - ranging from neighbourhoods to regions spanning many miles, for example:

  • Bioregionalism: a region with specific environmental characteristics, eg. a watershed.
  • The circulation area of local papers (cf. Richard Douthwaite): Different newspapers' circulations relate to overlapping boundaries for different products and services.
  • Social fields: a term used in sociology, e.g. towns of 1500-10,000 with commuting hinterland of 10-15miles radius.
  • Urban: a local area that is defined by distance to nearest supermarket, shopping centre, school, etc.
  • Rural: local can mean a specific village or township

 

Economic boundaries and political factors

In policymaking, the term local is generally defined by economic boundaries:

  • Ultimately it depends on a political decision, dependant on the nature of each good or service.
  • "The politics of localisation must also be inclusive and supportive of localist measures elsewhere that are aimed at improving the lives of the vast majority. This is what used to be termed internationalism:
    "Internationalism covers any interaction that benefits the majority in local economies, and involves communities in the decision-making process. Such flows of information, technology, management and legal structures, trade, aid and investment between continents, would strengthen local economies." (p.31)
  • Predominantly decisions are focused at nation-state level, but, for example, agriculture may have sub-national or regional policies, and aeroplane manufacture involve regional blocs of countries. Groupings are formed at what is considered the optimal size, and may have protective controls to allow for as much internal production as possible.

"The guiding light for such decisions will be to ensure that production is as local as possible for every country. " p.30

 

Protect the Local, Globally

Hines proposes seven main interrelated approaches aimed at increasing local control over economies, to be introduced over a suitable transition period p.62):

  • reintroduction of protective safeguards for domestic economies (tariffs, quotas, etc)
  • a site-to-sell-here policy for manufacturing and services, domestically or regionally
  • localising money, so that the majority stays within its place of origin
  • a local competition policy, to eliminate monopolies from more protected economies
  • resource taxes to increase environmental improvements and help fund the transition
  • increased democratic involvement both politically and economically to ensure the effectiveness and equity of the movement to more diverse local economies
  • reorientation to the end goals of aid and trade rules such that they contribute to the rebuilding of local economies and local control, particularly through the global transfer of relevant information and technology.

 

Policies

Specific policies to encourage the move to localism include:

  • Levels of company taxation set by local and national governments
  • Taxes on energy, resource use and pollution, enabling reduce taxation on labour.
  • Develop regional energy sources
  • Improve economics of smaller production units through new technology (eg computer controlled production)
  • Market-share limit for any one company
  • A General Agreement for Sustainable Trade (GAST), overseen by a World Localization Organization (WLO) with the remit: "to ensure aid policies and flows, information and technological transfer, and residual international trade incorporates the rules of 'fair trading' and is geared to the building up of sustainable local economies. The goal would be to foster maximum employment through sustainable regional self-reliance" (p.36)

 

Done by people

"Historically, significant community development tends mostly to take place when people in a local community are committed to investing their time, skills and resources in the effort." (p.31)

According to John Kretzman and John McKnight, 1996, A Guide to Mapping and Mobilizing the Economic Capacities of Local Residents, The Asset-Based Community Development Institute, Illinois.

"a key is to 'map' local human, institutional and resource assets and to combine and mobilize these strengths to build stronger, more self-reliant communities and hence local economies. This consists of utilizing individuals' skills, the local associations where people assemble to solve problems or share common interests, and the more formal institutions which are located in the community. These include private businesses, public institutions such as schools, libraries, hospitals and social service agencies." (Hines, p.32)

Local control need not guarantee increased democracy, equality, environmental protection, etc. - times of rising uncertainty may well lead to racism, xenophobia, religious fundamentalism. Yet localism could decrease the insecurities which are the basis of extremists:

"A diverse local economy is likely to be inherently demoractic, since it involves a wide range of people's active involvement to make it work." p.34

Increasing activism for the 'cause' of localism was seen at the WTO talks in Seattle, December 1999. Over 1600 organizations participated in a 'Citizen's Millemmium Round', with the demand that: further trade liberalization be halted, and trade rules reviewed and revised.

 

Criteria for effective localisation

  • Good infrastructure: houses, shops and other facilities, accessible with good public transport
  • Good education, training and work opportunities: flourishing diverse local economy and enterprise, meets local needs
  • Resource efficient: low energy, water, waste, pollution and resource use,
  • Good environment: high biodiversity, good air, water and soil, enables people's physical, mental and social wellbeing.
  • Sustainable lifestyles: less unhealthy and unnecessary consumption, information and opportunities to support lifestyle change.
  • Quality information: enables monitoring of social, economic and environmental progress
  • Vibrant and creative culture: thriving community groups and 'pride of place'
  • Participation in decision-making: at high levels and with the means to facilitate local improvements

Examples

The Wise Group, in Glasgow, set up in 1984, has pioneered the 'Intermediate Labour Market', more than 12,000 participated in programmes with 6000 going onto a job, have insulated over 115,000 houses, planted 800,000 trees and made more than 35,000 homes more secure.

 

Business-Community cooperation (p.50)

Business-community cooperation is essential for localisation and could involve:

  • Community Bill of Rights: statement of economic principles and practices
  • State of the City Report
  • Anchor 'Community Corporations'
  • Community-friendly Business Schools
  • Community Finance
  • Community Currency
  • Community-friendly Local Authority
  • Political reform to allow a lobby for localism
  • Translocalism: cooperating with other communities worldwide

See, for example:

Combining trust and know-how: mutuals
Leadbetter C and Christie I 1999, To Our Mutual Advantage, Demos, London, June.

 

 

A Localist Wake-up Call to Political Activists
Now is the time for localization

"At the end of the Second World War in the rich countires as a whole there was a seismic shift. The collapsing effective demand in the Great Depression and its resulting war led to an emphaiss on a massive channeling of national resources into improved social infrastructure, health, education and rebuilding economies with an end goal of full employment and economic security. As general standards of living improved from the 1960s onward, new campaign concerns developed with growing public support. These included concerns about third world poverty, human rights, racism, women's rights and the environment.

"As the world economy worsened for the vast majority, particularly through the 1990s, concerns shifted back to questions of personal security in terms of job permanence, increased crime, community and family breakdown. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in the world's richest country, the US....

"The time appears to have arrived when an economic rethink of the enormity and positive outcome last seen after the Second World War is long overdue. Such a U-turn will occur if it is perceived to be the only way for the huge range of the politically active to achieve their issue-specific campaigns. They can then move from campaign-specific isolation to seeing the mutual advantage of forging themselves into effective alliances. For motives ranging from morality to self-interest, a fundamental change away from globalization towards localization is the way to success for most issues. The strength of such a coalition is that it would range from issues that are of wide and immediate public, business and political concerns (such as jobs and declining demand levels, education and health), to more local issues, eg declining shopping centres. It would also encompass crucial concerns that lose out in times of economic insecurity, such as the environment and reduction of global poverty and inequality.

"The new unified mantra chant needs to emerge from this huge grouping, ranging from international NGOs to local community groups, from small and medium-sized business to unions, from food activists to the culturally concerned. Activists must assert that their campaign demands can only be realized through a move away from distorting national economies to achieve international competitiveness, towards protecting and rebuilding local economies. It's time to lay TINA to rest".

"Localists of the World Unite - There is an Alternative!"
(ibid., p.175)