Ten Years of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA): Progress, Problems, and Prospects
Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London, February 26, 2015
Keynote speaker: Olivier Dabène (Sciences Po, Paris)
President of the Political Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean (OPALC),
author of “The Politics of Regional Integration in Latin America” (Palgrave, 2009)
It is now a decade since the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) emerged as a cooperative, people-centred, solidarity-based alternative to the US-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). With the support of major social movements and the success of its emblematic “doctors for oil” exchange between founders Venezuela and Cuba, ALBA soon grew to include Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Ecuador, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and St Lucia. Innovative initiatives proliferated, not least an alternative trade framework (the People’s Trade Agreement, TCP), a virtual currency (SUCRE), an oil-backed soft-loan scheme (Petrocaribe), state multinationals (“Grandnationals”), an intraregional development bank (ALBA Bank), and numerous internationalised health “missions”. Most unusually of all, many initiatives extended beyond ALBA’s explicit membership and into the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, with a pioneering attempt to involve everyday citizens in regional governance through ALBA’s Council of Social Movements.
But much has changed since 2004, both in ALBA’s member-states and in the region more broadly. The New Left trend is no longer New, but questions remain about the nature and durability of the Leftism(s) driving it, especially with change afoot in Venezuela and Cuba after Chávez and (Fidel) Castro. While ALBA emerged alongside other “post(neo)liberal” regional projects like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the region’s tangled institutional web has since become more conflictive with the signing of various bi- and multilateral agreements of a more traditionally neoliberal character. ALBA has also faced opposition within member-states, the wider region, and beyond, most notably proving unable to prevent Honduras’ exit following the ouster of its left-leaning president. And even post-crisis the headwinds of globalisation persist, with a recent drop in commodity prices jeopardising the resources that have underwritten much of ALBA’s progress to date.
By bringing together scholars of ALBA from various disciplines – with levels of analysis from the micro to the macro – this one-day conference will address not only ALBA’s achievements and innovations, but also its difficulties and tensions, asking: what can be learnt from its achievements so far? What are its prospects for the future? And what are the implications both theoretical and practical for the region and beyond?
Contributions relating to any area of ALBA’s diverse activity are invited, though broad thematic areas include:
- ALBA’s achievements and impacts over the last decade (specific or general)
- Researching ALBA: methodological/analytical issues, trends in the literature
- Popular and social-movement participation in ALBA
- Governance innovations and tensions, including postures/involvement of individual member-states
- Social justice, social policy, and human development within ALBA
- ALBA’s relationship to New Left “postneoliberal” development models
- Interactions with other regional and international institutions, and ALBA as an actor in the wider world
- Historical and philosophical antecedents and underpinnings
- The future of ALBA and its initiatives, including internal and external threats to sustainability
Abstracts (250 words) should be submitted by 6pm, Wednesday 21 January, 2015 (via Google Forms – or for full-panel submissions contact email@example.com). Subsequent to the event, speakers may be invited for inclusion in an edited collection published by ILAS.