Just transition to ecological democracy

Just transition refers to the desire of making the ecologically necessary changes, such as phasing out of fossil fuel use, in a manner that promotes at the same time employment and social protection. Ecological democracy describes in brief the key elements of the desirable society; a short hand for ecologically sustainable, politically democratic and socially egalitarian community and a world system.

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030 encourage also civil society actors to work on a systemic level and address the root causes for the environmental and social problems that the world is facing. It will not be sufficient to work on any or even on all of the sustainable development goals separately, but there also has to be action that contributes simultaneously to all the goals.

Siemenpuu believes that part of its efforts need to be directed to work that analyses the drivers of the major problems and works out policy proposals and democratic demands that would transform the negative trends into positive ones. On the ground there is a lot of resistance to developments that would displace communities from their sustainable livelihoods and destroy valuable natural ecosystems. Many times they have been successful in canceling or altering such developments. However, if global aggregate demand for natural resources continues to increase, such defensive outcomes will only put more pressure to other locations. Therefore it is necessary to address also the global demand and the development model that consumes ever more natural resources.


This will be best done in a dialogic process where civil society groups and popular movements are at the centre stage. In this empowering process there is an important role also for researchers and intellectuals who can bring in deep understanding and clear articulation of the complex issues. Understandings regarding destructive structures of globalised over-consumption needs to be coupled to local understandings on how communities can live, defend and sustain the life of their locality. Economic actors from the spheres of cooperative and solidarity economy are thus crucial but cooperation with political leaders and officials who have experience on how the web of power relations work in societal change is also needed.

The phrase ‘a just transition to ecological democracy’ describes the popular demand for an equitable transformation of the society to address the current ecological and development crisis. The dialogues between environmental and labour movement has created the just transition approach for a change to an ecologically sustainable society that promotes at the same time employment and other social benefits. Ecological democracy as a goal of the just transition presents the environmental angle of the idea of comprehensive democracy that incorporate all aspects of life (political, cultural, economic, social, gender and ecological) into one framework. A shift to ecological democracy would be a great leap forward from the current system, where elected representatives have only a limited scope because of the disproportionate power of the 'markets'.

Siemenpuu's partners have been spearheading civil society efforts in working out sustainable development alternatives. In South Asia the work has centred on the idea of comprehensive democracy (swaraaj) with a special emphasis on ecological democracy. In Latin America there has been focused effort on making a good life for all (buen vivir, vivir bien) the central societal objective instead of more narrow ideas such as economic growth.


The World Social Forum events and process have been a central place where such ideas have been developed and cross-fertilised for joint actions, and have for instance supported movement building around the envisioning of other more socially and ecologically just economic paradigm building as that of solidarity economy and the commons. As an initiative from the Global South (namely Brazil) it has played a crucial role in democratising civil society debates and global goal setting. There have been many concrete off-shoots from the forum, such as the Tax Justice Network. CSOs in societies and communities where basic needs are met with an acceptable ecological footprint are well placed to articulate relevant demands related to ecological democracy and to guide the over-consuming sections of global society to a sustainable pathway.

Siemenpuu aims to support and promote civil society spaces to discuss, develop and present societal ideas and systemic alternatives locally and globally. Siemenpuu has experience in supporting this kind of action, but in the future such efforts are intensified and the needed coordination and cooperation between the different initiatives is promoted. Funding is directed to projects concerning ideas and alternatives for a systemic change both on global and local level.


Read more in the introduction to Siemenpuu's development cooperation programme 2018-2021. There is also a background article on Buen vivir and information on mining. This funding scheme has been built upon experiences in the previous SADED-programme and Global dialogue programme.

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[Uddhab Pyakurel and Marko Ulvila] Nepal Social Forum Secretariat organized a Social Forum Consultation on December 8, 2018 in Kathmandu. The meeting was organized to review developments in like-minded social movements in Nepal to strengthen democratic space as well as to discuss the reactivation of the WSF process at the South Asian and Asian regional level.


Karel Keiramo, Pia Korhonen, Uddhab Pyakurel and Marko Ulvila formed the Siemenpuu Foundation's delegation at the 6th International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Malmö, Sweden on 21-25 August 2018. Siemenpuu organised one session on systemic alternatives during the conference.