The Instituto del Bien Común (IBC) is a Peruvian non-profit civil association founded in 1998 that works with rural communities in the Peruvian Amazon, as well as with regional and national government institutions to provide greater care for the commons: the resources and spaces held in common such as rivers, lakes, forests, fisheries, natural protected areas, and community territories. Because these resources and spaces are central to the livelihood of Amazonian peoples, both indigenous and non-indigenous, especially in this age of a changing global climate, our work towards their conservation and sustainable use contributes to the well-being of these peoples as well as that of all Peruvians.
To raise awareness about the benefits of the commons in Peru –the communal lands of Peru’s Indigenous Peoples, forests, continental waters, fisheries, biodiversity and archeological sites–
and implement strategies for the safeguarding of this cultural and natural heritage of all Peruvians.
IBC looks forward to the day when every member of Peruvian society values and cares for these common resources and spaces. IBC´s strategic road map for reaching that point in time includes clarifying and institutionalizing both land-use rights and long range plans for sustainable land use, strengthening community and municipal governance institutions, promoting respect for the rights and culture of local peoples, implementing long-term plans for conservation and sustainable development, and integrating into these actions both local and scientific knowledge. IBC has set new standards for communicating to the public the issues surrounding the relationship between these commons and the common good through maps, publications, media work and large format displays that rotate through public spaces.
The Instituto del Bien Común considers that tradition and the various institutions of common tenure and management of natural and cultural resources, services and spaces constitute a platform for sustainable development; that is, to defeat poverty while preserving the quality of the environment for the present and future generations of men and women. This concept is often denied by those who see the man-nature relationship through a mercantilist framework and a purely utilitarian and selfish understanding of the economy. The IBC sees a balanced relationship between private interests and common interests within a social community as the basis for sustainable development. The harmonious dialogue between private law and collective law is indispensable for any humanist social project.
In a global historical period laden with peremptory challenges, IBC is concerned to find that common goods and their proper management are extremely neglected in the thinking and actions of public bodies and Peruvian civil society institutions. We are even more concerned about the fact that other core values are being overwhelmed, and that collective action to solve common problems has been losing force. For example, in the case of the El Niño phenomenon of 1997–1998, its foreseen appearance demanded a collective response of the population and encouragement to this attitude by the public authorities; instead, less efficient individual responses were observed, as well as a total absence of an institutional encouragement of such joint action. These are very serious challenges to sustainable development.
It is necessary to translate the concept of citizenship for every Peruvian – ruler or governed – into a culture of law and responsibility for common goods. The åmarket imposes multiple pressures on natural and cultural resources, services, and common spaces, as well as on the human groups that manage them. The management of common goods faces serious difficulties, and this is partly due to confusion as to who exercises authority within a common context, and partly because the world economy has fostered the emergence, among groups of common owners, of new individual interests and a social differentiation that conditions their capacity for collective management.
This situation has shaped IBC’s mission to contribute to a better understanding of the dynamic relationship between the common and individual good, to seek solutions to practical problems pertaining to the management and economy of resources, services and common spaces, and to contribute to generating awareness of the vital importance of common goods for individual security and well-being and for the identity and sustainable development of the country as a whole. IBC’s proposition recognizes that life systems are interconnected in such a way that the land management and production style in one part of the planet will influence the environment in other regions and countries. It also recognizes the delicate balance between the quality of life of human communities and those of other animal, plant and microbiological species. Earth is a physical and biological system that must be carefully managed for conservation and continuity. This interconnection becomes more evident when studying specific regions such as a particular basin or ecosystem.
Common well-being requires two types of agreements or contracts in the rousseaunian sense: a social contract that harmoniously balances common well-being and individual freedom, and an ecological contract that counterbalances the environmental quality of the planet with the desire and social and individual action of people, that is, of tenure and management of resources and natural spaces that allows – all in one – human socio-economic development and the protection of ecosystems and continuity of the key services they provide.