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.
Our mission is to work with rural communities in Peru to care for the commons (water bodies, forests, fisheries, protected natural areas and communal territories, among others), thus contributing to the well-being of these populations and all Peruvians. Key elements to achieve our mission are land management and planning, governance oriented to the care of the commons, environmental conservation, sustainable development, respect for the rights and culture of indigenous and non-indigenous populations, and scientific and local knowledge.
In our vision, Peruvian society cares for and values the commons (water bodies, forests, fisheries, protected natural areas and communal territories, among others) based on the broad recognition that the sustainable use of the commons is of vital importance for the well-being of all.
The Institute for the Common Good believes that the tradition and diverse institutions of common tenure and management of natural and cultural resources, services and spaces constitute a platform for sustainable development; that is, for defeating poverty while preserving the quality of the environment for present and future generations of women and men. This concept is often denied by those who view the human-nature relationship through an extreme mercantile framework and a purely utilitarian and selfish understanding of the economy. The IBC considers as the foundation for sustainable development a balanced relationship between private interests and common interests within a social community. The harmonious dialogue between private law and collective law is indispensable for any humanistic social project.
As we find ourselves in a world historical period loaded with peremptory challenges, the IBC is concerned to note that common goods and their proper management are extremely neglected in the thinking and actions of public agencies and institutions of Peruvian civil society. We are even more concerned about the fact that, in a framework of subjugation of other fundamental values, collective action to solve common problems has been losing validity. Thus, for example, in the case of the "El Niño" phenomenon of 1997-1998, whose predicted appearance demanded the collective response of the population and the encouragement of this attitude on the part of the public authorities, we observed individual responses of lesser efficiency and the absence of an institutional framework required for common action. The truth is that there are very serious challenges.
The concept of citizenship for every Peruvian - governing or governed - needs to be embodied in a culture of law and responsibility for the commons. The market imposes multiple pressures on natural and cultural resources, services and common spaces, as well as on the human groups that manage them. There are serious difficulties in the country for the management of the commons, and this is partly due to confusion as to who exercises authority in the context of the commons and partly because, within the framework of the global economy, new individual interests and a social differentiation that conditions their capacity for collective management have been emerging among the groups of common property owners.
In this situation, the challenge for the IBC is to contribute to a better understanding of the dynamic relationship between the common good and the individual good, to seek solutions to the practical problems of the management and economics of common resources, services and spaces, and to contribute to creating citizen awareness of the vital importance of these for individual security and well-being and for the identity and sustainable development of the country as a whole. The IBC proposal recognizes that life systems are interconnected in such a way that land management and production style in one part of the planet will influence the environment in other regions and countries. It also recognizes that there is a delicate balance between the quality of life of human communities and that of other animal, plant and microbiological species. The Earth is a physical and biological system that must be carefully managed for its conservation and continuity. This interconnectedness becomes more evident when studying specific regions such as a watershed or a particular ecosystem.
The common welfare requires two types of agreements or contracts in the Rousseaunian sense: a social contract that harmoniously counterbalances common welfare and individual freedom, and an ecological contract that counterbalances the environmental quality of the planet with the desire and the social and individual actions of people, that is, of tenure and management of natural resources and spaces that allow -all in one- human socioeconomic development and the protection of ecosystems and the continuity over time of the important services they provide.