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Buen Vivir conference

Ecuador’s Buen Vivir: Implementation, challenges and ways forward

24-25 September 2015

Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Supported by the Centre of Latin American Studies

Preliminary conference programme

​Conference poster


After national elections and a constituent assembly, nine years have passed since Ecuador adopted Buen Vivir as a key concept in its constitutional and planning process. Since then Buen Vivir has captured significant international attention due to the notion’s progressive, innovative and époque changing proposals. Buen Vivir in the Ecuadorian context has been undertaken in the context of President Correa’s ‘Citizen Revolution’ and moves towards the goal of 21st century socialism. Referring broadly to collective well-being among social groups and in harmony with nature, Buen Vivir has additionally been subject to debates concerning its origins, main precepts, and policy implications. Drawing from indigenous concepts and worldviews, Buen Vivir was depicted as a set of radical epistemologies that were post-development, post neoliberal and even de-colonial. From this perspective, the Ecuadorian constitution of 2008 focused on collective rights, the rights of nature, plurinationalism and interculturalism, amongst other innovative ideas. Meanwhile critical perspectives on neoliberal capitalist economies proposed a post-extractivist economy and a greater distribution of resources. Bureaucratically, Buen Vivir has encompassed the entire political apparatus with each public policy defined by the National Plans of Buen Vivir (2009-2013, 2013-201). Scholars have focused on Buen Vivir’s critical engagement with neoliberal development, calling attention to its tensions with postcolonial conditions of development (Radcliffe, 2012).  Others have stressed an anti-development paradigm and the domestication of its concepts (Gudynas, 2011).

In light of Buen Vivir’s significance within Ecuadorian governmental goals and citizen-state politics, and its international profile, the focus of this conference will be the contemporary moment of Buen Vivir in Ecuador. The concept of Buen Vivir has traveled and changed over the short period of time since its establishment in the 2008 Constitution. Buen Vivir has also become embroiled in contests over its meanings and consequences, such as among indigenous movements (Becker, 2013) and feminist groups (Lind, 2012). Meanwhile, however poverty has declined and inequality, education and health indicators have improved, indicating broad state and societal transformations. In this context, the conference seeks to examine the current dynamics around Buen Vivir and discern future directions for policy, society and government over the next few years.  

The workshop brings together a multidisciplinary group of scholars to discuss the contemporary dynamics related to Ecuador’s model of Buen Vivir. Participants are requested to submit a written version of their paper one month in advance of the workshop, for circulation and to facilitate discussion. The conference papers will be prepared for publication in a special issue of a journal, such as Latin American Perspectives or Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography