LUDEN was established in 1989 and has always been underpinned by a number of key principles.
The Network was established as result of several local authorities recognizing that they were facing similar issues/challenges and that Europe offered a means to be able to share experience and learn from each other. We have therefore always been pro-European in seeking to secure greater resources that support such exchanges.
However, at the same time, the network has always recognized the need for substantial reform in the way that the EU works in order to address the democratic deficit that all too evident.
Citizen participation is essential if we are to deliver the EU2020 goals of sustainable and inclusive growth. The network was set up 1989 when the “Brussels Bubble” was remote from citizens. Indeed, back then the various Directorate Generals that make up the Commission were simply numbered. DG XVI was responsible for Regional Policy, DG V was responsible for Employment and equal opportunities. It was to say the least Kafkaesque. Whilst the DG’s now have names, unfortunately very little else has changed in appositive way. Certainly “Europe” is no longer remote for citizens living in the Troika administered member states. The Euro crisis has in fact brought citizens face to face with the EU in a very negative way .The need for real subsidiarity, real citizen involvement and transparency in decision making remain significant issues that the EU needs to address unless it simply becomes a financial Europe as opposed to a social Europe.
That is say recognition that we need to “think outside the bow” in order to address some of the most intractable problems/challenges we face. Since LUDEN came into being, technology has radically changed the possibilities for innovation which combines new technology and greater citizen involvement. The term that is used now is “social innovation”.
The global crisis has made clear that most of the challenges we face are increasingly social. Among the most prominent are the fight against increasing unemployment, ageing and climate change. Social innovation means the design and implementation of creative ways of meeting social needs based on the active participation of stakeholders. It covers wide fields which range from new models of childcare to web based social networks, to delivering healthcare to homes to new ways of encouraging people to exchange cars for bicycles in cities or developing global fair trade chains. In its recent usage, the social innovation approach is understood as a new governance model working across traditional fields of responsibilities with an active involvement of citizens, which is more effective than traditional modes to address the challenges of climate mitigation, social justice, ageing, etc. but also a culture of trust and risk taking which is needed to promote scientific and technological innovations.
Our approach is centered on the idea that it is not competition that we need its greater mutual co-operation. The focus on competition that has underpinned EU policy has in fact created greater inequality. Without exception there has growing inequality and poverty which is forcing large sections of the population to recalibrate their social expectations for themselves and their children. For this reason we are not like the other EU networks (eg. Eurocities, CEMR etc.) in that we have abolished the idea of charging an annual fee for membership. We are network of members who commit to mutual co-operation. In practical terms this means that our members agree to send at least one delegate to our annual study tour and AGM.
The financial crash has exposed some key features of our current model which highlight its unsustainability.
- Growth has been illusion in that it has been generated by financial transactions that have little connection with the real economy. Since 2008 we have had little or no growth. This seems likely to be feature of the EU economy for the at least the next decade. Without growth, it will prove impossible to deal with the mountains of debt that have been created. We are seeing increasing financial disruptions due to the inability of our existing monetary , banking, and investment systems to adjust to both resource scarcity and soaring environmental costs- and their inability (in the context of a shrinking economy) to service the huge piles of government and private debt that have been generated over the past couple of decades.
- The depletion of important resources including fossil fuels and minerals linked to growing negative environmental impacts arising from the extraction and use of resources leading to snowballing costs from both these impacts themselves and from efforts to avert them.
- Growing income inequality and poverty also means that there is simply less demand for the goods that “growth” creates. Our model is dependent on driving up consumption. The current model sets the economies of Europe and the United States as aspirational models of economic development for the rest of the world to follow. But to copy their lifestyles, in an environmental sense, is fundamentally unsustainable. For everyone on Earth to live at the current European average level of consumption, we would need more than double the bio-capacity actually available - the equivalent of 2.1 planet Earths - to sustain us. If everyone consumed at the US rate, we would require nearly five.
- The growth that has taken place has been at the expenses of jobs. The labour market has been hollowed out which means that jobs at the “middle level” have disappeared. We have high paid and low paid jobs. In the “boom period “of 2000-2008, 50% of the jobs created in the EU were low skill, low pay jobs with no career progression. Indeed, they were jobs that required less skills than required in driving a car. This accounts for the growing levels of youth unemployment not just for the “usual suspects” but also for young people with graduate and post graduate qualifications.
- Alongside this we have the impact of demographic change and the resultant health, social care and pension costs that the EU is facing.