King Baudouin Prize
for Development, 2002
You know that Voix Libres was among the 5 finalists for the Grand Prix of Excellence awarded by the King Baudouin Foundation in Belgium. The delegation of the selection committee - independent of the Foundation - met with Voces Libres in Bolivia and was most impressed with its vitality.
Elisabeth Drory, development social economist, and Carl Pansaerts, journalist, highlighted what they considered the strong points of the approach developed by Voix Libres: ¬†
Elizabeth et Carl
¬†in the reintegration enterprise
for prison jewelers in Cochabamba.
Total relevance: there is no question of bringing in ready-made solutions; all activities are generated locally, defined and supported by the inhabitants, to respond to their immediate needs and to develop their competence and autonomy.
Great effectiveness: no problem is left pending without somebody immediately taking it up. The progress of results is exponential. Furthermore, projects are very well documented: detailed and regular reports are written by those responsible and even the very young are aware of the logic behind the different programs.
Exceptional efficiency due to the personal commitment of all members of the network, both in Europe and in Bolivia, and the close relationship created by a permanent exchange of information. The extent of the results is remarkable considering the financial means applied.
Viability: Voces Libres does not depend on a charismatic personality, but relies on a network of professional and young leaders, male and female, who are all committed and competent. Furthermore, the accent is placed on the sustainability of activities and the autonomy of the people, rather than on the durability of the structures. The greatest strength of VL is the solidarity of those involved.
Originality: It is not a development project in the classical sense. There is probably no other NGO in the world that dares give micro-credits to young miners, prisoners, street children and child scavengers. Use is made of a combination of techniques, both traditional (barter, walipinas) and innovative (social money). Finally, there is alphabetization and vocational training alternating with work which correspond to a particularly well adapted strategy.
Replicability of the approach and of certain techniques used in Bolivia, especially for rural development in other mountainous areas.
Due to migration, and because VL really addresses the needs of the poorest, 80% of beneficiaries are women. They are not only beneficiaries but rather the true actors of development; they are active at all levels of the administration and running of VL, in education and as representatives of the community. The rural women who have become leaders are particular impressive. They do not hesitate to raise their voices in large assemblies and speak on behalf of their families and communities. Despite the reigning male domination, they affirm their positions and are respected as speakers on an equal footing with men. Finally, those who have suffered most become the strongest leaders.
The approach developed by Voix Libres is rather "feminine" as its strategy leaves much space for spontaneity and love. It is also a global approach, which begins in the inner, deeper self and expands the mental, psychological and economic possibilities to develop the whole being and all beings. It is a formidable bet on the true competencies of people who are normally considered as "the most deprived". In order to awaken these competencies - the hidden talents - there is a need, first, for a great ability to listen with the heart, and then the tools, a reliable structure and network, capable of mobilizing energy without limits‚Ä¶
The delegation felt that VL merits receiving the Prize for various reasons: for its devoted attention to the economy of proximity, innovative system, its determined and radical choice of the most marginalized section of Bolivian society, the multiplier effect of all the projects, the transferability of the methods and certain techniques used (such as the walipinas), and especially its respect for the people, traditions and environment. The jury decided to award the Prize to a big organization specializing in fair trade, Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International, based in Germany.
In conclusion, considering the size of the other finalists, the whole network of Voix Libres may congratulate itself on having been chosen for the final selection for the International Prize for Development.
Elisabeth Drory and Carl Pansaerts,
Selection Committee of the King Baudouin Prize