The Sumak Kawsay: a new environment and development paradigm?
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This research project attempts to analyse the theoretical concepts of the Sumak Kawsay from an economic development perspective in order to understand whether Sumak Kawsay could be considered a new paradigm to understand environment and development. The Sumak Kawsay is the development objective of the Ecuadorian constitution; however this concept is an indigenous ideal that lacks a robust theoretical framework. This research aims to provide a theoretical basis for the future development of Sumak Kawsay’s theoretical framework based on its indigenous conceptual roots, and mainly on the Ecuadorian government’s interpretation of the Sumak Kawsay. There were three main findings that arose during this research: First, there are two common but differentiated approaches towards the SK, the indigenous ideal of the SK and the pragmatic view of the Ecuadorian government. Second, according to the indigenous view the SK provides an epistemological view that challenges the traditional economic development theories and it sees environment and society as a holistic unit. Third, according to the Ecuadorian government’s view the SK is a mix of existent development theories that in some cases challenge the previous concepts of development in Ecuador and on the other hand it maintains previous concepts specially in the case of non-renewable resources – from the government’s perspective the SK follows a progressive approach towards environmental protection. The SK offers a framework in order to analyse development and environmental issues as a whole that could challenge the current ideologies on these issues. The SK should continue to be analysed and debated in order to create a robust theoretical framework of the concept that is meaningful and is not interpreted according to particular interests.