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Three Dynamics for Change in Honduras

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There are three major dynamics underway to change Honduras. The first one is political. It seeks to "refound" the country by rewriting the Constitution and having the government redistribute wealth, resources, and power to those who traditionally have had very little of these... In other words, more than half of the country's population which lives in poverty and has little means to improve its lot in life. The second is business-oriented. It seeks to stimulate economic growth by attracting investors to Honduras to undertake projects in key areas such as infrastructure, energy, agriculture, and tourism, with the goal of creating tens of thousands of jobs, fueling capital formation through increased exports, and making the country economically more self-sufficient and diverse.

The third focuses on empowering people by promoting -- on a wide and coordinated scale -- grassroots projects (many of them volunteer-based) targeting basic needs such as education, health care, and stable families and communities.

The objectives of each of the three dynamics are not exactly the same, but they are similar in that they seek to create a new Honduras that is better and more prosperous. The timelines are different, and of course "better" and "more prosperous" are subjective; they mean different things to different people. Also, while the political dynamic aims to take away from the haves and give to the have-nots (as in the Robin Hood story), the business approach largely supposes that the have-nots will get more when the haves get a lot more (as in the infamously flawed "trickle-down" theory of economics), and the basic needs model assumes that nothing can really change until everyone has the ability to be self-reliant and independently compete and contribute in a productive manner to society.

Each of the dynamics is being pushed by different segments of Honduras. The political one is favored by the more leftist and popular social movements consisting of a conglomeration of labor, peasant, student, and indigenous organizations. The business one tends to be favored by mainstream liberal and conservative elements within the middle and upper classes. The basic needs one is largely supported by an eclectic mix of civil society groups, backed by overseas volunteers and humanitarians.

The problem is that, while there is some level of communication, coordination, and strategizing among those within each dynamic, there is almost no interaction between people working within one dynamic and people in another. Part of the reason is because we are all convinced that our respective method is the correct one for Honduras, and that the others are either a waste of time, naïve, or even dangerous. And so we stick to what we believe in and ignore what the others are doing. But it is precisely this tendency to isolate ourselves in our own little worlds and causes that is at the heart of Honduras' chaos, backwardness, and instability.

It is not possible to have a viable nation when its communities are working separately or against each other, knowingly or unknowingly. Few efforts in Honduras complement each other. Often, they negate or restrain each other's achievements or potential gains -- which only serves to reinforce the view of Honduras as a culture that takes one step forward and two steps back.

For the past 14 years, projecthonduras.com has organized the annual Conference on Honduras to bring together representatives of hundreds of volunteer development organizations working throughout Honduras on education, healthcare, and community building projects. The idea is to gather to share information and identify ways in which groups can collaborate so they can take advantage of each other's strengths and help minimize each other's weaknesses. The assumption is that we are more effective coordinating efforts than working in isolation. This year's conference will take place on September 26-28 in the northwestern town of Copán Ruinas.