“Human Development and the Basque Experience”

A new model for governing in a rapidly changing world

A Presentation and Discussion on 03 April 2019 with

Juan Jose Ibarretxe Markuartu, PhD

President of the Basque Autonomous Community (1999-2009)
Director of the Lehendakaria Center for Social and Political Studies

“Our world is complex, with complex problems, complex solutions, profound changes, and massive transformations.” (Juan Jose Ibarretxe, 2015 ‘The Basque Experience: constructing sustainable human development,’ U. Nevada, Reno, Press)

Dr. Juan Jose Ibarretxe Markuartu served as Lehendakari (or President) of the Basque Country from 1999 to 2009. During his tenure he was inspired to develop a new approach to governing, one that transcends the “neoliberalism doctrine” popular in the 20th century, which ties political success to economic productivity. In contrast, his approach to sustainable human development is rooted in balancing social, cultural, environmental ethics ingrained in the Basque People to build a more ethically-based form of self-governance. His vision includes forging partnerships between political entities and the private sector to promote economic productivity with “a cultural and moral compass.”

NSF is honored that Dr. Ibarretxe joined us to explain the national security challenges faced by the Basque Community over the years and to discuss his treatise on sustainable human development inspired by the struggles and successes of the Basque People. His presentation explored the challenges faced by the Basque Country in achieving a sustainable form of governance that co-exists peacefully with its neighbors Spain, and France, while preserving its cultural identity.

Dr. Ibarretxe reviewed the transformation of the Basque Country from one based on armed protest against Spain to one based on economic growth and democratic institutions within an autonomous region. Relying on a vast diaspora of Basque peoples around the world, the Lehendakaria Center for Social and Political Studies has promoted the inclusion of Basque culture into their economic development. Through the spirit of innovation in cooperation with neighboring countries in Europe, the Basque Country is now consistently one of Europe’s top 10 countries for GDP per capita.

Achieving economic security motivated the Basque separatist group, ETA, end its armed struggle against the Spanish government in early 2000 and disbanded entirely in 2018. The Basque People are now advancing their national aspirations for autonomy from Spain through sustainable and non-violent governance based on the concept of shared sovereignty that preserves Basque cultural identity while foraging economic partnerships around the world.

During the question period, President Ibarretxe addressed the concept of “nationalism.” Dr. Ibarretxe sees the rise of one type of nationalism that defines itself by denying the existence or legitimacy of others, inevitably leading to violence and less secure governance. In contrast, a healthy form of nationalism that promotes cooperation with others, as providing a sustainable path to achieving national security. The Basque Country transitioned from the former to the latter under President Ibarretxte’s tenure (1999-2009), allowing the Basque people to thrive culturally, economically and politically.   

NSF is very grateful to both Lehendakari Ibarretxe and our own Bill Douglas for making this program possible.

Insight into President Ibarretxe’s approach to constructing sustainable human development is best gathered from his own writings. His recent publication “The Basque Experience: constructing sustainable human development” is available through UNR’s Center or Basque Studies at: https://basquebooks.com/search?type=product&q=ibarretze

A summary version of his work entitled “Being Basque” is attached here and will be available for download on the NSF website.Juan Jose Ibarretxe Markuartu, PhD, served as Lehendakari, President of the Basque Country from 1999 to 2009. Previously he was Vice-President of the Government, President of Araba Region and May of his hometown, Llodio. He holds a PhD in Economics, presenting his thesis in 2010 entitled “The Basque Case: a comprehensive model of sustainable human development.” President Ibarretxe currently chairs the Agirre Lehendakaria Center for Social and Political Studies at the University of the Basque Country and is a Visiting Professor of Economics at Unversidad Interamericana in Puerto Rico. He has authored numerous publications including, “The Basque Experience: constructing sustainable human development” (University of Nevada, Reno, Press, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-935709-63-3) and holds Honoris Causa Doctorates from universities in Argentina, Georgia, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico