Gustavo Esteva Figueroa


Even the best development programs, like those I was conceiving and implementing,
were totally counterproductive: damaging to their supposed beneficiaries

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Ecologist, Community Builder & Environmentalist

Gustavo Esteva was born in Mexico City on August 20, 1936. He is an independent writer, a grassroots activist and a deprofessionalized intellectual. He is a former corporate executive, a former guerrilla, a former high-ranking official in the government of President Echeverría, and an advisor with the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) in Chiapas for the negotiations with the government. He works both independently and in conjunction with a variety of Mexican NGOs and grassroots organizations and communities. He has been a key figure in founding several Mexican, Latin American and International NGOs and networks such as the Centre for Intercultural Dialogues and Exchanges in Oaxaca. He is part of many national and international networks. For example, INCAD is the International Network for Cultural Alternatives to Development, created in Montreal and including people from many different countries; the International Group For Grassroots Initiatives created in Rome twenty years ago.

Though not an economist by training, he received Mexico’s National Prize of Political Economy for his contribution to the theory of inflation, and though not a sociologist was President of the 5th World Rural Sociology Congress. He also served as President of the Mexican Society of Planning, as Vice-President of the Inter-American Society of Planning, and served as Board Member and Interim Chairman of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. In 1996, he was invited by the Zapatista Army for National Liberation in Chiapas to be their Advisor, involving himself with the current struggle of the indigenous peoples. Today, he is the world’s leading global advocate for post-development. One of his greatest accomplishments was establishing a university in Oaxaca, Universidad de la Tierra.