Argentina still crying.

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I quite remember an e-mail from Guada, the NJR from Argentina in 2001, asking for advice: Argentina's currency had just gone almost worthless within a few months, making it impossible for Argentinians to participate in any international CISV activity. Of course, there wasn't much we could recommend...

Let's look at the actual numbers of CISV Argentina:


Apparently Argentina used to be a vibrant CISV country before 2001, hosting 3-5 international programmes every year. After diving down to 0 in 2001, they never really recovered to their original strength. The size of the bubbles here represent the number of international participants, which used to be way above 100 per year, and also went done by about 30%.

I think Argentina is a vivid example of how economic crisis can hit an NA hard, and the effects can be long-lasting. But what to learn from this?

1) I've always seen Mosaic (or formerly Local Work) as a programme that can carry on CISV's goals and objectives, even without international air travel at low cost. Having a strong Mosaic programme in an NA will make sure the organization survives economic crisis.

2) Perhaps some sort of suport structure should be created for NAs in this situation. Charging fees by the "Big-Mac-Index" (what's this?) has been suggested in the past, but the idea was abandoned, for practicability reasons. Some sort of emergency fund may be another possibility, that covers fees for NAs in economic crisis in order to bridge until better times arrive.

However, in 2008 the global economic crisis hit all CISV countries. Luckily so far, CISV hasn't been jeopardized very much. But looking at Argentina, we should be worried.

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The problem with exchange rates is when there's a shock in a contry's economy, that country will lose purchasing power, compared to other countries. For instance a trip from a participant from Argentina in 2001 would cost 4 (!) times more in 2002. That (and the "Big Mac Index" idea) got me thinking wether a country's exchange rate with British Pound affects participation (since it affects fees). For instance, 1£ went from 1,4€ to nearly 1€ in very few months. Is the dates that NA's pay fees fixed, or can they somehow "gamble" with exchange rates in payments to the IO?

I think in light of the recent crisis this is a matter that should be addressed by

Great post, cheers

I don't have proof that this ever happened, but it seems logical, that an NA would consider paying their debts to IO in the best possible moment according to the exchange rate.

I don't think the exchange rate is fixed, because the IO doesn't really care how much the NAs pay to receive the correct amount of British Pounds.

CISV is not an island, and our balance sheets depends on a lot of economic issues, that we cannot control. Being an international organisation doesn't make things easier. Imagine what the introduction of a carbon or kerosin tax (both things I personally would like to see happen) would mean to the cost of our programmes.

Everything was worth 1/4 of what we had, that's true. I was a summer camp participant in 2002, and it was the year when CISV Argentina decided to break the deal they had with a travel agency (where they would buy all participants' tickets together), because the very few delegations that travelled that year were not able to pay their tickets' full price anymore, so most of us flew by using frequent flyer miles – from those olden days in the 90s, when Argentina was a "rich" country. Paying for the corresponding portion of the leader's ticket in 2002 was already worth the whole thing's price in Pesos in 2001, due to the devaluation.

However, in this particular case, CISV Argentina is still crying because of multiple factors. Many factors that affect the same societies of the same NAs that are more vulnerable to economic crisis downfalls. Leadership is poor and almost non-renewed. The socioeconomic background of the CISV community is not just homogenous in a vague way, it's homogenous in the strictest of senses: I can name two or three schools where everyone comes from, two or three neighbourhoods, one simple recruitment method (word of mouth). In a true cosmopolitan city of –counting its suburbs– 15 million people.

What Buenos Aires has had in the past few decades, and is now in extinction, is a middle class. Something not as common in the rest of the Latin world. Good public education, a good life for the big chunk of mid class that back then composed our social structure... and, in practical CISV terms, people who could afford to travel at least regionally.

So how come Argentina cries? How come it doesn't work? And to think that so many cities in the low hundreds of thousands inhabitants pull off chapters that work better than Buenos Aires (Darmstadt, Campinas, Bologna)...

Alright, so in the early 2000s this NA stops hosting for around 3 years and stops renewing its leadership. Delegations going out are quite limited, in comparison to the 20-ish villages of the nineties. And the people getting access to international training are two, maybe three, and always the same ones until perhaps this year. People that are still working for CISV Argentina nowadays.

Personal styles aside, this is something that calls my attention powerfully. How in an NA like this, people could shield themselves behind the line "in the end we are all volunteers" whenever they failed to do their best. Not renewing leadership. Never having participated (!) in an IPP, IYM or Interchange (the last one used to happen until the early to mid 90s I believe). An NA that only started to have Mosaic projects last year, because two dedicated volunteers decided to fund themselves to go to the TTMT in São Paulo (because the leadership though Mosaic wasn't relevant to "our reality").

I think Argentina is just an example of the many NAs whose societies are as polarised and as unequal in their structure (perhaps excluding Brazil, who, in any case, is the only massive multi chapter NA in the "Latin world"). In my personal experience, trying to get a JB working from practically scratch, it was quite an eye-opener to go to my first ARMM in 2007 and to hear my thoughts and feelings coming out of the mouths of Mexican or Costa Rican JBers. Same challenges, same vision. In this kind of NAs (mostly single-chapter NAs, for the record), you see centralised leadership, you see poor understanding of the dynamically changing ideas of CISV International... it's like working with the ghost of CISV past.

It all sounds like crap from what I just wrote, but opposite to what it might seem: I'm optimistic. Junior Branch gave me a chance to discover a new side of CISV and to channel this frustration into positive outcomes, we built an amazing group, did cool things in the past 6 years. It's been wonderful. And luckily enough we established a network and a cooperation between the southern-most South American JBs (JB South) which holds an annual JB training with around 50 juniors from these countries. It even brought CISV Chile back – another brutal example of all of these symptoms in one same NA.

I guess all this blabber is about the social reality behind the economic statistics. Because in any case, this is the kind of countries that fabricate their own inflation indexes (I'm not being sarcastic), so what do we know about trusting numbers anyway. And even if they hint economic recovery after we hit rock bottom in 2001 with the 5 presidents in 12 days sequence, if you make a cross section of the population, these numbers don't trickle down to society in the shape of social welfare, do they?

Hope you enjoyed this backstage pass to the Latin American CISV cosmos!

PS Defeating all these theories above, CISV Argentina will have 7 people at ARC/ARMM/IJBC/AIM in Guatemala this year! A total record.

WOW.Thanks Maru, for this great backstory. It does sound really optimistic.


In countries that the currency fluctuates heavily all the time (and not just in crisis), the NAs do play with the exchange rate and the time to pay the IO (if they have good treasurers).

When I was in the board of CISV Brazil, a few years ago, that was a key issue.

The old way CISV was running, before hefty insurance premiums and heavy administrative fees, was balancing out a lot of the differences.

You host a village, paying what it costs you to host 48 kids + adults for a month, and get to send an (almost) equal amount to be hosted elswhere. For the hosting part currency fluctuations are completely irrelevant, as there are no money crossing borders. Naturally the airfares are still influenced by currency fluctuations. Minor fluctuations are generally absorbed by the airline, major fluctuations will naturally make an impact.

Today the issue is that there is inbalance between hosting and sending, some NAs host far more than they get to send, and some don't host at all. A system based on fairness and equal sharing of the burden of hosting does not work anymore. Add on top fixed cost bound to the pound and the system is a lot more volatile.

Good systems to solve it do not exist. The truth is that the costs (IO, Insurance, AIM) are fixed, and if somebody pays less somebody pays more. A solidarity system would hold if a minor NA is in serious trouble, but would not not be able go work if larger NAs, or areas (e.g. North America, or Scandinavia) get into serious recession...

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