Philippine Daily Inquirer - - NEWS - By Jodee A. Ag­oncillo @jag­oncil­loINQ —WITH AREPORT FROM TINAG. SAN­TOS INQ

A group of South­east Asian so­cio­civic lead­ers on Tues­day said the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (Asean) Sum­mit in Manila this week failed to deal with the real prob­lems of the re­gion and fos­ter “gen­uine par­tic­i­pa­tion” of the re­gion’s peo­ples in de­vel­op­ment.

“For 50 years, gen­uine peo­ple’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Asean has been se­verely lim­ited. De­spite the civic or­ga­ni­za­tions’ ef­forts to ini­ti­ate en­gage­ments for con­struc­tive di­a­logues along­side Asean’s claims of hav­ing more in­clu­sive and mean­ing­ful spa­ces, Asean re­mains largely in­ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple,” Je­len Paclarin, chair of the steer­ing com­mit­tee of the Asean Civil So­ci­ety Con­fer­ence/Asean Peo­ple’s Fo­rum (ACSC/APF), told a news con­fer­ence in Que­zon City.

Asean held its 31st sum­mit in Manila on Mon­day and Tues­day.

Paclarin said the Asean sum­mit should make peo­ple’s or­ga­ni­za­tions and so­cial move­ments part­ners, not ex­clude them.

“Asean is for us. Asean is for the South­east Asian peo­ples. Build ca­pac­ity on peo­ple em­pow­er­ment in­stead of hold­ing 1,000 meet­ings ev­ery year. Pri­or­i­tize peo­ple’s agenda,” she said, point­ing to a “yawn­ing gap be­tween the rich­est Asean mem- ber-states and those still in the early stages of de­vel­op­ment.”

Eduardo Ta­dem of the Philip­pine or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee said Asean sum­mits of­ten tack­led mostly eco­nomic mat- ters, such as how to in­crease exports and trade.

“Asean is ba­si­cally an or­ga­ni­za­tion of the Asean na­tions’ po­lit­i­cal oli­garchies and big cor­po­ra­tions that ex­clude the 99 per­cent of the peo­ples of Asean. They make de­ci­sions for them­selves,” Ta­dem said.

Miss­ing from Asean, he said, “are the peo­ples of Asean, those marginal­ized, those ex­cluded [from] the de­vel­op­ment process that [has] been go­ing on for the past 50 years—the work­ers, peas­ants, fish­er­men, women, LGBTQ.”

Soe Min Than of Sin­ga­pore be­wailed Asean’s fail­ure to em­pha­size hu­man rights and prob­lems plagu­ing poor com­mu­ni­ties.

Than, who will or­ga­nize the ACSF/APF in Sin­ga­pore next year, said Asean should lay down poli­cies based on con­sul­ta­tions with the peo­ples of the re­gion.

Ta­dem said Asean con­sulted civil so­ci­ety groups a few times but these were done in a “very mean­ing­less man­ner.”

He said 12 years of ef­forts by civil so­ci­ety groups to be taken into the Asean process had been fruit­less.

“They have not re­sulted in any ba­sic change, or any gen­uine recog­ni­tion of the role of civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions in the Asean process,” he said.

Rachel Arini of Fo­rum-Asia and Sumitha Kishna of Malaysia said so­cio-civic groups had been sys­tem­at­i­cally ex­cluded from the Asean sum­mit and process.

“The [cause] of the prob­lem should be taken from the bot­tom up,” Arini said.

Com­ment­ing on the Asean ac­cord on the pro­tec­tion of mi­grant work­ers signed on Tues­day night, Ta­dem said the deals signed dur­ing this week’s sum­mit were non­bind­ing and any Asean mem­ber coun­try could opt out, as the agree­ments were sub­ject to the laws of mem­ber na­tions.

“It’s some­thing that looks good on pa­per, but not in prac­tice,” he said, cit­ing the so­called con­trac­tu­al­iza­tion in the Philip­pines.

Mi­grant work­ers group Mi­grante International warned that the ac­cord may just be­come a “land­mark spoiler” if it was not legally bind­ing.

Af­ter the con­fer­ence, the ACSC/APF rec­om­mended to Asean that it in­clude a so­cial di­men­sion in its in­te­gra­tion process, with em­pha­sis on hu­man rights; re­view its prin­ci­ple of non­in­ter­fer­ence; ad­vance democ­racy and demo­cratic de­ci­sion-mak­ing in the re­gion; give pri­or­ity to peo­ples’ agenda over cor­po­rate agenda, and re­spect col­lec­tive strug­gle.


PEO­PLE-CEN­TERED Lead­ers of the Asean Civil So­ci­ety Con­fer­ence/Asean Peo­ple’s Fo­rum urge Asean heads of states to make part­ners of peo­ple’s or­ga­ni­za­tions and so­cial move­ments. They in­clude (from left) Sotheavy Srey of Cam­bo­dia, Eduardo C. Ta­dem and...

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