European Conference Austerity, Debt, Social Destruction in Europe: Stop! (May 2011, European Parliament)

The euro crisis has become the occasion to set up a neoliberal “economic governance” which will impose austerity measures in the different European countries for the next years. At the same time, the European Commission will be given enormous power to implement burdensome financial sanctions on countries which do not adopt such painful measures.

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by Eric Toussaint


17 April 2011

The crisis has shaken the European Union to its very foundations. Public debt is suffocating several countries that have been badly hit by the financial markets. With the governments currently in office, and the European Commission (EC), thumb European Central Bank (ECB), and IMF all aiding and abetting, the financial institutions responsible for the crisis are making lots of money while speculating on government debt. Meanwhile, business owners are taking advantage of the situation to launch an offensive against the social and economic rights of the majority.

The reduction of public deficits must be brought about not through cuts in spending for social programs, but through an increase in tax revenue as a result of efficient measures against tax evasion, more taxation on capital, financial transactions, personal wealth, and higher incomes. To reduce public deficits, cuts should be made in arms spending, as well as other expenditures that are socially obnoxious and detrimental to the environment. It is by contrast essential to increase spending on social programs, if only to compensate for the consequences of the economic depression. Beyond this protective position, the current crisis should be seen as an opportunity to break away from the capitalist mindset and achieve a radical change in society. The new logic to be developed must turn away from productivism, take the environment into account, remove all forms of oppression (based on race, gender or other arbitrary criteria), and support universal access to common goods.

To achieve this goal we must build an anti-crisis front both locally and at the European level so as to bring together enough energy to create a balance of power that is favorable to the implementation of radical solutions focusing on social justice and concern for the environment. As early as August 2010, the CADTM drafted eight alternative proposals to the crisis in Europe. |1| The main point is the need to cancel the illegitimate part of the public debt. To this end, the CADTM recommends setting up an audit under citizen control, which should be combined, in some cases, with a unilateral and sovereign suspension of repayment. The aim of the audit is to cancel the illegitimate part of the public debt and to strongly reduce the remainder.

A radical reduction of public debt is necessary but not sufficient in order to get EU countries out of the crisis. It has to be complemented with significant measures in various areas.

1. Auditing public debt to cancel the illegitimate part

A significant part of the public debt in EU countries is illegitimate since it results from a deliberate policy by governments that have decided to systematically favor the moneyed classes to the detriment of other members of society. Tax reductions on higher incomes, personal wealth, and the profits of private corporations have led public authorities to increase the public debt so as to compensate for the drop in government revenues. They have also raised the tax burden on low income households, that is, on the majority of the population. Moreover, the 2007-2008 bail out of the private the financial institutions responsible for the crisis has meant huge spending of public money and a rapid rise of public debt. The decrease in revenues because of the crisis triggered by private financial institutions had to be financed once again by massive borrowing. Such a context clearly shows the illegitimacy of a significant part of the public debt. In a number of countries blackmailed by the financial markets we must add other obvious sources of illegitimacy. From 2008 onward, public money has been borrowed from private banks (and other private financial institutions), which have used the money they get at very low rates from central banks to speculate and compel governments to raise the amounts they pay them. In countries such as Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, and Ireland, IMF loans were granted on conditions that run against the population’s economic and social interests. Worse yet, these conditions again favor banks and other financial institutions. They must therefore be regarded as illegitimate. Finally, in some cases governments have gone against the will of the people: for instance, while in February 2011 a large majority of the Irish voted against parties that had granted gifts to bankers and accepted the conditions imposed by the European Commission and the IMF, the new government coalition has led the same policies as the previous ones. More generally, in many countries the legislative branch of government has gotten marginalized by policies enforced by the executive branch after agreements with the European Commission and the IMF. The executive submits the agreement to Parliament who then has to take it or leave it. In some cases, debates without votes are organized on major issues. The tendency of the executive branch to turn parliament into a rubberstamping assembly is getting stronger.

In such a troublesome situation, knowing as we do that several countries will soon have to face a defaulting scenario for want of cash, and that repaying illegitimate debt is by definition inacceptable, we have to speak out loud and clear in favor of the cancellation of illegitimate debt. The cost of the cancellation must be borne by private financial institutions, i.e. those that are responsible for the crisis.

Countries such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and ones in Eastern Europe (or outside the EU, such as Iceland), i.e. countries that are being blackmailed by speculators, the IMF and other bodies such as the European Commission, ought to call for a unilateral moratorium on repayment of the public debt. The proposal is gaining popular support in countries that are most badly hit by the crisis. In Dublin at the end of November 2010, in a telephone survey of some 500 people, 57% of the Irish in the poll favored defaulting rather than receiving emergency aid from the IMF and the EU. Default! say the people, was the headline of the Sunday Independent, the island’s main weekly. The CADTM argues that such a unilateral moratorium must be combined with the auditing of public loans (with citizen participation). The auditing should give the government and public opinion the necessary evidence and arguments to cancel/repudiate the part of the debt that has been found to be illegitimate. International law and the various national laws offer a legal basis for such a unilateral sovereign act of cancellation/repudiation.

Its experience working on the debt question in the South incites the CADTM to warn defaulting countries against insufficient measures such as merely suspending repayment, which can prove counterproductive. What is required is a moratorium without accrual of interest on over-due loans.

In other countries such as France, the UK or Germany, it may not be imperative to call for a unilateral moratorium during the auditing period. Yet an audit has to be carried out in order to determine the scope of the cancellation/repudiation called for. Should the international economic environment deteriorate further, a suspension of payment may be on the agenda even for countries that thought they could not be blackmailed by private creditors.

Citizen participation is an imperative condition to guarantee that an audit is objective and transparent. The auditing committee must include the various public bodies concerned, experts in auditing public finances, economists, jurists, constitutionalists, and representatives of social movements. This will make it possible to decide on the various responsibilities involved in the indebtedness process and to demand accountability of those responsible, whether at a national or international level. Should the current government not agree to debt auditing, a citizens auditing committee must be set up, without the government’s participation.

In all cases, it is legitimate for private institutions and high-income individuals, who hold debt securities, to bear the burden of the cancellation of illegitimate sovereign debt, since they are largely responsible for the crisis, and have also profited from it. This is merely a fair return to more social justice. It is important to create a register of security holders in order to compensate those who have low or middle-range incomes.

If the audit brings up evidence of crimes related to illegitimate debt, their perpetrators must be heavily sentenced to pay compensation and serve prison terms as befits the severity of their transgressions. Public bodies that have contracted illegitimate loans must be held accountable.

As for legitimate debt, creditors should be forced to try and reduce the principal and the interest rates, and to postpone maturity. Here again, positive discrimination in favor of small holders of public debt securities should insure that they get paid. Moreover, the amount in the state budget set aside for refunding the debt must be capped depending on the economic conditions, public bodies’ ability to repay, and the irreducible nature of spending on social programs. We must take inspiration from what was done for Germany after WWII. The 1953 London agreement on German external debt (which among other measures reduced the principal of the debt by 62%) stipulated that the debt service / annual export income ratio could not exceed 5%. |2| We could define a similar ratio: the amount dedicated to repaying the debt cannot exceed 5% of the State’s revenues. We must also define a legal framework so as to avoid a repetition of the crisis that started in 2007-2008, including the prohibition of socializing private debts, an obligation to organize a permanent audit of public debt policies, with citizen participation, the non applicability of statutory limitations to crimes related to illegitimate debt, invalidity of illegitimate debt, and so on.

2. Stop austerity plans, they are unfair and are only making the crisis worse

Governments of European countries have chosen to comply with IMF demands and impose strict austerity policies on their populations, with slashed public spending, including massive layoffs of civil servants and frozen or even reduced salaries for them, reduced access to some vital public services and to social protection, later retirement age. Conversely public corporations have demanded – and received – an increase in their prices, while the cost for getting access to health care and education has risen. Using particularly unfair higher indirect taxes such as sales tax (VAT) is more and more frequent. Public corporations in the sectors open to competition have been massively privatized. The austerity policies implemented have been pushed to levels not seen since World War II. The consequences of the crisis have thus been made much worse by the alleged remedies, the main aim of which is to protect the interests of capital holders. In a nutshell, champagne for the bankers, and peanuts for the workers, pensioners, and unemployed!

But the people are less and less ready to bear the injustice of such reforms, which signify large scale social regression. Those who are being forced to contribute the most to enable governments to pay back creditors are wage earners, the unemployed and low-income households. Meanwhile, women are the most severely affected, since the current organization of patriarchal society and the economy is such that they bear the brunt of the disastrous consequences of make-shift, part-time, and under-paid jobs. They are also directly affected by the deterioration of public social services. Our struggle to impose another mindset must go hand in hand with a struggle for the total respect of women’s rights.

3. Establish real European fiscal justice and a fair redistribution of wealth. Ban transactions with legal and tax havens. Fight against the massive fiscal fraud being committed by the largest and most prosperous corporations.

Since 1980, the rates of direct taxation on the highest incomes and largest corporations have continuously fallen in the European Union. Between 2000 and 2008, the highest personal income tax rate fell by 7 percent, while the highest corporate tax rate dropped by 8.5 percent. These hundreds of billions of euros in tax breaks have been largely dished out to speculators and the richest members of society, who have seen their wealth continue to accumulate.

Major fiscal reform aiming for social justice must be implemented (decreasing the revenues and personal wealth of the richest so that the rest of the planet can have more), and adopted throughout Europe in order to prevent fiscal dumping. |3| The goal is to increase public revenues, in particular via a progressive tax on the revenues of the wealthiest individuals (the marginal rate for those in the highest tax bracket must be raised to 90% |4|), a tax on personal wealth above a certain amount, and a corporate tax. This increase in revenues must be accompanied by a rapid decrease in the price of every day goods and services, such as basic food items, water, electricity, heating, public transport, and school supplies, which can be accomplished via a substantial and targeted decrease in the sales tax (VAT) applied to these vital goods and services. The fiscal policy adopted should also encourage the protection of the environment by applying a dissuasive tax penalizing companies that pollute.

The EU must adopt a tax on financial transactions, particularly on foreign exchange markets, so as to increase government revenues.

Despite their lofty intentions, the G20 countries have repeatedly refused to deal with legal and tax havens. A simple measure to fight against these tax havens (which drain vital resources needed for the development of people in Northern as well as Southern countries) would consist in adopting a law officially banning all individuals and companies located in a country from making any kind of transaction transiting through a tax haven, with a fine that would be equivalent to the amount of the forbidden transaction. Ultimately, these financial cesspools must be eliminated, along with the criminal activities, corruption, and white-collar suit and tie delinquency occurring there.

Fiscal fraud drains a considerable amount of resources from the local community and adversely affects employment. Substantial public resources must be allocated to government finance services so they can combat this kind of fraud effectively. The results of their activities must be made public, and the guilty parties must be severely punished.

4. Rein in the financial markets by creating a register of securities holders, and forbidding short sales and speculation in various domains. Create a public European rating agency.

Worldwide speculation represents several times the amount of wealth produced on the planet. The highly complex nature of this financial engineering makes it totally uncontrollable. The mechanisms it puts into play undermine the real economy. Opaque financial transactions are the rule. To be taxed at the source, the creditors must be first identified. Financial market dictatorships must come to an end! Speculation must also be forbidden in many arenas. Speculation on government bonds, currencies, and food should also be forbidden. |5| Short sales must also be banned |6| and Credit Default Swaps strictly regulated. Over-the-counter derivatives markets must be closed, because they are veritable black holes, not subject to any regulation or surveillance.

Rating agencies must also be seriously reformed and strictly regulated. Far from being instruments for making objective scientific estimations, they have become basic devices structuring neoliberal globalization and have already triggered social catastrophes several times. When a country’s rating is lowered, the interest rates on the loans made to it are increased, which explains why the economic situation in the country concerned further deteriorates. The complacent behavior of speculators greatly exacerbates the difficulties encountered, which will adversely affect common citizens. The submissive attitudes of these rating agencies in their dealings with the North American financial sector, has turned them into a major actor on the international scene, and their responsibility in triggering and worsening crises has not been highlighted enough by the media. The economic stability of European countries has been placed in the hands of these rating agencies with no safeguards, no serious means of controlling them provided by governmental authorities. The only way to get out of this impasse is by creating a public rating agency.

5. Transfer the banks to the public sector with citizen control.

After decades of financial excesses and privatizations, it is high time to transfer the banking sector to the public domain. Governments must recover their capacity to control and frame economic and financial activity. They must also have the instruments needed to make investments and finance public spending by minimizing the need to borrow from private and/or foreign institutions. Banks must be expropriated with no compensation for their owners, and transferred to the public sector where they would be placed under citizen control.   In some cases, the expropriation of private banks would represent a cost for the State because of the debts they have accumulated. This cost would have to be paid for by the banks’ major shareholders. The private corporations, which are shareholders of the banks and often led them to the financial abyss in the first place, while making juicy profits, hold part of their wealth in other sectors of the economy. A levy must be placed on the wealth of these shareholders, so as to avoid making the general public pay for the bank losses. The Irish example is emblematic: the way in which the Irish Allied Bank was nationalized is totally unacceptable, and we must draw appropriate lessons from this very bad example.

6. Re-nationalize the numerous companies and services privatized since 1980.

During past thirty years many public corporations and public services have been privatized. From banks to the heavy industry sector as well as the postal service and telecommunications, energy, and transport, governments worldwide have handed over entire blocks of the economy to the private sector, losing in the bargain any capacity to regulate the economy. These public goods, which are the fruit of collective work, must be returned to the public domain. The idea would be to create new public corporations and to adapt public services to the needs of the people, in particular to respond to climate change issues, with for example the creation of a public service for insulating buildings.

7. Drastically reduce the amount of time people work to create jobs and increase wages and pensions

Redistributing wealth in a different way is the best response to the crisis. The share of the wealth produced going to employees has significantly decreased for decades, while the creditors and businesses have increased their profits and as a consequence engaged in more financial speculation. Increasing wages, not only increases people’s well-being, it also makes more means available for social protection and pensions.   By decreasing the amount of time people work without decreasing wages, and by creating new jobs, workers will see an improvement in their quality of life and jobs will be given to those who are looking for one. Drastically decreasing the amount of time people work also offers the possibility of putting into place another pace of life, a different way of living in society that turns its back on the excesses of consumer society. The time saved for leisure activities could be translated into an increased participation of people in their community’s political life, more inter-personal solidarity, and also used for volunteer and artistic activities.

8. For a new, democratic European Union based on solidarity.

Several provisions in the treaties of the European Union, the Euro Zone, and the ECB must be abrogated, such as articles 63 and 125 of the Treaty of Lisbon prohibiting all control of movements of capital and all aid to a State in difficulty. The Stability and Growth Pact must also be abandoned. Furthermore, the present treaties must be replaced by new ones in the framework of a real democratic constitutive process to come up with a people’s solidarity pact for jobs and the environment.

Monetary policy must be completely revised as must the status and practices of the Central European Bank. The inability of the political authorities to oblige the ECB to mint money is a severe handicap. By placing the ECB above the governments and thus the people, the European Union made the disastrous choice of placing human interests below financial interests instead of the contrary.

With many social movements denouncing its statutes as being too rigid and utterly inappropriate, the ECB was forced to change its policy in the midst of the crisis and to modify the role that it had been given. Unfortunately, it agreed to do so for the wrong reasons. It did not mean to take the interests of the people into account, but to preserve those of the creditors. This attitude clearly illustrates that the cards need to be reshuffled and another hand dealt. The ECB must be able to finance States directly when their concern is to reach social and environmental targets that fully meet the fundamental needs of their populations. Today, extremely diverse economic activities, from investing in the construction of a hospital to a project of pure speculation, are financed in a similar way. The political authorities must at least consider imposing very different costs for each kind of borrowing: low rates should be reserved for investments that are socially just and economically sustainable, while applying very high rates, even prohibitive when the situation demands, for speculative operations which could also be purely and simply prohibited in certain domains (see above).

With a Europe based on solidarity and cooperation it should be possible to get away from the competitive ethos which tends to cause a lowering of standards. The neo-liberal mindset has led to a crisis and has proven to be a failure. It has dragged down social indicators resulting in less social protection, fewer jobs, and fewer public services. The few who have profited from the crisis have done so by trampling on the rights of the others, the majority. The culprits have won; the victims are forced to pay! This logic, which underlies all the founding texts of the European Union, with the Stability and Growth Pact leading the field, has to be demolished. It has lost all credibility. Another Europe, based on cooperation between States and solidarity between peoples, must become the primary objective. To this end, budgetary and fiscal policies must be coordinated, but not standardized, for there are huge disparities between the European economies. Only coordinating them can bring about a solution which will enable everyone to go forward. Far-reaching policies on the European scale, including massive public investment for job creation in essential public services, from local services to sustainable energy, from the battle against climate change to basic social sectors, must be enforced.

The CADTM maintains that this new democratized Europe must strive to establish non negotiable principles. It must uphold and improve social and fiscal justice, make choices that will raise the standard of living of its inhabitants, engage in arms reduction and a radical decrease in military spending (including withdrawing European troops from Afghanistan and leaving NATO), choose sustainable energies so as to avoid nuclear power, and refuse genetically modified organisms (GMO). Furthermore, Europe must resolutely put an end to its “besieged fortress” policy regarding candidates for immigration, so that it can become a partner trusted for its fairness and true solidarity towards the peoples of the South.

notes articles:

|1| See http://www.the CADTM.org/Debt-a-boo…

|2| See Éric Toussaint, The World Bank: a Critical Primer, Pluto Press, London (2008), Chapter 4.

|3| For instance in Ireland, where tax on corporate profit in only 12.5.

|4| This 90% rate was imposed on the rich in the United States in the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.

|5| See Éric Toussaint “Getting to the root causes of the food crisis” http://www.cadtm.org/Getting-to-the…

|6| Short sales allow traders to speculate on the price of a stock, which they expect will drop, via transactions in which they buy then immediately sell stock they did not own when they ‘shorted’ it. German authorities have forbidden these dubious transactions, whereas French authorities and ones from other countries are opposed to this German ban.


infos article
URL: http://www.cadtm.org


Translated by Charles La Via, Christine Pagnoulle and Vicki Briault

Éric Toussaint is doctor in Political Science (University of Liege and University of Paris VIII), president of CADTM-Belgium (Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, www.cadtm.org), member of the Scientific Council of ATTAC France and of the International Council of the World Social Forum (Porto Alegre), member of the CAIC Commission for the Integral Audit of the Public Debt (Ecuador), author with Damien Millet of Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank. Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2010. Author of A diagnosis of emerging global crisis and alternatives (2009), 139p.; The World Bank: A Critical Primer (2008); The World Bank: a never-ending coup d’Etat. The hidden agenda of the Washington Consensus (2007), Your Money [or] Your Life – The Tyranny of Global Finance (2005), co-author of Tsunami Aid or Debt Cancellation (2005), The Debt Scam – IMF, World Bank and the Third World Debt (2003), Who owes Who? 50 questions about World Debt (2004), Globalisation: ‘Reality, Resistance & Alternatives’ (2004).


Original Source: http://www.cadtm.org/Eight-key-proposals-for-another

by Eric Toussaint


17 April 2011

The crisis has shaken the European Union to its very foundations. Public debt is suffocating several countries that have been badly hit by the financial markets. With the governments currently in office, mind and the European Commission (EC), sick European Central Bank (ECB), sovaldi and IMF all aiding and abetting, the financial institutions responsible for the crisis are making lots of money while speculating on government debt. Meanwhile, business owners are taking advantage of the situation to launch an offensive against the social and economic rights of the majority.

The reduction of public deficits must be brought about not through cuts in spending for social programs, but through an increase in tax revenue as a result of efficient measures against tax evasion, more taxation on capital, financial transactions, personal wealth, and higher incomes. To reduce public deficits, cuts should be made in arms spending, as well as other expenditures that are socially obnoxious and detrimental to the environment. It is by contrast essential to increase spending on social programs, if only to compensate for the consequences of the economic depression. Beyond this protective position, the current crisis should be seen as an opportunity to break away from the capitalist mindset and achieve a radical change in society. The new logic to be developed must turn away from productivism, take the environment into account, remove all forms of oppression (based on race, gender or other arbitrary criteria), and support universal access to common goods.

To achieve this goal we must build an anti-crisis front both locally and at the European level so as to bring together enough energy to create a balance of power that is favorable to the implementation of radical solutions focusing on social justice and concern for the environment. As early as August 2010, the CADTM drafted eight alternative proposals to the crisis in Europe. |1| The main point is the need to cancel the illegitimate part of the public debt. To this end, the CADTM recommends setting up an audit under citizen control, which should be combined, in some cases, with a unilateral and sovereign suspension of repayment. The aim of the audit is to cancel the illegitimate part of the public debt and to strongly reduce the remainder.

A radical reduction of public debt is necessary but not sufficient in order to get EU countries out of the crisis. It has to be complemented with significant measures in various areas.

1. Auditing public debt to cancel the illegitimate part

A significant part of the public debt in EU countries is illegitimate since it results from a deliberate policy by governments that have decided to systematically favor the moneyed classes to the detriment of other members of society. Tax reductions on higher incomes, personal wealth, and the profits of private corporations have led public authorities to increase the public debt so as to compensate for the drop in government revenues. They have also raised the tax burden on low income households, that is, on the majority of the population. Moreover, the 2007-2008 bail out of the private the financial institutions responsible for the crisis has meant huge spending of public money and a rapid rise of public debt. The decrease in revenues because of the crisis triggered by private financial institutions had to be financed once again by massive borrowing. Such a context clearly shows the illegitimacy of a significant part of the public debt. In a number of countries blackmailed by the financial markets we must add other obvious sources of illegitimacy. From 2008 onward, public money has been borrowed from private banks (and other private financial institutions), which have used the money they get at very low rates from central banks to speculate and compel governments to raise the amounts they pay them. In countries such as Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, and Ireland, IMF loans were granted on conditions that run against the population’s economic and social interests. Worse yet, these conditions again favor banks and other financial institutions. They must therefore be regarded as illegitimate. Finally, in some cases governments have gone against the will of the people: for instance, while in February 2011 a large majority of the Irish voted against parties that had granted gifts to bankers and accepted the conditions imposed by the European Commission and the IMF, the new government coalition has led the same policies as the previous ones. More generally, in many countries the legislative branch of government has gotten marginalized by policies enforced by the executive branch after agreements with the European Commission and the IMF. The executive submits the agreement to Parliament who then has to take it or leave it. In some cases, debates without votes are organized on major issues. The tendency of the executive branch to turn parliament into a rubberstamping assembly is getting stronger.

In such a troublesome situation, knowing as we do that several countries will soon have to face a defaulting scenario for want of cash, and that repaying illegitimate debt is by definition inacceptable, we have to speak out loud and clear in favor of the cancellation of illegitimate debt. The cost of the cancellation must be borne by private financial institutions, i.e. those that are responsible for the crisis.

Countries such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and ones in Eastern Europe (or outside the EU, such as Iceland), i.e. countries that are being blackmailed by speculators, the IMF and other bodies such as the European Commission, ought to call for a unilateral moratorium on repayment of the public debt. The proposal is gaining popular support in countries that are most badly hit by the crisis. In Dublin at the end of November 2010, in a telephone survey of some 500 people, 57% of the Irish in the poll favored defaulting rather than receiving emergency aid from the IMF and the EU. Default! say the people, was the headline of the Sunday Independent, the island’s main weekly. The CADTM argues that such a unilateral moratorium must be combined with the auditing of public loans (with citizen participation). The auditing should give the government and public opinion the necessary evidence and arguments to cancel/repudiate the part of the debt that has been found to be illegitimate. International law and the various national laws offer a legal basis for such a unilateral sovereign act of cancellation/repudiation.

Its experience working on the debt question in the South incites the CADTM to warn defaulting countries against insufficient measures such as merely suspending repayment, which can prove counterproductive. What is required is a moratorium without accrual of interest on over-due loans.

In other countries such as France, the UK or Germany, it may not be imperative to call for a unilateral moratorium during the auditing period. Yet an audit has to be carried out in order to determine the scope of the cancellation/repudiation called for. Should the international economic environment deteriorate further, a suspension of payment may be on the agenda even for countries that thought they could not be blackmailed by private creditors.

Citizen participation is an imperative condition to guarantee that an audit is objective and transparent. The auditing committee must include the various public bodies concerned, experts in auditing public finances, economists, jurists, constitutionalists, and representatives of social movements. This will make it possible to decide on the various responsibilities involved in the indebtedness process and to demand accountability of those responsible, whether at a national or international level. Should the current government not agree to debt auditing, a citizens auditing committee must be set up, without the government’s participation.

In all cases, it is legitimate for private institutions and high-income individuals, who hold debt securities, to bear the burden of the cancellation of illegitimate sovereign debt, since they are largely responsible for the crisis, and have also profited from it. This is merely a fair return to more social justice. It is important to create a register of security holders in order to compensate those who have low or middle-range incomes.

If the audit brings up evidence of crimes related to illegitimate debt, their perpetrators must be heavily sentenced to pay compensation and serve prison terms as befits the severity of their transgressions. Public bodies that have contracted illegitimate loans must be held accountable.

As for legitimate debt, creditors should be forced to try and reduce the principal and the interest rates, and to postpone maturity. Here again, positive discrimination in favor of small holders of public debt securities should insure that they get paid. Moreover, the amount in the state budget set aside for refunding the debt must be capped depending on the economic conditions, public bodies’ ability to repay, and the irreducible nature of spending on social programs. We must take inspiration from what was done for Germany after WWII. The 1953 London agreement on German external debt (which among other measures reduced the principal of the debt by 62%) stipulated that the debt service / annual export income ratio could not exceed 5%. |2| We could define a similar ratio: the amount dedicated to repaying the debt cannot exceed 5% of the State’s revenues. We must also define a legal framework so as to avoid a repetition of the crisis that started in 2007-2008, including the prohibition of socializing private debts, an obligation to organize a permanent audit of public debt policies, with citizen participation, the non applicability of statutory limitations to crimes related to illegitimate debt, invalidity of illegitimate debt, and so on.

2. Stop austerity plans, they are unfair and are only making the crisis worse

Governments of European countries have chosen to comply with IMF demands and impose strict austerity policies on their populations, with slashed public spending, including massive layoffs of civil servants and frozen or even reduced salaries for them, reduced access to some vital public services and to social protection, later retirement age. Conversely public corporations have demanded – and received – an increase in their prices, while the cost for getting access to health care and education has risen. Using particularly unfair higher indirect taxes such as sales tax (VAT) is more and more frequent. Public corporations in the sectors open to competition have been massively privatized. The austerity policies implemented have been pushed to levels not seen since World War II. The consequences of the crisis have thus been made much worse by the alleged remedies, the main aim of which is to protect the interests of capital holders. In a nutshell, champagne for the bankers, and peanuts for the workers, pensioners, and unemployed!

But the people are less and less ready to bear the injustice of such reforms, which signify large scale social regression. Those who are being forced to contribute the most to enable governments to pay back creditors are wage earners, the unemployed and low-income households. Meanwhile, women are the most severely affected, since the current organization of patriarchal society and the economy is such that they bear the brunt of the disastrous consequences of make-shift, part-time, and under-paid jobs. They are also directly affected by the deterioration of public social services. Our struggle to impose another mindset must go hand in hand with a struggle for the total respect of women’s rights.

3. Establish real European fiscal justice and a fair redistribution of wealth. Ban transactions with legal and tax havens. Fight against the massive fiscal fraud being committed by the largest and most prosperous corporations.

Since 1980, the rates of direct taxation on the highest incomes and largest corporations have continuously fallen in the European Union. Between 2000 and 2008, the highest personal income tax rate fell by 7 percent, while the highest corporate tax rate dropped by 8.5 percent. These hundreds of billions of euros in tax breaks have been largely dished out to speculators and the richest members of society, who have seen their wealth continue to accumulate.

Major fiscal reform aiming for social justice must be implemented (decreasing the revenues and personal wealth of the richest so that the rest of the planet can have more), and adopted throughout Europe in order to prevent fiscal dumping. |3| The goal is to increase public revenues, in particular via a progressive tax on the revenues of the wealthiest individuals (the marginal rate for those in the highest tax bracket must be raised to 90% |4|), a tax on personal wealth above a certain amount, and a corporate tax. This increase in revenues must be accompanied by a rapid decrease in the price of every day goods and services, such as basic food items, water, electricity, heating, public transport, and school supplies, which can be accomplished via a substantial and targeted decrease in the sales tax (VAT) applied to these vital goods and services. The fiscal policy adopted should also encourage the protection of the environment by applying a dissuasive tax penalizing companies that pollute.

The EU must adopt a tax on financial transactions, particularly on foreign exchange markets, so as to increase government revenues.

Despite their lofty intentions, the G20 countries have repeatedly refused to deal with legal and tax havens. A simple measure to fight against these tax havens (which drain vital resources needed for the development of people in Northern as well as Southern countries) would consist in adopting a law officially banning all individuals and companies located in a country from making any kind of transaction transiting through a tax haven, with a fine that would be equivalent to the amount of the forbidden transaction. Ultimately, these financial cesspools must be eliminated, along with the criminal activities, corruption, and white-collar suit and tie delinquency occurring there.

Fiscal fraud drains a considerable amount of resources from the local community and adversely affects employment. Substantial public resources must be allocated to government finance services so they can combat this kind of fraud effectively. The results of their activities must be made public, and the guilty parties must be severely punished.

4. Rein in the financial markets by creating a register of securities holders, and forbidding short sales and speculation in various domains. Create a public European rating agency.

Worldwide speculation represents several times the amount of wealth produced on the planet. The highly complex nature of this financial engineering makes it totally uncontrollable. The mechanisms it puts into play undermine the real economy. Opaque financial transactions are the rule. To be taxed at the source, the creditors must be first identified. Financial market dictatorships must come to an end! Speculation must also be forbidden in many arenas. Speculation on government bonds, currencies, and food should also be forbidden. |5| Short sales must also be banned |6| and Credit Default Swaps strictly regulated. Over-the-counter derivatives markets must be closed, because they are veritable black holes, not subject to any regulation or surveillance.

Rating agencies must also be seriously reformed and strictly regulated. Far from being instruments for making objective scientific estimations, they have become basic devices structuring neoliberal globalization and have already triggered social catastrophes several times. When a country’s rating is lowered, the interest rates on the loans made to it are increased, which explains why the economic situation in the country concerned further deteriorates. The complacent behavior of speculators greatly exacerbates the difficulties encountered, which will adversely affect common citizens. The submissive attitudes of these rating agencies in their dealings with the North American financial sector, has turned them into a major actor on the international scene, and their responsibility in triggering and worsening crises has not been highlighted enough by the media. The economic stability of European countries has been placed in the hands of these rating agencies with no safeguards, no serious means of controlling them provided by governmental authorities. The only way to get out of this impasse is by creating a public rating agency.

5. Transfer the banks to the public sector with citizen control.

After decades of financial excesses and privatizations, it is high time to transfer the banking sector to the public domain. Governments must recover their capacity to control and frame economic and financial activity. They must also have the instruments needed to make investments and finance public spending by minimizing the need to borrow from private and/or foreign institutions. Banks must be expropriated with no compensation for their owners, and transferred to the public sector where they would be placed under citizen control.   In some cases, the expropriation of private banks would represent a cost for the State because of the debts they have accumulated. This cost would have to be paid for by the banks’ major shareholders. The private corporations, which are shareholders of the banks and often led them to the financial abyss in the first place, while making juicy profits, hold part of their wealth in other sectors of the economy. A levy must be placed on the wealth of these shareholders, so as to avoid making the general public pay for the bank losses. The Irish example is emblematic: the way in which the Irish Allied Bank was nationalized is totally unacceptable, and we must draw appropriate lessons from this very bad example.

6. Re-nationalize the numerous companies and services privatized since 1980.

During past thirty years many public corporations and public services have been privatized. From banks to the heavy industry sector as well as the postal service and telecommunications, energy, and transport, governments worldwide have handed over entire blocks of the economy to the private sector, losing in the bargain any capacity to regulate the economy. These public goods, which are the fruit of collective work, must be returned to the public domain. The idea would be to create new public corporations and to adapt public services to the needs of the people, in particular to respond to climate change issues, with for example the creation of a public service for insulating buildings.

7. Drastically reduce the amount of time people work to create jobs and increase wages and pensions

Redistributing wealth in a different way is the best response to the crisis. The share of the wealth produced going to employees has significantly decreased for decades, while the creditors and businesses have increased their profits and as a consequence engaged in more financial speculation. Increasing wages, not only increases people’s well-being, it also makes more means available for social protection and pensions.   By decreasing the amount of time people work without decreasing wages, and by creating new jobs, workers will see an improvement in their quality of life and jobs will be given to those who are looking for one. Drastically decreasing the amount of time people work also offers the possibility of putting into place another pace of life, a different way of living in society that turns its back on the excesses of consumer society. The time saved for leisure activities could be translated into an increased participation of people in their community’s political life, more inter-personal solidarity, and also used for volunteer and artistic activities.

8. For a new, democratic European Union based on solidarity.

Several provisions in the treaties of the European Union, the Euro Zone, and the ECB must be abrogated, such as articles 63 and 125 of the Treaty of Lisbon prohibiting all control of movements of capital and all aid to a State in difficulty. The Stability and Growth Pact must also be abandoned. Furthermore, the present treaties must be replaced by new ones in the framework of a real democratic constitutive process to come up with a people’s solidarity pact for jobs and the environment.

Monetary policy must be completely revised as must the status and practices of the Central European Bank. The inability of the political authorities to oblige the ECB to mint money is a severe handicap. By placing the ECB above the governments and thus the people, the European Union made the disastrous choice of placing human interests below financial interests instead of the contrary.

With many social movements denouncing its statutes as being too rigid and utterly inappropriate, the ECB was forced to change its policy in the midst of the crisis and to modify the role that it had been given. Unfortunately, it agreed to do so for the wrong reasons. It did not mean to take the interests of the people into account, but to preserve those of the creditors. This attitude clearly illustrates that the cards need to be reshuffled and another hand dealt. The ECB must be able to finance States directly when their concern is to reach social and environmental targets that fully meet the fundamental needs of their populations. Today, extremely diverse economic activities, from investing in the construction of a hospital to a project of pure speculation, are financed in a similar way. The political authorities must at least consider imposing very different costs for each kind of borrowing: low rates should be reserved for investments that are socially just and economically sustainable, while applying very high rates, even prohibitive when the situation demands, for speculative operations which could also be purely and simply prohibited in certain domains (see above).

With a Europe based on solidarity and cooperation it should be possible to get away from the competitive ethos which tends to cause a lowering of standards. The neo-liberal mindset has led to a crisis and has proven to be a failure. It has dragged down social indicators resulting in less social protection, fewer jobs, and fewer public services. The few who have profited from the crisis have done so by trampling on the rights of the others, the majority. The culprits have won; the victims are forced to pay! This logic, which underlies all the founding texts of the European Union, with the Stability and Growth Pact leading the field, has to be demolished. It has lost all credibility. Another Europe, based on cooperation between States and solidarity between peoples, must become the primary objective. To this end, budgetary and fiscal policies must be coordinated, but not standardized, for there are huge disparities between the European economies. Only coordinating them can bring about a solution which will enable everyone to go forward. Far-reaching policies on the European scale, including massive public investment for job creation in essential public services, from local services to sustainable energy, from the battle against climate change to basic social sectors, must be enforced.

The CADTM maintains that this new democratized Europe must strive to establish non negotiable principles. It must uphold and improve social and fiscal justice, make choices that will raise the standard of living of its inhabitants, engage in arms reduction and a radical decrease in military spending (including withdrawing European troops from Afghanistan and leaving NATO), choose sustainable energies so as to avoid nuclear power, and refuse genetically modified organisms (GMO). Furthermore, Europe must resolutely put an end to its “besieged fortress” policy regarding candidates for immigration, so that it can become a partner trusted for its fairness and true solidarity towards the peoples of the South.

notes articles:


|1| See http://www.the CADTM.org/Debt-a-boo…

|2| See Éric Toussaint, The World Bank: a Critical Primer, Pluto Press, London (2008), Chapter 4.

|3| For instance in Ireland, where tax on corporate profit in only 12.5.

|4| This 90% rate was imposed on the rich in the United States in the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.

|5| See Éric Toussaint “Getting to the root causes of the food crisis” http://www.cadtm.org/Getting-to-the…

|6| Short sales allow traders to speculate on the price of a stock, which they expect will drop, via transactions in which they buy then immediately sell stock they did not own when they ‘shorted’ it. German authorities have forbidden these dubious transactions, whereas French authorities and ones from other countries are opposed to this German ban.


infos article
URL: http://www.cadtm.org



Translated by Charles La Via, Christine Pagnoulle and Vicki Briault

Éric Toussaint is doctor in Political Science (University of Liege and University of Paris VIII), president of CADTM-Belgium (Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, www.cadtm.org), member of the Scientific Council of ATTAC France and of the International Council of the World Social Forum (Porto Alegre), member of the CAIC Commission for the Integral Audit of the Public Debt (Ecuador), author with Damien Millet of Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank. Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2010. Author of A diagnosis of emerging global crisis and alternatives (2009), 139p.; The World Bank: A Critical Primer (2008); The World Bank: a never-ending coup d’Etat. The hidden agenda of the Washington Consensus (2007), Your Money [or] Your Life – The Tyranny of Global Finance (2005), co-author of Tsunami Aid or Debt Cancellation (2005), The Debt Scam – IMF, World Bank and the Third World Debt (2003), Who owes Who? 50 questions about World Debt (2004), Globalisation: ‘Reality, Resistance & Alternatives’ (2004).


Original Source: http://www.cadtm.org/Eight-key-proposals-for-another

European Conference

Austerity, sildenafil Debt, Social Destruction in Europe: Stop!

Coordinate our Strengths – Democratic Alternatives are Necessary and Possible!

31 May 2011

in the European Parliament (Brussels) –

in partnership with the GUE/NGL Parliamentary Group

Conclusions


This conference reflects an emergency.

It took place at a time when the Euro crisis, the crisis of the EU, is deepening in the context of a general crisis of financialised capitalism. Europe, whose bases have been destabilised, finds itself in a dead end. With the Euro-Plus Pact, a fresh limit has been overstepping the worsening of the social and democratic crisis. Ecological issues can not find solution in this context.

Europe finds itself at the crossroads – its legitimacy is receding.

More than ever before, the only way out of the crisis lies in resistance and struggles to reject the Euro-Plus Pact, the new European economic governance, the generalisation of austerity and the pressure of public debts. It lies in changing Europe to make it an area of cooperation and solidarity. We must act together in Europe to counter the divisions, the nationalism and resentment that can only encourage populist and radical Rightwing trends that are growing today even as we must link the European issues to the struggles at national level and everywhere making clear the things we have in common.

The social and political conflict is very tough.

Difficulties are continually worsening for wage earners and pensioners, for those in insecure employment, young people migrants and the poorest people, or those being reduced to poverty. Everywhere women are the worst affected.  We welcome as most encouraging the movements of “the indignant ones” in many European countries for “a real democracy”.

Convergent demands that mobilise:

  • We have observed that a number of struggles go in the same direction by bearing the demand for a harmonisation of rights towards the high levels and that, in an atmosphere of indignation there are many convergences between social and civic movements, trade unionists as well as social and  political activists.
  • The answer to problems raised in Europe as well as to the acute difficulties arising in several countries must be European and united.
  • Economic cooperation at European level must have the objective of answering to people’s needs. The architecture of the Euro, of the institutions, of European Treaties and arrangements must be altered to allow this.
  • The public debts must be reduced: by new revenue; by the lowering of the interest rates that states and local authorities must pay; by the reduction of transfers to the creditors; by measures to cancel the illegitimate parts of debts on the basis of public and citizen audits that would enable the penalisation of speculators and the protection of simple savings and pensioners.
  • New systems of public revenue must be carried set up out in various forms: a fairer and less inegalitarian taxation system; the stopping of fiscal dumping; the taxation of revenue from capital and financial transfers; and the suppression of unacceptable kinds of expenditure, e.g. military ones.
  • Many political measures must contribute to organising a more radical redistribution of wealth and to push back social inequalities and injustices.
  • The financial sectors and banks must be subjected to more restrictive rules, with measures for public and social appropriation of the necessary instruments so as to work in support of a new mode of social and ecological development. There must be an end to the ECB’s restrictive policies.
  • It is essential to reopen the perspective of an upward social convergence so as to stop the downward spiral of social dumping, the dismantling of social protection and retirement systems and the growth of pauperisation.
  • To enable the upward convergence of incomes: the establishment of a European minimum wage based on each country’s average income to counter social and wages dumping and making the social minimal proportional the minimum wage. As a matter of immediate urgency, so as to struggle against social exclusion, no income may be lower than the poverty level. Women, the prime victims of low wages, are especially concerned by such a change of direction.
  • To counter the impoverishment of new populations, the concept of social security must broaden to integrate the population as a whole.
  • The most vulnerable populations, crushed by indebtedness and threatened with expulsion from their homes, as is the case in Poland, Hungary and Rumania as well as other European countries, must be assisted and be able to benefit from a right to housing.
  • European subsidies granted to the Eastern countries must in no case strengthen the indebtedness of local authorities: there must be a ban on the property of local councils being based on credits or debentures.
  • European policy regarding migrants must be radically changed and observe their social and human rights and encourage cooperation and solidarity.
  • European public services must be preserved and developed so as to encourage the principle of equality, solidarity and education for all; research projects needed their societies and the emergence of a new mode of social and ecological development. This is a fundamental objective to ensure that social activities remain in the public area and cannot be transferred as unpaid domestic activity by women or underpaid wage groups.
  • Ecological and social issues require, more than ever, public and democratic control of economic decisions: moving on to another kind of economy is needed at local, national and European level.
  • Democracy is in retreat in Europe, it must be defended and become more real as is being demanded by citizens all over Europe.

The mobilisations in Europe must be strengthened and brought closer to favour a radical change of Europe – this is a matter of urgency. This conference expresses its full solidarity with the movements of resistance to austerity, the pressure of the debt, and movements for a genuine democracy.

Several initiatives are already being prepared to enable the advance and broadening of movements of struggle:

  • 19 June: a Day of Action in Spain on the initiative of the “indignant ones” of the Puerta del Sol and solidarity initiatives in other countries.
  • 21 June: A European Day of Action called for by the ETUC.
  • 1 October: a conference against austerity and privatisation in London.
  • 15 October: an international action launched by the 15 May Movement (Puerta del Sol)
  • 1 November: a demonstration against the G20 (near Cannes/Nice, in France) followed by a Peoples’ Forum.

Several paths are still being discussed:

  • Ways of opposing the Euro Pact Plus and the economic governance package by multiplying the initiatives and carrying out campaigns of information and explanation.
  • Carrying out public and citizens’ audits on the public debt in various countries followed by a European encounter to finalise the synthesis of the results and draw up common strategies to cancel the illegitimate debts of European states.
  • A variety of actions on 23 and 24 June during the meeting of the European Council on the subject of governance.
  • Reporting back the work of the conference as part of the European Social Forum process within which this initiative was started.
  • Deciding on the creation of an open and mobilising “debt and austerity” network with the aim of drawing up analyses, convergences and initiatives.

Some questions remained open in the discussion, particularly a proposal put forward by the Greek participants: should we try to develop a “common front of trade unions, movements, political forces” whose aims converge? Or the path of a “citizens’ pact” to rebuild Europe.

Contacts:

Verveine Angeli: angeli@solidaires.org

Elisabeth Gauthier: elgauthi@internatif.org

Christine Vanden Daelen: christine@cadtm.org

For more info visit Transform! website


Conference co-organisers

ATTAC (Germany, France, Hungary, Flanders, Spain), CADTM (France, Belgique, Suisse, Greece, Spain, Poland), transform! europe, Euromarches, Solidaires (France), FGTB (Belgium), EuroMemo Group, Forum Soziales Europa (trade unionist network), Joint Social Conference, TransNational Institute (TNI, Amsterdam), Network Prague Spring 2 (CEE), Greek Social ForumAustrian Social Forum, Forum Social de Belgique, Hungarian Social Forum, Espaces Marx (France), Socialismo21 (Spain), Fondation Copernic (France), Mémoire des luttes (France), Patas Arriba, Nicos Poulantzas Institute (Greece), Society for European Dialogue (SPED, Czech Republic), Initiative des femmes en mouvement contre la dette et les plans d’austérité, transform! Brussels, World March of Women, Rood (Flanders), Coalition of Resistance (UK), WIDE – Women in Development Europe, Realpe – European network of progressive local deputies, cgt-fsu-solidaires du Havre de grève, and Mesas ciudadanas por la Convergencia y la Accion.

Have also participated: European Association for the Defence of Human Rights/Association Européenne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (AEDH); European Feminist Initiative; Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (France), Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (FSU, France), and trade unionists from different countries.

Action: Say no to the attack on social and democratic rights in Europe!

The euro crisis has become the occasion to set up a neoliberal “economic governance” which will impose austerity measures in the different European countries for the next years. At the same time, here the European Commission will be given enormous power to implement burdensome financial sanctions on countries which do not adopt such painful measures.

European organisations are campaigning to stop the attack on social and democratic rights in Europe!

JOIN THE E-ACTION

READ MORE about the EU’s Economic Governance package and the campaign to stop it

Seminar Regional Economic and Financial Cooperation amidst Crisis (ASEAN People's Forum, Jakarta, May 2011)

In this interview economist Oscar Ugarteche, pharm from the Economic Research Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Latindadd, thumb argues about the need to advance regional financial mechanisms in light of global economic crisis.

ACSC/APF, Jakarta, 04 May 2011, 3:30-6:00 p.m.

Co-organizers

Focus on the Global South; Transnational Institute (TNI); Hemispheric Social Alliance (HSA); People’s Agenda for Alternative Regionalisms (PAAR)

Rationale

Three years into the global economic crisis, it is still business as usual for the largely discredited global financial architecture, making little effort to acknowledge or correct the mistakes in policies and practices that triggered the crisis. Because of this, entrenched institutions are now being challenged, with alternatives being presented by regional platforms. There is a general agreement, even among mainstream policymakers and economists, that monetary and financial cooperation and integration can ensure regional macroeconomic and financial stability and therefore either prevent economic/financial crisis or help regions to deal with them. Over the years, different regions have developed initiatives such as regional stabilisation funds, regional Banks, regional currencies, among others. However, not all the initiatives in place serve those purposes.

In South East Asia, regional monetary and financial cooperation increased markedly since the Asian financial crisis in 1997–1998. The Chiang Mai initiative, the Asian Monetary Fund (AMF) proposal and the “Manila Framework” have all been proposed as ways to prevent a recurrence of a similar crisis and deal with the repercussions.

South Asia has also experimented with intra-regional financial cooperation. Initiatives such as the SAARCFINANCE were established to coordinate key macroeconomic and finance policy issues among the Central Banks of the region. Furthermore, in 2007, a Regional Cooperation on Payments and Settlement System -“the SAARC payment initiative”- was launched.

In Latin America, under the initiative of the Ecuadorian government, a proposal for a New Regional Financial Architecture is in the making. This proposal includes three (3) core elements: the creation of the Bank of the South as the core of an alternative development bank, a regional reserve fund (including reserve pooling, currency swap arrangements and reserves insurance systems) and a regional monetary system which includes a regional currency (the sucre) and Regional Drawing Rights.

Europe is often cited as an example of financial and monetary integration. However, the current euro-crisis shows that the single market and competition policies as well as the single currency project (the euro) and the Growth and Stability Pact have not only failed to help countries to deal with the crisis in Europe, but some argue contributed to create these crises.

All the initiatives are completely different by nature and some are being currently challenged. Furthermore, alternative proposals for a different approach to regional economic and financial integration are emerging.


The workshop will have the following objectives:

Map the state of regional economic and financial proposals in Asia, LA and Europe: regional stabilisation funds, regional currencies, regional Banks, among others

Compare the nature of these proposals

Promote a discussion on whether a regional financial and economic cooperation mechanism can help to a progressive exit to the crisis and as a counter-proposal to overcome the failures of the global financial system.

Identify which types of regional initiatives would be conducive to socially and ecologically just alternatives.

 

Program

 

Introduction

Main Discussants

Jenina Joy Chavez, Focus on the Global South

The importance of the regions as an arena to advance alternatives

Financial Cooperation Initiatives in Asia: A Quick Scan and Assessment

Oscar Ugarteche, Economic Research Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Latindadd

The imperative of regional financial cooperation vis-à-vis global financial system

The new regional financial architecture in Latin America: the Sucre, the Bank of the South and the

Reactors

Dr. Bambang Irawan, Senior Lecturer, Sampoerna Business School

Dr. Irawan was formerly with the Macroeconomic and Finance Surveillance Office of the ASEAN Secretariat, and recently moved to SBS

Mr. Charles Santiago, MP Malasya

Other reactors will speak from the floor.

Facilitator / Moderator: Cecilia Olivet, Transnational Institute

Documentation Team: Clark Militante and Jerik Cruz, Focus on the Global South


SEE WORKSHOP REPORT

Peoples and ASEAN: Defining the Divide

By Jenina Joy Chavez, Focus on the Global South

More than five years ago, stuff during the first ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC) in Shah Alam in Malaysia, only a spattering of regional organizations interested in what the ASEAN was up to flocked to this civil society event, governed mostly by protocol. I remember distinguished gentlemen in business suits occupying the reserved first rows of the hall, who would eventually leave once a speech they deemed important had been delivered.

I also remember the first interface with the ASEAN leaders, at that time lasting no more than 10 minutes, and with only the ACSC chair reading a summary of the conference statement. And I remember being in the company of civil society representatives appointed by the Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia and even Thailand governments. I cannot recall, however, whether the journalist from Indonesia was also appointed or selected independently by Indonesian participants. But what I do know is that I got to join that interface because I was the only Filipino staying behind after the conference, as many of them were rushing to Hong Kong for the Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization. So, no, I was not appointed by my government; and no, I was not rejected, either. I only had to bring my passport to the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC) for identification.

It was not at all bad, the first ACSC; and to this day we claim it as the auspicious start of the process that has become a yearly event. But its relevance was to be affirmed by what happened after. In the following years, civil society was able to claim the initiative and organize subsequent ACSCs and APFs according to our own design. The ACSC became a truly civil society –driven process. This was the first substantial change in this limited ASEAN-civil society space.

Protocol was eventually dispensed with, as ASEAN governments showed increasing hesitation to grace our events. What happened in Bangkok, Thailand in February 2009 was unique—both the ASEAN secretary general and the ASEAN chair at the time, met with ACSC participants in a town-hall style interaction, attended by more than one thousand people, many of them in jeans (denim?) and slippers. It was also in Bangkok that the ACSC earned a second name, the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF). It was a successful event, and it was also the event that marked the second substantial change in the still limited ASEAN-civil society engagement.

In various ways, governments seemed to have staged a comeback. And Governments are never subtle. In Cha-am in October 2009, for the first time in ACSC /APF history, no ASEAN secretariat staff or ASEAN government official showed up. Civil society delegates to the Interface with the leaders were appointed, and those not appointed but tried to go anyway were rejected. And for the first time, too, there was a walkout.

(It’s an interesting story, and I used up the first two minutes of my time to relate it, because I submit that the divide between peoples and the ASEAN is the biggest challenge faced by ASEAN today.)

The Vision and Struggles of a Middle-Aged Association

Tomorrow, there will be 16 clusters of issues and 33 workshops that will discuss in detail the specific trends and challenges confronting the Southeast Asian region. I will not attempt even to introduce these issues, as workshop co-organizers will no doubt more competently and better handle the issues.

I will instead focus on the general vision, and struggles, of a middle-aged entity.

Approaching 44 years old, ASEAN is hard-pressed to examine where it has been and what it has done. And if the last three to five years are any indication, it is determined to show the world that it can modernize, procedurally and formally, like the best of the world’s regions, such as the European Union. Hence, it has launched the ASEAN Charter; bolstered the ASEAN Community pillars; created the Committee of Permanent Representatives; and established the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

It has also been flexing its negotiating prowess—negotiating or signing a total of 352 bilateral investment agreements as of May 2010 and 164 free trade agreements as of November 2010. And it promises the launching of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.

Still, it is beleaguered by persistent inequality—where the poorest national gets less than two cents for every dollar the richest country gets; and where the lowest-employment country will generate seven jobless people for every unemployed in the highest-employment country.

If you happen to be in the lowest life-expectancy country, expect to enjoy life 21 years shorter than the highest life-expectancy country.

And despite years of public relations, and the insinuation of the people-oriented or people-centered, and sometimes people-empowered, in ASEAN’s rhetoric, people’s awareness of ASEAN is low; their appreciation of what it does is even lower.

Defining the Divide

The divide between ASEAN and its peoples is deep and wide.

This divide has four aspects:

One, ASEAN is overly sensitive to criticisms. ASEAN governments are lacking in transparency—only two countries, and one state in another country, have freedom of information laws. Free speech is restricted in some countries, with the region hosting some of the most controlled media globally. A Member Country has resorted to closing down community radios that are critical of national institutions; and one even retains a backward lese-majeste law.

Two, ASEAN fails to address most pressing people’s concerns. The region hosts millions of migrants from within the region; yet some of the most horrendous violations of migrant rights happen under the noses of ASEAN governments. To this day, ASEAN has yet to establish an instrument for the protection of its migrants. Environmental destruction and climate change have affected lives and livelihoods, yet ASEAN has yet to fully incorporate these important concerns. They are, for instance, divorced from ASEAN’s economic plans and only slightly tangential to its political-security pillar.

Three, ASEAN is sometimes complicit in causing (furthering?) people’s suffering. The Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacies (SAPA) Working Group on ASEAN and its many task forces, together with key regional and national organizations, have embarked on a common project. On May 2, the first Public Forum on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and ASEAN was held. The presentations were enlightening; the testimonies of witnesses and survivors short but clear. Be it a hydro-electric project, a gas pipeline, a mining operation, or an industrial plantation—ASEAN governments have in a big way failed to protect their people from corporate abuses. Sometimes, governments themselves have been in direct partnership or contractual relations with the abusive companies.

Regionally, ASEAN talks only of an ASEAN Investment Area, without any mention of regulatory weaknesses and imperatives. Recently, the ASEAN has launched the ASEAN CSR Network. Bankrolled by a grant from the ASEAN Foundation, the ASEAN CSR Network is supposed to build the capacity of ASEAN-based companies to comply with CSR standards.

Having a network in itself might be commendable, but for it to have required ASEAN resources to happen, to my mind, creates perverse incentives in doing CSR.

Finally, ASEAN’s conservative and formalistic structure is unwelcoming of people’s participation. Without clear procedures, or mechanisms, for receiving or giving inputs, interaction with ASEAN will remain a challenge. Fixation with protocol, and confining civil society to the Socio-Cultural Community box, also stunts the potential of ASEAN engagement.

And so I come to my last point.

I acknowledge that I may have sounded too harsh on ASEAN, as if it has not done anything right, or that it is a homogenous group. It is not, and ASEAN has done some useful things. Otherwise, it would not have survived for as long as it has.

Despite the failings of the ASEAN as it now stands, a regional platform is necessary especially for those from the developing world like us. A regional platform amplifies small country voices and increases the possibility for solidarity in terms of policy and space. The global economic order has also been shaken by crises and new momentum has emerged from regions such as Latin America, even as older regional arrangements, such as the European Union, have exposed their weaknesses. In short, elements of alternatives are there in the regions or the regional, and they are real—and we should grasp them.

But even this desire to prop up regionalism, where expectations have to be realistic, should nevertheless be ambitious in terms of creating new spaces. That is, without compromising deeply-held civil society values; and should always, always, strive to evolve a culture of openness in ASEAN.

Can the Divide be vanished?

Can the divide be removed? Or indeed, should some distance exist between ASEAN and peoples?

It has been an unfortunate realization for civil society after Bangkok in 2009 that ASEAN is simply not yet ready to open up—at least not in a significant way. The practice of appointing delegates to the ASEAN Leaders – Civil Society Interface is back. The governments may get more sophisticated, or tricky, by appointing people that are organic to the community, but the act of taking away that choice, of robbing civil society of the process of selecting its own representatives, undermines all of us. It does not bode well for meaningful engagement.

We want space, and we will struggle and fight to get it. We will go to great lengths—including doing policy advocacy, fielding or supporting candidates in electoral exercise, supporting our own colleagues for appointment in official posts; aside from the usual community work, marches, and mass actions.

But we should also be mindful when protecting the space we think we have secured for ourselves. The objective is for the progressive opening up of spaces, not just for institutionalization for the sake of having a space, albeit ceremonial.

As civil society, we have two seemingly contradictory roles. One is to make the ASEAN do. We occupy spaces so that we can empower ASEAN to give us what we need and do what we think would benefit us, our community, country and nature, by giving it the power to act on our behalf. This is the proactive part of peoples’ advocacy where constructive ideas are floated, and ways forward are explored.

The other is to make the ASEAN not do. We mobilize to protect ourselves from the ASEAN, to serve as counterbalance to the enormous power it can amass, to clip its powers so it does not go beyond the boundaries we set. This is our watchdog role. For instance, ASEAN should not just sign treaties and agreements at the regional level without our knowledge or express approval, or at the very least national discussion of the issues involved. ASEAN should also be alerted to its Members’ abuses, and tasked to respond appropriately.

As we push forward with the ASEAN Civil Society / ASEAN Peoples’ Forum, we have to be clear what role we are playing at every instance of engagement.

We are again being led to flashy protocol. We understand ASEAN’s need for it, and the Member States’ compulsion to assert themselves.

But as engaged civil society, I do hope that our reasons are clear for accepting, or rejecting, it.

And in the lucky chance that some of us get to the other side, the appeal is for you/me to also appreciate civil society’s need to assert itself.

*This piece was originally delivered as speech during the first plenary of the 2011 APF/ACSC in May 3, in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Original Source: http://focusweb.org/philippines/fop-articles/articles/511-peoples-and-asean-defining-the-divide

Video Interview: Oscar Ugarteche on Regional Financial Architecture

International Conference of governments and social movements

“Regional Integration: an opportunity to face the crises”

paraguay_conference_en


21 and 22 July 2009, case Consejo Nacional del Deporte, Asunción del Paraguay

As ASEAN nears its 44th year, recipe what social divides continue to haunt the governments and the peoples of the regional association? Similarly, what opportunities exist for other types of regionalism to emerge in the present conjuncture? Here, online Jenina Joy Chavez of Focus on the Global South addresses the questions and more in the Opening Plenary of the 2011 ACSC/APF in Jakarta, Indonesia. “We [Civil Society] must assert ourselves,” she contends, pointing to the real prospects of steering ASEAN in alternative, pro-people directions.As ASEAN nears its 44th year, drugstore what social divides continue to haunt the governments and the peoples of the regional association? Similarly, what opportunities exist for other types of regionalism to emerge in the present conjuncture? Here, Jenina Joy Chavez of Focus on the Global South addresses the questions and more in the Opening Plenary of the 2011 ACSC/APF in Jakarta, Indonesia. “We [Civil Society] must assert ourselves,” she contends, pointing to the real prospects of steering ASEAN in alternative, pro-people directions.

In this interview economist Oscar Ugarteche, seek from the Economic Research Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Latindadd, unhealthy argues about the need to advance regional financial mechanisms in light of the global economic crisis.

Video: Joy Chavez on the Divides of ASEAN and the Possibilities of Alternative Regionalisms

International Conference of governments and social movements

“Regional Integration: an opportunity to face the crises”

paraguay_conference_en


21 and 22 July 2009, case Consejo Nacional del Deporte, Asunción del Paraguay

As ASEAN nears its 44th year, recipe what social divides continue to haunt the governments and the peoples of the regional association? Similarly, what opportunities exist for other types of regionalism to emerge in the present conjuncture? Here, online Jenina Joy Chavez of Focus on the Global South addresses the questions and more in the Opening Plenary of the 2011 ACSC/APF in Jakarta, Indonesia. “We [Civil Society] must assert ourselves,” she contends, pointing to the real prospects of steering ASEAN in alternative, pro-people directions.

ASEAN considering transactions in local currencies

A compilation of articles on the Left Debate on the euro-crisis


Articles by

Asbjørn Wahl

Mark Weisbrot

Yanis Varoufakis

Michel Husson

Costas Lapavitsas

Özlem Onaran


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Minggu, mind sale 08 Mei 2011 |

http://www.aseansummit.org/news79-asean-considering-transactions-in-local-currencies.html

 

Jakarta (ASEAN Summit)The idea to create a single currency for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) seems difficult to realize soon due in part to the different levels of gross domestic product among the ASEAN members and the absence of a strong institution to deal with threats in the financial sector.

Yet, conducting trade transactions using local currencies within the region is another choice that could be implemented to avoid risks that might arise when using a third party currency like the US dollar.

Finance Minister Agus Martowadojo said the 10 ASEAN members + 3 (Japan, China, South Korea) will consider the use of local currencies in making trade transactions among member countries.

“We also discussed efforts to encourage the use of local currencies in trade transactions, namely the local currency in respective country. This would be effective in the trade transactions within ASEAN members or in the trade between ASEAN states and China, Japan and South Korea. We are still discussing this matter,” the finance minister said.

As preparations for the realization of this idea, the central banks of ASEAN countries and those of the three partner states are now studying the possibility of implementing a bilateral swap agreement.

“The bilateral swap agreement will be implemented using local currency, for example between Indonesia and Japan, Indonesia and China and Indonesia and South Korea. Ideally, the central banks of these countries should work together and study the possibility of the implementation of a bilateral swap agreement,” the minister said.

According to the ASEAN Secretariat`s website, finance ministers from China, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN have several years ago agreed to expand their system of bilateral currency swaps under the Chiang Mai Initiative to a more multilateral system.

The ministers, meeting as the “ASEAN-plus-3” on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting in Istanbul, said this would make the Chiang Mai Initiative a “more effective and disciplined framework.”

Under the currency swaps, an Asian country hit by a foreign exchange crisis like the one in 1997 could borrow foreign currency usually US dollars from another country to bolster its reserves until the crisis had passed.

According to Pedro Paez Perez, former minister for economic policy coordination of Ecuador, the formation of regional monetary could increase coordination of monetary policies among states and help prevent currency fluctuations.

“Cooperation of among states in the region could prevent them from unnecessary debts and could develop their own natural resources to increase the working productivity of their people,” he said.

He said that Asian countries need to stabilize their regional currencies and set up multilateral loan agency such as the one done by Latin American countries.

“Countries in the South need to do this so that they would no longer depend on the economic system of the Western Countries,” he said in Jakarta on Thursday.

In this case, ASEAN needs to stabilize its local currencies for trade transactions, including the utilization of the currency swap facility.

The use of local currencies in trade transactions could minimize risks compared with using a third party currency such as the US dollar. Thus, the plan of ASEAN members to use local currencies is a good breakthrough.

“I think this is a good breakthrough and this needed to be followed up. If we use the third party currency in conducting trade transactions the value can usually change, thus risks can emerge,” Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said.

However, the minister could not yet assure when the local currencies would be realized because it still needed optimal preparations and popularization. “Maybe it is still a long way to go. It would still be discussed at the deputy prime ministerial level in the first place. Yet, if all have the commitment, it could be realized soon,” the minister said.

At least this could be implemented before hand, before a single currency is created.

Virtually, ASEAN has a good prospect for a single currency like the euro by the European , as the regional association`s trade has been accumulating hundreds of millions of US dollars each year.

Diponegoro University economist Nugroho SBM said that ASEAN remains an important geopolitical and economic power in Asia, and even in the world, and therefore a single currency will strengthen it against pressure from the US dollar for instance.

With ASEAN having a single currency, he said, the strong effect of the US dollar in that part of the world would be sterilized and thus strengthening the monetary position of the ASEAN countries.

“Indeed, it would take a very long time. The European alone needed 60 years before agreeing to use the euro as a single currency, bit it would be better to discuss the foundation of an ASEAN single currency from now on,” he said.

He said Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines may serve as a driving power for the formation of a single currency because they have a dominating trade volume among the ASEAN member countries, he said. (Antara)

Statement: 2011 ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum

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We, purchase more than 1,300 delegates at the 2011 ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum, representing various civil society organizations and , movements of workers from rural and urban sectors as well as migrant sector, peasants and farmers, women, children, youth, the elderly, people with disabilities, people affected by leprosy, urban poor, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, traditional fishers, refugees, stateless persons, people in exile, victims of human rights violations, domestic workers, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender/Transsexual Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ), sex workers, women in prostitution , drug users, people living with HIV/AIDS, human rights defenders and other vulnerable groups, gathered together in Jakarta, Indonesia, 3-5 May 2011 to discuss the main concerns confronting the peoples of ASEAN and developing key proposals for the 18th ASEAN Summit.

We reaffirm the fundamental principles of democracy and rule of law, human rights and dignity, good governance, the best interests of the child, meaningful and substantive peoples’ participation, and sustainable development in the pursuit of economic, social, gender and ecological justice so as to bring peace and prosperity to the ASEAN region.

Human conditions and issues confronting the peoples cut across all current pillars of the ASEAN. ASEAN governments must adopt a more holistic approach with regards to development, equal and just treatment of the peoples, and harmonize its policies and practices of all its pillars. Furthermore, the principle of free, prior and informed consent of for all peoples, especially indigenous peoples must be pursued in the fulfilment of all political, economic and social agreements under the ASEAN. The ASEAN must ensure that its development initiatives do not further aggravate environmental hazards, destruction of traditional community coastal area lands and forest and global warming.

ECONOMIC PILLAR

While ASEAN recognizes the development asymmetries that exist in the region and the urgent need to narrow the development gap to ensure that economic benefits are felt by the poorest and marginalized sectors, its continued and aggressive push for neoliberal policies including free trade agreements (FTAs). These agreements are negotiated in almost total secrecy and devoid of people’s participation, and in the absence of clear mechanisms to coordinate trade policy at the regional level, poses a very serious threat to people’s rights to jobs and livelihood, food, health, access to medicines and education; and would undermine efforts to address poverty and inequality in the region.

Extractive industries (hydrocarbon, coal and mineral) are important in the South East Asian context as they are vital for the ongoing socio-economic investment and development in the region – and are likely to be so in future. The challenge now facing most countries is how to make the operations of extractive industries transparent and accountable across all stages of the extractive decision-chain. This is a challenge requiring the attention of all stakeholders: governments, citizens and corporations alike.

Current policies and programs on trade liberalization, as well as unjust taxation systems, have not protected the peoples of ASEAN and instead privilege business sector and investments such as various mega projects in coastal waters and along major rivers like deep sea ports, mega hydropower plants, sand mining, mining of mineral resources, establishment of large-scale plantations, which results in degradation of national resources and exacerbates the impacts global climate change in the region. This has resulted in increasing displacement of communities, erosion of culture, hunger, disease, malnutrition and poverty, deteriorating living conditions of farmers, fisher folk, indigenous people, workers, especially women and children.

We call upon ASEAN and its member states to:

  • Ensure that people’s needs and rights are at the heart of any economic development including trade arrangements through instituting and practicing political accountability on all economic decision-making processes, including bringing in civil society to participate as a full stakeholder, in order to arrive at equitable and sustainable development and trade systems. ASEAN has to abandon unjust free trade agreements and replace them with an alternative development paradigm that rejects neoliberal economic policies, in order to pursue justice for small farmers, fisher folks and workers, protection for the livelihood of rural communities and enhancement of food security, food sovereignty and food self-sufficiency of ASEAN countries.
  • Conduct human rights, health, social and environmental impact assessments of all existing ASEAN FTAs and other trade and economic agreements and re-negotiate if necessary agreements that are proven to be detrimental to the regional and national development interests.
  • Affirm ILO labor standards and Doha Declaration on Public Health in FTA negotiations. Eliminate contract and labor outsourcing system and stop discrimination among workers. Health rights of workers can only be realized if informal workers such as domestic workers are given full labor rights including days off to access health services. Ensure production and distribution of more affordable generic medicines. Reject FTAs as they support the privatization and commodification of health care services, and make health services expensive and inaccessible, and protect corporate interests at the expense of public health policy.
  • Take firm action to stop land-grabbing, regulate investments in agriculture with priority given to poor farmers, and support land reform program to secure land rights of peasants, by establishing common policy framework and guidelines on agrarian reform and sustainable agriculture. Enact Land Use policies that promote sustainable resource management.
  • To increase public investments for smallholder agriculture towards increasing food productivity through sustainable and agri-ecological farming systems, strengthening market-access initiatives to minimize food prices volatility, empowering peoples’ organizations, and supporting the redistribution of arable lands to small food producers. Support services must be adequately provided including seed, water, farm inputs, credit, social insurance, research and extension, education and capacity-building of farmers, basic infrastructure, storage and transportation, etc.
  • ASEAN member states must develop social protection measure to cushion the effects of the food price crisis, especially to rural women and children, who are most vulnerable to the food price volatility.
  • ASEAN member states must provide a conducive environment for income generation and employment opportunities for the poor as well as existence to link small farmers to markets, and build their capacities on ICT, market information, and enterprise managers.
  • ASEAN member states must increase investment in research, education and program support in diversifying food production and dietary habits to reduce dependence on rice.
  • In recognition of the principle of restorative justice, ensure that tax policies and programs appropriate tax funds for human rights, ecological and gender justice.
  • To take immediate action to curb food speculations and strengthen regional cooperation on developing a more responsive Regional Food reserves that will help stabilize food supply and price. Moreover, it showed support national and community food reserves.
  • In recognition of the principles of restorative justice, ensure that tax policies and programs support human rights, ideological and gender justice.
  • Recognize and support environmentally sustainable and culturally appropriate local initiatives and traditional practices of farmers, fishers, indigenous communities and women to adapt to and mitigate climate change. Extractive activities which adversely affect the resilience of farming and fishing communities need to be stopped.
  • Work toward and adopt a comprehensive framework on extractive industry transparency. This framework could be served as the basis for the harmonization of policies and practices of oil, gas, and mineral of the member countries of ASEAN, thus ensuring that the existing internationally recognized standards pertaining to human rights, the environment is upheld, and the benefits generated by the extractive industries extend to all citizens in ASEAN, now and in the future. ASEAN to urge and encourage Burma to consider imposing a moratorium on mega-projects and extractive industries harmful to the Burmese people’s housing and land rights.
  • Discuss and implement guidelines on illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (IUU) in shared/common water bodies in the Southeast Asia Region in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the UN-FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and must be recognized in the ASEAN Charter and Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.
  • ASEAN trade policy on fishery product must consider the nature of fishery as an environmental good to protect fishing grounds, avoid the depletion of stocks and environmental degradation in coastal. ASEAN must consider consultation with fisher and coastal communities in drafting the ASEAN good aquaculture practices to ensure that fishers’ rights and the welfare of coastal communities are respected and avoid harm to natural resources.
  • Push for the realization of access to water as a human right and halt and reverse the privatization and commodification of water to ensure the delivery of clean affordable water to communities.
  • Recognize and address water injustices and the water crisis and take appropriate urgent steps in protecting people’s rights to water services and water resources.
  • Adopt a rights-based approach to development and economic policies and uphold housing and human rights of peoples in the region. Member states must ensure that their land and housing policies are consistent with internationally accepted housing and human rights standards.
  • Demand all ASEAN member states to allocate adequate financial and human resources and to take necessary measures for the realization and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 as set out by the UN.


SOCIAL AND CULTURAL PILLAR

We strongly urge ASEAN member states to sign and ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its Optional Protocol.

Labour

  • ASEAN member states must eliminate contract and labor outsourcing system and stop discrimination by giving all workers permanent employment status.
  • We urge ASEAN to adopt welfare state systems to ensure social security for all peoples in the region
  • ASEAN member states must allow all workers including migrants to establish independent and autonomous trade unions for the protection of labour rights. ASEAN member states must ensure that all migrant workers receive the full protection of labour laws in the countries, which they are working.
  • ASEAN must act against attempts by employers to disguise or evade employment relationships to the detriment of labor or workers rights.
  • ASEAN members must recognize domestic work as work and provide domestic workers full labour rights and legal protection. All ASEAN members should support and commit to the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers. We urge ASEAN to respect ILO Core Convention 87 and 98.

Migrants

  • As elaborated in Article 22 of the Declaration, we call on all state parties to make efforts to comply with the provision of the declaration; the Secretary General is to submit annual report cards in regard to the compliance of the states parties to the Declaration.
  • All ASEAN member states should work together to fast-track the process of adopting a legally-binding instrument that protects and promotes the rights of ALL migrant workers and members of their families. This process must be transparent and actively involve migrant associations, trade unions and other representatives of civil society.
  • Recognising the increasing numbers of women migrant workers in the region who are working in precarious conditions, states parties should remove reservations to the CEDAW and the CRC. At the same time, it should also recognize CEDAW General Recommendation 26, adopted in November 2008. The instrument should reflect this commitment to address the specific working and living conditions of all women migrants.
  • All ASEAN member states must repeal policies of contractual termination and deportation on the ground s of pregnancy and communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS.
  • States must provide social protection that includes provisions for health care and medical insurance, and that promote safe working environments for all migrant workers and their families.
  • Given the movement of migrants in the ASEAN region, ASEAN must support a residence-based (as opposed to a citizenship-based) health care system. This requires universality and a single, high standard of health services.

Refugees, IDPs and stateless people

  • Every ASEAN STATE should refrain from repatriating refugees against the principles of non-refoulement, which is a peremptory norm of international law that forbids the expulsion of a refugee into an area where the person might be again subjected to persecution.
  • Provide refugees with the same rights as citizens in keeping with principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Set up clear policies for each type of people in need of protection namely asylum-seekers, refugees, statelessness people, internal displaced persons, economic migrants etc
  • Provide cross-border aid to support IDPs in areas with a lack of access to humanitarian aid.
  • Encourage non-signatory ASEAN states to sign, ratify, and implement the 1951 Refugee Convention its 1967 protocol and the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless persons, as well as the 1961 convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
  • Recognize children of refugees born in country of asylum through birth registration and birth certificates
  • Encourage ASEAN countries to actively seek alternatives to detention of asylum-seekers, stateless and displaced persons, and refugees.

Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Minorities

  • ASEAN member states must recognize IP/EM as distinct peoples with collective rights, rights to land, territories and natural resources, right to self determination including Free Prior and Informed Consent and the right of participation in all processes, programmes and plans affecting them at all levels, and such other rights laid down under the UNDRIP and ILO 169.
  • ASEAN member states must acknowledge, recognize and protect the contribution of IP/EM in the protection and enhancement of biodiversity, protect their rights to sustainable livelihoods, food security and sovereignty; and protect their rights against the adverse effects of extractive industries and other projects with adverse socio-cultural and environment impacts and risks.
  • ASEAN member states must establish an independent working group and monitoring oversight mechanism within AICHR to promote IP/EM rights
  • ASEAN member states must promote and protect indigenous health knowledge practices and ensure the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) especially in health care, water and sanitation. Their right to a healthy and balanced ecology must be respected and ensured.

Women

  • Emplace a quota system that will ensure meaningful participation of women in government, civil society organizations, and international organizations like ASEAN, as well as in the ASEAN integration process and in the ASEAN-EU relations, by not confining them to the socio-cultural pillar of ASEAN. Gender issues must especially be included in the economic pillar. Women must be at the heart of the ASEAN’s development agenda.
  • ASEAN member states must remove all gender-biased policies of ASEAN and other bilateral and multilateral agreements, especially those that increase feminization of poverty, exploit natural resources, disrupt livelihood and employment, worsen trafficking and various industrial issues in ASEAN that further exacerbate women and LBT conditions.
  • ASEAN must ensure a coherent and gender-responsive approach to human rights by implementing both international and ASEAN human rights instruments, including an effective alignment of the functions and mandates of AICHR, ACWC, ACMW, and CEDAW with human rights mechanism at the national and international levels and across the ASEAN bodies, to promote, protect, and fulfil women’s human rights in all areas of life, including: young women, women with disabilities, LBT women, adult sex workers, and women in armed conflict and militarization areas, through meaningful and continuous dialogue and participation of women, and paying attention to women’s voices and issues.
  • ASEAN member states must end all forms of discrimination and violence against women, and governments must provide meaningful political recognition of the rights of women with disabilities, LBT women and adult sex workers as part of the women’s human rights; and also focus on women’s health, women living with HIV/AIDS, and protecting women human rights defender.
  • ASEAN member states must support women empowerment agenda for women in order to improve women’s condition, particularly in situations of militarization and armed conflict.
  • ASEAN member states must consistently act to stop and prevent women’s human rights violations caused by abuse of power and patriarchy, including for women who are refugees, IDPs and in places of detention. These measures must include provision of proper health care and protection, as they are vulnerable to sexual abuse, trafficking, forced labor and other forms of gender biased violence.
  • ASEAN member states must fulfil women’s rights by unburdening them of care work, to free their time for paid work, leisure time, political action, and participation in development work. . ASEAN member states must adopt the three-8 system (8 hours of work, 8 hours of study and 8 hours of leisure) for the benefit of all women.
  • Establish a regional tax fund for women in recognition of the discriminatory impacts of globalization and patriarchy towards restoration of equality and freedom and women.
  • ASEAN must ensure that women affected by leprosy are equally treated with dignity further; it must end stigma and discrimination against them.

Children

  • ASEAN must develop and implement measures to ensure that the rights of children living in or from ASEAN member states, as expressed in the UNCRC and two Optional Protocols, are respected, protected, and fulfilled by states and other duty-bearers.
  • ASEAN member states must ensure the right to participation of all children including children living with and/or affected by disabilities, HIV, leprosy and other health concerns, indigenous groups, affected and/or involved in armed conflict, affected by abuse, exploitation, trafficking and violence, children affected by migration, and stateless children in all matters that affect them, is actively exercised in all settings including ASEAN. They must also create an enabling environment that supports ethical and meaningful child participation.
  • All children whose rights have been violated should have access to redress mechanism and be provided with adequate care and support for their recovery and reintegration. We expect existing regional and mechanism in ASEAN, particularly AICHR and ACWC to develop and implement measures to ensure and improve measures to ensure and improve compliance of ASEAN member states to their human rights obligations.
  • ASEAN member states should adopt and ratify an Optional Protocol to the UNCRC creating individual complaints mechanism without reservations and ensure is accessibility to victims of child rights violations.
  • ASEAN must support establishment of national or regional child protection systems and mechanism, including the development of regional information system aimed at generating updated and verifiable information of child rights situations, ensure information-sharing and exchange between governments and civil society that would facilitate effective monitoring of governmental compliance.

Youth

  • ASEAN must immediately set up and enforce an independent regional youth council or commission, and meaningfully engage the youth in policy planning, implementing, monitoring, decision-making and reform of this body. The council or commission shall be involved in strategic, transparent, and accountable measures on education, employment, public health, and sustainable environment in local, national, and regional levels.
  • ASEAN must ensure optimum reach of education, including aspects related to the promotion and protection of the environmental sustainability, community-based education, local wisdom, peace, democratic values, human rights and social justice to all segments of the population, especially marginalized groups – young women and girls, young people living with HIV, young ethnic minorities, young people with disabilities, young people affected by leprosy, young people living under poverty, young sex workers, and young people who use drugs and young LGBTIQ.
  • ASEAN must promote entrepreneurship among ASEAN youth by providing skills training and a regional fund which must be easily accessed by all marginalized groups.

LGBTIQ

  • ASEAN member states must repeal all laws that directly and indirectly criminalize sexual orientation and gender identities (SOGI), recognize LGBTIQ rights as human rights and harmonize national laws, policies and practices with the Yogyakarta Principles.
  • ASEAN member states must establish national level mechanisms and review existing regional human rights instruments (e.g. AICHR, ACWC) to include the promotion of the equal rights of all people regardless of SOGI with the active engagement of the LGBTIQ community.
  • ASEAN member states must depathologize SOGI and promote psycho-social well being of people in diverse SOGI in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, and ensure equal access to health and social services.

Adult Sex Workers/Women in Prostitution

  • ASEAN member countries must provide a comprehensive set of sexual and reproductive health and HIV services that covers prevention, treatment, support and care with a rights-based approach for adult sex workers.
  • ASEAN member countries need to recognize sex workers as workers, and must address and prevent violence and other threats to the health and safety of adult sex workers and their families. Measures may include but are not limited to removing criminal and punitive laws and policies, reducing stigma, providing the protections and benefits available to other workers; access to services. There need be no differentiation between migrant and non migrant sex workers.
  • ASEAN member countries must recognize that sex work is work and that adult sex workers and their families and friends face stigma and discrimination due to lack of acknowledgement by the states.

Persons with Disabilities

  • ASEAN must recognize the ASEAN Disability Forum (ADF) as a vehicle of persons with disabilities in the region and consult representatives of the Disabled People Organizations (DPOs) in policy planning, implementing, and monitoring policies that affect persons with disabilities, including Agent Orange victims.
  • ASEAN must recognize the existence of multiple discriminations against women, children, and migrants with disabilities and address these issues in the implementation of three pillars of ASEAN.
  • ASEAN must encourage all member states to ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and mainstream disabilities across all sectors including AICHR, ACWC and ACMW, and three pillars of ASEAN.
  • ASEAN must adopt a policy to improve the access to health of persons with disabilities including reproductive health, health services, health insurance, and subsidizing additional cost on the grounds of disability.

CSOs

  • ASEAN must recognize the crucial role of CSOs in the development processes and respect their diversity, expertise and autonomy.
  • ASEAN member states must commit to the minimum standards set by CSOs for an enabling environment for CSOs to reach their potential as equal development actors.
  • ASEAN must recognize Civil Society’s Position Paper on ASEAN Guideline on Civil Society Engagement and institutionalize engagement between civil society and ASEAN states.

Social Protection

  • ASEAN must create a Social Protection and Health Promotion Fund that would ensure States fulfil their responsibilities to the peoples of the region.
  • ASEAN must recognize and address as a priority the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), 80% of which adversely affect low and middle income countries.
  • ASEAN must realize the ASEAN Charter provision on education and the Socio-Cultural Blueprint commitment to “achieve universal access to education across ASEAN by 2015” by allocating budget to create the ASEAN Fund for Education for All.
  • ASEAN must facilitate the full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) by States Parties and encourage the Indonesian government to accede to the convention in the best interest of its people.
  • ASEAN must stop the privatization and commodification of health care services and provide free universal health care. Health is not a tradable or marketable item, commodity, or service; otherwise, it would lose its value as an essential right that everyone is entitled to. ASEAN must reject FTAs as they support the privatization and commodification of health care services, and make health services expensive and inaccessible.
  • ASEAN must implement a universal pension for older people in the region.
  • We strongly urge ASEAN member states to sign and ratify the ICESCR and all optional protocols.

POLITICAL–SECURITY PILLAR

ASEAN civil society envisions a region where people-centered governance takes seriously the wishes and aspirations of the peoples. It also envisions an ASEAN region that achieves people-centered integration as an alternative to the capital-led integration exemplified by the EU.

The civil society of ASEAN acknowledges the human rights instruments established in the region. We also celebrate the achievement made in advancing the rights for women and children in ASEAN and recognise the existence of spaces for engagement. ASEAN governance however has not been driven by substantive ‘people-centered governance’, nor does ‘the act of governance’ by ASEAN member state governments. A restrictive environment exists in ASEAN states for the meaningful participation and engagement of civil society organisations. Protection and promoting civil liberties in ASEAN countries are seriously challenged. Impunity for massive crimes remains. ASEAN member States are not taking sufficient steps to implement the ASEAN Charter and other documents, particularly relating to the protection of the rights of migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees. Further ASEAN countries are beset with internal conflicts arising form historical injustices and the states’ militarist approach to dissent. This further exacerbates the already demeaning human rights situation of communities including women and children where armed conflict and militarization happen.

These mainly due to the dominant view of ‘non-interference’, Asian values and idea of human rights as western value. We believe that torture, summary killing, forced disappearance, restrictions on freedom of expression and other serious violation of human rights are not the values of ASEAN countries. Those acts instead create challenges for civil society in South East Asia to engage with ASEAN governments. AICHR as a mechanism to uphold human rights is still young and needs to be strengthened to enable civil society engagement. It should also be noted that state of human rights in ASEAN countries do not stay within countries but bring effect to the region – including maintaining peace and security.

Civil society believes that internal conflicts are a matter of regional concern and must be addressed with the participation of civil society and affected communities.

Civil society recognises the interdependence and interrelation between civil liberties and economic, social and cultural rights. They are equally important and equally have to be protected and promoted. This includes social protection and the access of the people to health care and health information. The establishing of an accessible, universal health care system is social, economic and political questions. It is the question of how the conduct of governance takes into account the wishes and aspirations of the lower strata.

In these regards, ASEAN civil society assert their right as an equal development actor and further develop their capacity to become more effective in their role as innovative agents of changes and social transformation.

Civil society endeavours to strengthen its solidarity in particular by campaigning on freedom in Burma, freedom of expression and access to information in countries particularly in ASEAN countries, right to access to justice and strengthening human rights protection mechanisms at the regional level.

We call upon ASEAN to act on the following recommendations:

  • Burma:

A- Civil Society Support the call for a UN Commission of Inquiry to conduct a study into widespread and systematic human rights violations in Burma.

B- Refuse Burma the ASEAN chairmanship unless it meets the necessary minimum benchmarks that demonstrate that it is capable of governing a country in a transparent, democratic, and rights-based manner. These minimum benchmarks are: The cessation of attacks on ethnic communities; an immediate halt to all human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law committed against civilians; Immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners; end of all censorship and, genuine and inclusive tripartite dialogue, including a review of the 2008 Constitution.

C- We also call upon ASEAN to provide humanitarian protection and assistance to refugees and other stateless people who have fled from Burma and engage with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ethnic representatives, the National League for Democracy and other relevant stakeholders to support and facilitate the process of national reconciliation and dialogue.

  • Indonesia: We call on the Government of Indonesia to investigate all human rights violations especially the Humanitarian Tragedy of 1965/66 Massacre during which 2 million people were killed and hundreds of thousands were imprisoned without trial. This gross and systematic violation of human rights on such a massive scale urgently needs to be investigated so that the truth may be established, the rights of victims to justice and reparations fulfilled, and the necessary apologies made. In this regard, we call for the establishment of a regional criminal court to obtain justice for victims of serious human rights violations in ASEAN.

Peace and Security

  • Strictly respect international laws, fully implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and accelerate efforts towards a Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (CoC); more authority for Asean Secretariat; Practice peaceful process to solve conflicts.
  • Make regional peace and security related to Asean peoples and their sovereignty; CSOs should play proactive role in ensuring regional peace and security.
  • Design a mechanism for regional trust, not just among Asean governments but also among their peoples; Collectively engage China; Promote democracy, rule of laws and security governance; Turn Asean into a rule-based community; Promote greater transparency; Be cautious of external influences; Hold regular inner-Asean consultations on regional security; Designate mechanisms to regularly consult and work with CSOs. CSOs should push governments to stop wars and protect human security.
  • Asean countries should take a more proactive role in helping solve the Thai-Cambodian conflict and maintain regional peace. Asean should pay attention to conflicts in its member countries as well. Listen to people affected by conflicts for solution.
  • ASEAN under its Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) should address the Thailand-Cambodia border dispute. In doing so it must ensure the active participation of civil society with women given a greater role.
  • There should be state obligation to protect, promote and fulfilled the rights of women, especially in armed conflict and militarization area
  • There should be effective conflict resolution program in placed and ensured it’s implementation CS urge the implementation of UNSCR1325 which promotes participation of women in decision-making and peace processes gender perspectives and training in peacekeeping, protection of women gender mainstreaming in UN reporting systems & programmatic implementation mechanisms

Civil Liberties

  • Push ASEAN to take steps to end impunity, including: coordinating a regional agreement on impunity, pushing AICHR to strengthen accountability and protection from within its mandate – perhaps through advocating for a regional system of justice as exists in all other regions of the globe. All ASEAN states should sign and ratify the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court.
  • ASEAN governments must comply with their human rights obligations and immediately put a stop to all forms of torture and all forms of degrading treatment and punishment.
  • Improve regional monitoring and documentation of abuses within ASEAN so that all the information is publicly available.
  • Repeal all laws that allow imprisonment or other forms of detention for speech, religious practices and other activities deemed contrary to the interests of the government or the ruling party.
  • End censorship of the media and ensure the rights to freedom of expression for all.
  • Form a strong Solidarity Committee on Freedom of Association in the ASEAN countries to be able to sit in equal position with the government.
  • ASEAN must recognize the important role played by Human Rights Defender in the promotion and protection of human rights, which includes the highlighting of human rights violations.
  • ASEAN reaffirm its commitment to the principles as confirmed in the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration.
  • ASEAN must ensure necessary protection be accorded to Human Rights Defenders to effectively carry out their role, including immunity from civil and criminal liability.
  • Pressure on governments of ASEAN countries not to practice in union busting to make union focus on delivering their duties.
  • To respect labour unions’ role to fight for labor rights, and allow migrant workers to join labor unions in the countries where they are working. Further, to allow more concrete communication towards the formulation of the strong ASEAN Regional Labour Union.
  • All ASEAN member states must repeal policies of contract termination and deportation on the grounds of pregnancy and communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS.
  • Repeal laws that directly and indirectly criminalize SOGI, recognize LGBTIQ rights as human rights, and harmonize national laws, policies and practices with the Yogyakarta Principles.
  • Establish national level mechanisms and review existing regional human rights instruments (e.g. AICHR, ACWC) to include the promotion and protection of the equal rights of all people regardless of SOGI with the active engagement of the LGBTIQ community.
  • Awareness raising for women’s human rights violations, by the abuse of power and patriarchy, especially for women as IDPs and in IDPs camps, to provide them with proper health care and protection since there are prone to sexual abuse, trafficking and other forms of gender based violence.
  • Meaningful participation of women in the government, civil organizations and international organization like ASEAN, especially in the case of Burma after 2010 election were there only a few women that are in the parliament
  • Given the movement of migrant workers in the ASEAN region, support a residence-based (as opposed to a citizenship-based) health care system. This requires universality and a single, high standard of health services.
  • End human trafficking and other extreme forms of exploitation, especially where such exploitation takes place with the complicity of government officials.
  • We strongly demand the ASEAN to immediately set up and enforce an independent regional youth council/commission meaningfully engaging the youth in policy planning, implementing, monitoring and reform. It shall be involved in strategic transparency and accountability measures on education, employment, public health and sustainable environment in local and national levels.

Participation and public accountability

  • Create mechanism for inclusive CSO participation in decision-making and designing of a sound and sustainable health program for ASEAN Peoples particularly the marginalized.
  • Commit to a healthy environment for CSOs to maximize their potential as an equal development actor.
  • Call on the AICHR to monitor and respond not only to regional issues but also human rights situation in each countries so that ASEAN can go beyond non-interference principle;
  • Call on the AICHR to be more accessible and transparent by making all documents public, translating documents into ten ASEAN languages and conducting national and regional consultation with civil society;

ENVIRONMENT

We strongly reiterate calls made from previous years for ASEAN to establish an Environment Pillar in its structure and governance that will place environmental sustainability, economic, gender, social and climate justice at the center of decision-making. Building an ASEAN Environmental Community as the fourth pillar is urgently needed to more effectively address the climate crisis, the social and environmental costs of large-scale development projects, and increasing damage to our eco-system.
Energy:

  • We call upon ASEAN to reject technology fixes such as nuclear power plants and biomass plantations, and market-based instruments such as “Blue Carbon Fund” and offsets that are being promoted as false solutions to the climate crisis that do not address the root causes. We call for the de-nuclearization of ASEAN and the cancellation of plans to promote nuclear energy.
  • ASEAN must recognize that large scale hydropower dams are a major threat to the people’s livelihoods, with far-ranging human security and environmental impacts on the region. ASEAN urgently needs to establish a sustainable energy development program, which includes pursuit of alternative and more sustainable sources of energy, and an end to the privatization of power, water privatization and indigenous sources of renewable energy.

Water:

  • ASEAN must recognize that access to water is a fundamental human right, halt water privatization projects and engage in partnerships that will result in the delivery of clean, affordable water to communities, while ensuring sustainability of water resources;

Climate Change:

  • ASEAN countries should demand for reparations for climate debt. ASEAN should pursue an international legally binding agreement to ensure that rich industrialized countries undertake deep drastic emissions cuts through domestic measures (not offsets).
  • ASEAN must recognize and support environmentally sustainable and culturally appropriate local initiatives and traditional practices of farmers, fishers, indigenous communities and women to adapt to and mitigate climate change. Extractive activities such as mining, which adversely affect the resilience of farming and fishing communities, need to be stopped.
  • ASEAN needs to assert that climate funds established under the UN Climate Convention and any other forms of climate funding must follow the principle of reparation for climate debt, and be subject to stringent democratic, transparent and accountable measures. World Bank and other international financial institutions must be kept out of in climate finance, and climate funding should not be in the form of debt and debt-creating instruments, nor undermine the self determination of the most affected communities and groups.
  • We call for the development of an ASEAN Framework instrument on Climate Change, based on the principles of climate justice and gender justice that will produce policies and programs oriented to the diverse and particular needs and conditions of communities and localities in affected areas.
  • Genuinely environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, people-centered, gender-sensitive, inclusive and responsive and diverse green economies should be promoted in the context of fulfilling the obligations of developed countries to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide financial and technological support to developing countries in adapting to and mitigating climate change.
  • The implementation of ASEAN’s education policy on climate change should include acknowledgement of women’s indigenous and local wisdom, and their role in preventing climate change as well as emergency and disaster preparedness must be included. ASEAN should also ensure that the education reaches women, especially women from marginalised groups.
  • Adopt a regional mechanism and build capacity for assessment of new, emerging or un-tested technologies based on the Precautionary Principle with the full participation of civil society and communities to look into the potential environmental, health and socio-economic impacts of these technologies, including transboundary implications. Concretely, we propose the establishment of an ASEAN Technology Observation Platform.

HEALTH (special section on theme of interface)
Basic Health for All

  • ASEAN states should ensure a free and universal health care system without any discrimination regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). There should be stop the privatization and commodification of health care system, ensure equal access and provide affordable and quality health care as pat of labor rights for all including domestic workers, migrant workers, sex workers, workers with disabilities, LGBTIQ workers, refugees and asylum seekers..

Health System

  • Mechanism should be created that enables CSOs and/or community members to participate in decision-making and designing of a sound and sustainable health program for ASEAN people, particularly the marginalized people.
  • Governments should ensure the provision of adequate resources, and accessible and quality healthcare for children.
  • Youth, the poor and vulnerable groups including people living with HIV/AIDS, young LGBTIQ, and youth who use drugs should be provided with free and accessible universal health care system that is youth-friendly with the formalisation of young peoples’ involvement.
  • Policy should be implemented for persons with disabilities that improves the access to health services, health insurance and subsidy to additional cost on the ground of disability

Health for those who are in difficult circumstances

  • For migrant workers, all ASEAN member states must repeal policies of contract termination and deportation on the grounds of pregnancy and communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
  • Specific health needs such as physical and psycho-social related needs should be fulfilled for those who are infringed their human rights due to war and torture.

Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights

  • Human rights and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights should be prioritised and enforced within the policy framework of public health services. Condom programmes must address all aspects of supply, demand and environment within a rights based approach.
  • A comprehensive set of sexual and reproductive health and HIV services must be provided to sex workers. The whole spectrum of prevention, treatment, care and support from a rights-based approach. Focusing HIV prevention on sex work is the most cost-effective investment in ASEAN
  • To endorse ASEAN member states and government commitment to realise their vision of the implementation of ICPD (1994) Plan of Action in particular sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as well as MDG 5 and MDG 6 commitments.
  • ASEAN member states must enforce and guarantee the sexual and reproductive health and rights in the ASEAN policy framework by referring laws and policies to promote sexual and reproductive rights and repeal restrictive and punitive laws and policies which deny equal access to information and services as well as those which criminalize the transmission of HIV and abortion. These laws and policies should at minimum comply with international human rights standards, treaties, and conventions. These rights enable and informed decisions over marriage pregnancy, treaties and conventions. These rights enable free and informed decisions over marriage pregnancy, childbirth, contraception, sexuality, sexual orientations, gender identities, pleasure and livelihood. Eradicate sexual and reproductive coercion, stigma, discrimination, harmful traditional practices and gender-biased violence, particularly against women and girls.
  • To decrease unsafe abortion and maternal mortality, and as a result call for governments to address these as public health and human rights issues. Ensure equitable and affordable access for contraception, safe and legal abortion, skilled maternity and newborn care including access and referral to pregnancy and delivery complications; prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of HIV and AIDS and all other sexually transmitted infections, including in humanitarian crisis. All of these services must be available and fully funded throughout the health system, particularly in the public sector and at the primary health care level as well as taking into consideration the important role that NGOs play in providing complementary health services.
  • To decrease the high maternal mortality and morbidity in the ASEAN region as well as the high unmet need of contraceptives and the high adolescent fertility rate as a consequence of the traditional practice of underage marriage Making Pregnancy Safer (MPS) for the youngest mothers and their babies should become a priority for those ASEAN countries where childbearing still common. Effective interventions and a clear action plan should be ready to address adolescent marriage and pregnancies.
  • Provides these services for all, ensuring quality, gender and age-sensitive healthcare and non-discrimination for low income and other marginalised groups. Services providers need to be non-judgmental and respect diversity. Support innovation, including the development of new technologies and services models, and access to scientific progress. We call upon governments to include objectives and indicators in the national health planning and budgeting process that ensure positive sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes.
  • To stop the forced sterilization and denial of reproductive rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS and persons with disabilities.

Health Education

  • ASEAN should initiate and implement a regional curriculum on comprehensive sexuality education inclusive of sexual and reproductive health and rights, both in formal and informal education systems that can be enjoyed by youth of ASEAN especially marginalized groups

Access to Medicines

  • ASEAN should resist and oppose the effort of the EU to push for restrictive Intellectual Property Rights chapter that would curtail production and distribution of more affordable generic medicines.
  • To refuse trade agreement between India and EU which patented the medicines, including ARV, caused price of medicine in the third world become very expensive.

Health risk factors

  • Health policies should consider decent working condition, safe working environment and decent living conditions
  • The harmful impact on health of individuals and communities affected by forced evictions and displacements should be examined and remedied
  • Building large-scale hydropower dams affects both the physical and mental health of indigenous peoples and local communities living within the dam site. They become insecure because of safety concerns and uncertainties since they rely heavily on the river and their environment for sustenance and livelihood and this is even more compounded by the threats and impacts of climate change.
  • Taxes and prices of tobacco products should be raised as the best way to curb smoking. This will increase government revenue, save lives and improve quality of life.
  • ASEAN should ensure dialogue and decision making between women or community members and policy makers on the impact of climate change on women’s livelihoods, health, sexual and reproductive rights. The specific needs of women should be factored into the policies on climate change.

Videos: Seminar Regional Economic and Financial Cooperation amidst Crisis (ASEAN People's Forum, Jakarta, May 2011)

People’s SAARC Assembly

Thiruvanathapuram Declaration

People’s Movements Uniting South Asia

9 November 2011

We, rx the participants of the People’s SAARC India Assembly 2011 met in Thiruvanathapuram on 8-9 November 2011 to affirm our commitment to justice, peace and democracy in the region. We also affirm and commit ourselves to the vision of an alternative political, social, economic and cultural system that enables social and sustainable development in the region that will do away with discriminations based on gender, caste, religion, language and ethnicity; lead to a situation free from exploitation and oppression; create a climate in which each individual will have the opportunity to realize full development of her or his human potential; restore the balance and harmony with nature; eliminate the artificial and human barriers that divide lands, peoples and mind; and transcend all boundaries.

The India assembly was privileged to host vibrant social movements, trade unions and activists from across India and abroad. Over 250 activists participated in three plenary sessions and 7 workshops on issues such as trade and livelihoods, natural resources, women’s role in people’s movements, de-militarization, labour and exclusion and discrimination. The assembly culminated in a colourful march to the Kerala Secretariat.

People’s Movements Uniting South Asia

A genuine South Asian consciousness, which has been present in a historical sense, is growing today among the peoples of this region. In recent years the urge for regional cooperation and interaction has manifested itself at different levels. Writers, poets, artists, scientists, social activists, human rights and women’s rights activists of South Asian countries have initiated concrete moves towards establishing mutual contacts and developing cooperation among themselves.

This declaration captures this paradigm shift of people’s movements uniting South Asia.

State Repression and Militarism undermining democracy:

The people of South Asia are witnessing the militarisation of state and society. The dominance of militarist thinking in the governments, the doctrine of preventive intervention and terrorism as a State policy has prevented the strengthening of the fraternity of the people, consolidation of the political constituency for peaceful resolution of conflict and build a common identity for South Asian people.

The context of rising terrorism is being used by the ruling elite to shift public opinion towards an internal security doctrine that is undemocratic, chauvinistic and anti-people.

We condemn the increasing budgetary allocation on militarization by diverting resource from social welfare by the governments in South Asian. The reduction of tensions between South Asian countries means the reduction of defence budgets in both countries. This will have a major and meaningful impact on the well being of each country’s citizens.

We are also alarmed by the accelerated militarization in the region in the name of countering terrorism, eroding democratic space, undermining basic human rights and humanitarian law principles, has resulted into further terrorization and radicalization the affected civilian populations.  We are deeply concerned at the expanding role of the military and para-military forces in the development processes including mega development projects and extractive mining, plundering the natural resources, marginalizing and displacing the indigenous peoples inhabiting the region. We must ensure that our governments stop militarising society by developing the doctrine of internal security, as extensions of war concepts into society, and creating armed forces for internal war.

We call for the inclusion of a policy on human rights in the SAARC platform. In Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan a vision of national security and guise of counter terrorism is being used as a tool for suppressing democratic peoples movements. Whether it is the struggles of communities over control of natural resources, or struggles against state repression or against corporate power or against communal profiling of populations, the dominant policy in all these states are against the will of the people. Hence there is a need for a clearly articulated human rights policy to be included in the SAARC.

We salute the extraordinary resilience of Irom Sharmila Chanu as she enters the twelfth year of a hunger strike in solidarity confinement demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, which has chronically militarized and displaced democratic governance in North East India. We must ensure the reduction of influence and control of the military and make it accountable and subordinate to the will of the people.

We call upon the governments of South Asia to immediately halt the futile process of militarization generating a spiral of insecurity and to redirect its resources and energy to build genuine democratic institutions to ensure the human security including education, health, housing and other welfare of the people.

Women in Peoples Movements:

Women have played a crucial role and spearheaded several movements. However in many movements’ women and those from marginalised groups including dalits, adivasis, the disabled, minority communities and those from LGBT groups are seldom heard or their separate needs acknowledged. To create a larger Peoples movement of South Asia this understanding needs to be integrated so that these identities are not submerged in larger forums and spaces but that they are included and made visible.

We need to create ways of working across differences and identities without making them invisible. This has to be based on principles of human rights, commitment to equality and non discrimination focussed on the advancement of human security and human dignity. The intersectionalities between different movements and identities needs to be recognised and integrated so that we can look at ways of coming together. This presents us with many challenges and complexities because in practice it is difficult for different movements to come together.

The Women’s Movement has been connecting across borders since the 1970’s; this has helped in strengthening our work, learning from each other as well as creating stronger bonds between us. As women we have always been suspicious of narrow nationalism and patriotism because of how it affects women. It has also presented many complexities and challenges in our vision of a Peoples Union of South Asia. There is a need to have dialogues across movements and borders on similar issues, we have a lot to learn and contribute to each other’s work. However the question is how to integrate a feminist framework of analysis and understanding in these various movements. This is so we can create better integrated movements, where the voices of the marginalised are given space as well as awareness about the intersectionalities between different issues and themes.

Re-building Labour movement:

Contractualisation, migration and the non-implementation of labour laws are common issues in the region.

We demand that labour be included as an area of cooperation in the South Asian cooperation framework.

Large scale privatization, both direct and indirect, closures and retrenchments have lead to job losses and created conditions for capital to deny labour rights and introduce new labour practices that affect the labour adversely. In the process, rights to organization and collective bargaining became a casualty. We call for the ratification of ILO core standards by South Asian countries and constitute a SAARC mechanism to ensure reporting on compliance on ILO core standards and redressal of complaints. Further, we call upon SAARC to adopt the ILO guidelines on TNC as a enforceable mechanism to regulate TNCs in the region.

The right to mobility with dignity is a human right. Migrants should be assured of dignity and the right to work as well as adequate wages and human working conditions. Safeguards for the basic rights of the local people must be instituted. We demand a SAARC mechanism to facilitate and promote labour migration with dignity and the institution of a SAARC work permit as a first step to institutionalise this process.

Labour movements in the region have to establish closer cooperation and take an organizational structure at a South Asian level. In priority, we need to work towards integrating different sections of workers currently marginalized and working people not even recognized as workers, into the ambit of labour movements, social security regimes and within the collective bargaining framework.

Trade and livelihoods:

Current trade policy is undemocratic, pro corporate, anti environment and adversely impacts livelihoods of South Asian peoples. Free trade agreements implemented in South Asia such as the India Sri Lanka FTA have adversely impacted livelihoods of farmers, especially in the state of Kerala. Free trade policies under the WTO have resulted in a loss of food sovereignty due to the loss of control over tariffs and quantitative restrictions. We call for trade and economic cooperation in the region and oppose the current trend of advancing the FTA agenda in South Asia and beyond.

We recognize that to bring the people in the region closer, there should be more people to people contact and cooperation. On trade, this would imply a paradigm shift with due process of consultation with legislative bodies and affected groups such as farmers, fishworkers and labour. Further any trade should be based on complementarity, environmental sustainability, food sovereignty and should enhance livelihoods. There should be due mechanisms to monitor the impacts of trade on livelihoods with policies to protect and compensate any communities that could be adversely impacted. We stand for progressive people led regional cooperation in South Asia and call for the normalisation of economic relations between Pakistan and India.

Exclusion, discrimination and oppression:

We express concern about the increasing incidence of state repression against peoples who are fighting for their democratic rights. Dalits, adivasis, sexual and gender minorities, religious minorities, human rights defenders are under constant threat of a militarised state and corporate greed. The struggle of the marginalised for a better democracy needs to be strengthened by rendering solidarity at the South Asian level.

Community control over Natural resources

We note that the current model of development is devastating South Asia’s natural resources. Investment zones such as SEZs that displace people, undermine democracy and national laws and destroy the environment must be stopped. The principle of prior informed consent of the local communities should be followed for all projects. We note with concern the revival of the nuclear industry despite the lessons from the Fukushima Daichi disaster. We support the valiant peoples struggle in Koodamkulam and Jaitapur and call for a halt to these nuclear projects. We call upon Governments to promote people centred non conventional and sustainable energy sources.

We call for a ban on genetically modified seeds in SAARC countries. Governments in South Asia should stop production, distribution, consumption and export of all Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) including endosulfan.

We call upon the people to be cautious that there is an imperialist agenda to use so called environmental concerns to undermine sustainable development and livelihood needs of the people of developing countries.

South Asian coastal and forest communities are facing the brunt of so called development and corporate greed. We call for the implementation progressive legislations for protection of the environment and livelihoods in the coastal and forest regions.

Regional Economic and Financial Cooperation Amidst Crisis: Initiatives in Asia, rx advice Latin America and Europe

ACSC/APF, Jakarta, discount 04 May 2011, 3:30-6:00 p.m.


FULL PROGRAMME


Jenina Joy Chavez, Focus on the Global South
– The importance of the regions as an arena to advance alternatives
– Financial Cooperation Initiatives in Asia: A Quick Scan and Assessment

Oscar Ugarteche, Economic Research Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Latindadd
– The imperative of regional financial cooperation vis-à-vis global financial system
– The new regional financial architecture in Latin America: the Sucre and the Bank of the South

Dr. Bambang Irawan, Senior Lecturer, Sampoerna Business School (formerly with the Macroeconomic and Finance Surveillance Office of the ASEAN Secretariat)

Mr. Charles Santiago, MP Malasya

ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) 3-5 May 2011, Indonesia

Event website: http://www.aseancivilsociety.net


INTRODUCTION

After being in its existence since 1967, symptoms ASEAN now is in the critical juncture of living and working in a fast changing regional and international environment. The increased reputation of ASEAN has invited great political and economic powers such as China, Japan, generic India and United States, to establish regional cooperation with ASEAN. Unity, strengthening the mechanisms for cooperation and maintaining an image of being a neutral negotiator among the great powers could provide the occasion in retaining the driver’s seat in Asian regional cooperation. More importantly, ASEAN needs to be attentive to the population’s voice and engage them in meaningful ways. If ASEAN wants to be relevant, credible and trustworthy now and in the future, it is imperative that ASEAN should not left the people behind.

In fact, one of the purposes of ASEAN is to “promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building” as stipulated in the Article 1.13 of the ASEAN Charter that was ratified by ten Member States in 2008. Furthermore, the Charter also formalises the commitment of the ASEAN member states to democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms, rule of law, good governance, constitutional government and social justice.

One and the most challenging tasks of ASEAN is to maintain its significance and accountability to its own people. ASEAN has hardly been monitored, assessed or evaluated by its people because many did not see it as their importance. The creation of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) on October 23, 2009 and the ASEAN Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) on April 7, 2010 was seen as one of the windows of opportunities for engagement and a test to democracy building commitment as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter.

For ASEAN to pass this test, the Association needs to ensure the effective participation of civil society with its sectoral bodies and human rights mechanisms, both in the process of establishing and decision making following the principle of transparent and inclusiveness. ASEAN human rights bodies have to be independent and impartial with monitoring power attached to the body. In sum, the legitimacy of ASEAN, its sectoral organ and its human rights mechanisms need to be assessed against normative democratic principle. Democratic legitimacy requires public justification of the process, results and impact from those who are affected by the policy implementation. Hence, justification demands spaces to practice the participation, accountability and responsibility. In this end, engaging civil society should be seen as one of the elements to ensure the democratic legitimacy of the ASEAN.

Peoples’ engagement with ASEAN is, actually, not a new issue. It has been well-recorded that since 1972, ASEAN created a Chambers of Commerce and Industry to be a channel for the business community’s concerns and inputs on various regional economic issues to the ASEAN and its member governments. Since 1988, ASEAN has been engaging with ISIS/Institutes for Strategic and International Studies in facilitating solutions for ASEAN governments. In 2003, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council/ABAC offered an official linkage for private sector feedback and guidance to boost ASEAN’s efforts towards economic integration, and to identify priority areas for consideration by ASEAN leaders.

Furthermore, there are number of civil society engagement practices that have been organized within the sectoral organs as a way to exchange views on ASEAN policies such as the GO-NGO forum in accordance with the annual meeting of Senior Official Meeting of Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD) and also in the process of deliberation of the ASEAN Task Force on HIV/Aids.

ASEAN CIVIL SOCIETY CONFERENCE

During the 11th ASEAN Summit (2005) in Shah Alam, Malaysia, the ASEAN Chair (Malaysia) introduced the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC) as a venue for civil society to get organized and build unity among them. This event becomes the annual gathering of civil society in ASEAN which its location follows the chairmanship of ASEAN. The second ACSC was conducted in Cebu, the Philippines (2006). Tagging along the Philippines, Singapore was the host for the third ACSC (2007) and Thailand (Bangkok and Cha-Am) was the organizer for the fourth and the fifth (2009). In 2010, Vietnam (Hanoi) organized the sixth ACSC with the name of ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) and the Chair expressed the appreciation of holding the event. Furthermore, the Chair said “… and took note of valuable inputs and suggestions from different sectors of society in ASEAN in the process of building an ASEAN Community” (Chairman’s Statement, 17th ASEAN Summit, Hanoi, 28 October 2010)[1].

Each ACSC has attracted participants from ten member countries of ASEAN and beyond. There were about 1,020 participants from all around the world attended the 4th and 5th ACSC in Thailand. To ensure that the ACSC is the gathering of civil society from ASEAN member countries, there was a policy to secure and prioritize seats for participants from the ten member states. The 2011 ACSC/APF (Jakarta, Indonesia) targets 1,200 participants, which 500 participants will come from Indonesia alone.

For the past six years, ACSC has been the biggest gathering of civil society in ASEAN. It has contributed to the raising awareness among civil society organizations from ten member countries about ASEAN, its processes, mechanisms and activities. It has also spotted the different character of Track II and Track III’s engagement. Among other things, it has been the venue for regional inter-sectoral networking and dialogue across the whole wide range regional advocacy activities and issues such as development, human rights, women’s empowerments, child protection, poverty eradication, climate change, social protection, the protection of migrant workers, fisheries and agricultures, freedom of information, the rights of ethnic minorities, and environment issue.

From time to time, the theme and ways of organizing ACSC changes along with the dynamic of domestic (the country of ASEAN chair) context, the level of civil society’s knowledge on ASEAN, and the current and emerging issue and development in ASEAN. However, it can be noted that from having the ACSC for 7 years/times, there are common features captured in each event: a) it is organized as parallel process to ASEAN Summit, b) Includes the interface with the ASEAN Head of States (although it has been negotiated but not always granted), c) has been shifted from State-led process to civil society-led process (which indicate the ownership and interest of civil society to ASEAN Community building processes), d) it is an open process to all civil society organizations, e) country and thematic workshops will be organized prior to the ACSC and f) it resulted to Recommendation to address regional issues for ASEAN Leaders.

One of the recommendations from the 2nd ACSC was to have country and thematic workshops as a preparatory session to the ACSC. Since then key organizations have spearheaded and put in resources and organize numerous workshops on ASEAN and reached out to as many people as possible to raise awareness on ASEAN. As a result, today, the number of civil society organizations in ten ASEAN member states continues to grow in term of quantity and quality. Linking country (national) and thematic workshops with regional event like ACSC has been seen as one of the most effective ways to improve the interaction of people-to-people in ASEAN.

ACSC/APF has also generated a number of networking and learning circles among the people and civil society organizations across countries in ASEAN. After ACSC/APF, many groups jointly organized several activities, conducted regional research on issues that they concerned the most and also hold the people-to-people exchange program. ACSC has allowed the opportunity of building a mutual understanding and trust among people in ASEAN.

As Indonesia is the chair of ASEAN for 2011, the group of civil society will be hosting the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) 2011 from 3rd to 5th May 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Several consolidation and preparatory meetings both at Sub-regions, National, and Regional levels have been conducted by the host countries.

OBJECTIVES

The objectives of the ACSC/APF 2011 are:

  1. to secure and strengthen critical engagement with ASEAN;
  2. to call upon ASEAN leaders and governments to promote a genuinely people-centered ASEAN;
  3. to present demands of people’s movements and civil society struggles in the region to ASEAN leaders;
  4. to enhance mutual understanding and build solidarity, unity, and cooperation among the peoples of South East Asia in the process of community building;
  5. to share lessons learnt from past successes and failures of advocacy in engaging the ASEAN; and
  6. to strengthen the people’s struggles and transform them into coordinated actions and increase solidarity at national and regional levels among stakeholders

THEME

“Claiming a People-Centered ASEAN for a Just Global Community”


SEE PROGRAMME

SEE FINAL STATEMENT

SEE Focus on the Global South analysis of the ACSC/APF 2011