Workshop: Emerging crises: De-globalisation and Alternative Regionalism? (APF -Bangkok)

Workshop Emerging crises: De-globalisation and Alternative Regionalism?
Opportunities and challenges for regional alternatives

During ASEAN PEOPLE’S FORUM (Bangkok, web 21-22 February 2009)

21 February 2009 / 9-11 am / B2 106

The global financial system is unravelling at great speed. This is happening in the midst of a multiplicity of interlinked crises in relation to food, climate change and energy arising from the workings of the currently dominant global neo-liberal model. The failure of this economic model has been forcefully made evident. Finding solutions to the global crises has now become the major concern across the globe. This workshop will highlight the debate around the idea of ‘de-globalisation’ and the challenges and possibilities of moving forward in the concretisation of regional alternatives to the economic, financial, food, climate and energy crises and instead place the interest of people and the planet at its center. It will aim to encourage crossfertilisation from experiences on regional alternatives among social movements and civil society organisations from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.


The Global Crisis and the Need for Multiple-Level Responses
Walden Bello, Focus on the Global South

Opportunities and Challenges for Regional Response
* Lessons and Experiences from Latin America: Gonzalo Berron, Hemispheric Social Alliance
* Lessons and Experiences from East Asia: Aehwa Kim, Korea Alliance of Progressive Movements
* Lessons and Experiences from South Asia: Meena Mennon, Focus-India Programme
* Lessons and Experiences from Europe, and People’s Initiatives (PAAR): Cecilia Olivet, Transnational Institute

Open Discussion

Facilitation, Synthesis and Summing Up
Jenina Joy Chavez, Focus-Philippines Programme

This workshop is co-organized by the People’s Agenda for Alternative
Regionalisms, Focus on the Global South, Transnational Institute, and
Hemispheric Social Alliance.


Key points:

1. Export-oriented industrialization, which is the model of development for the past 40 years, has pushed the integration of national economies into the international economy. This model, guided by neoliberal policies, has a number o f dimensions— trade liberalization through free trade agreements (FTAs) and the World Trade Organization, integration of financial markets and the elimination of control, etc. Howver, this has contradicted efforts on regionalism, of countries banding regionally to strengthen their national economies through regional cooperation.

2. In ASEAN, the extent of regionalism that has taken place in terms of cooperation, complementarity, and integration over the last 40 years is very little. The region, however, moved together in a free trade area, i.e. open regionalism (e.g. Singapore and to some extent the Philippines) as part of the globalist project. At the same time, the economic elites in ASEAN did not buy in the idea of regional integration because they want to protect their own internal markets. ASEAN’s integration is a project of government elites, one which is confined at their level and does not translate at the grassroots. Far from being democratized, we cannot expect a real move from the government and economic elites toward real integration that is based on cooperation, equity, fair trade, solidarity, and complementarity.

3. The impetus would have to come from civil society and peoples’ movements. Reclaiming the region and developing regional alternatives are projects that go beyond politics and the economy. Reclaiming the region means recreating regional integration based on different principles—people-centered and people-oriented. The challenge, then, for civil society and peoples’ movements in the region is to come up with and assert an alternative vision of regional integration or new regionalism based on peoples’ needs and aspirations, taking into consideration the different levels of developments in the region; a regional integration that will challenge the neoliberal model—a peoples’ ASEAN. A peoples’ ASEAN will need to move towards a trade relation that is based on equity and fairness, address common regional issues on the environment and marine resources, climate change, migration, development assistance, food/agriculture, and human rights. This is also very important as the region and the world face a global economic downturn.

4. The tasks for the future, as a mid-term goal, include working on concrete and commons issues that can capture the imagination of the public and peoples at the grassroots. For example, setting up an Asian common action team on agricultural and energy issues and reach out to other social movements and grassroots groups through education and information campaigns about regional alternatives.

5. There should be more future discussions on visioning, practical solutions and how to move toward a real regional integration. One recommendation is that for the processes of civil society and peoples’ movements to not repeat what governments are doing (i.e. open regionalism, which is characterized by political and institutional democratic deficit).

6. The experiences of other regions such as Latin America, East Asia, South Asia, and Europe in regional integration show that the “the diplomacy of the people is more advanced than the diplomacy of the state.” Examples in Latin America such as the ALBA offer inspiration for regional alternatives, of how social movements can influence the agendas of governments. The EU’s model of integration, on the other hand, teaches us that it is not the right model to follow. The EU has been hijacked by the corporate agenda and by the neoliberal forces and serving their interests. On the other hand, there are also lessons to learn from the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) (e.g. their charter that is based on peaceful resolution, food bank for the region, etc.) and the moves of South Asian movements to build a Peoples’ SAARC and a peoples’ agenda. These examples highlight the importance of cross-fertilisation of experiences among the different regions. We should encourage these exchanges and popularize the current alternatives that civil society are developing within and around regional integration processes as well as civil society perspectives on the innovative and progressive governmental regional alternatives.

Read a summary report of the workshop here

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