Stepping into the new decade, the world is confronted with a multitude of crises. COVID-19 has continuously exposed and exacerbated existing societal ills across the world: from the overall poor public health systems that are ill-equipped to contain health crises; the failure of the prevailing neoliberal economic framework in providing to those who most need health and vital social services; and the opportunistic maneuvers of imperialist countries, authoritarian governments, and profit-driven businesses to sustain their dominance in the global economy. Marginalized sectors across the world, especially in Southeast Asia, carry on amid these challenges and harness their strength into bringing genuine change and development in these pressing times.
Civil society organizations (CSOs), people’s organizations, and grassroots sectors in Southeast Asia have long engaged in policy-making arenas to raise their demands and hold governments, businesses, and intergovernmental institutions accountable to the people. These platforms, however, continue to be bureaucratic and out-of-touch with realities on the ground and thus limit the democratic, civic space for people’s engagement.
The 2020 ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) and ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC) takes its annual event online with the theme “Southeast Asian People Solidarity for an Inclusive, Cohesive, and Responsive Community”. To enjoin various sectors across the region, the forum integrated convergence spaces spearheaded by CSOs, people’s organizations, and grassroots sectors which aims to discuss pressing issues affecting Southeast Asia namely: Peace and Security; Human Rights and Access to Justice; Ecological Sustainability; Labour and Migration; Alternative Regionalism; Transformative and Solidarity Economy; Trade, Investment, and Corporate Power; Life with Dignity; Culture and the Arts; Innovation, New and Emerging Technology, Digital Rights; to Racial Discrimination and Religious Extremism. These convergence spaces seek to bring together stories of resistance and struggles for change in the region, enhance CSOs, people’s organizations, and grassroots sectors’ participation in policy advocacy, and promote solidarity amongst different sectors.
We call on the APF/ACSC to anchor the three-day event to its goal of being inclusive, cohesive, and responsive to the people of Southeast Asia. Its mechanism and mode of engagement should not be the opposite — exclusive, disjointed, and indifferent to the plight of CSOs, people’s organizations, and grassroots sectors. We stress the importance for the APF/ACSC to engage people’s movements for it to not fall short in maximizing its platform to advance people-to-people solidarity, hold state and corporate actors accountable, and assert the critical role they play in policy development processes that can potentially pave the way to transformative development the region badly needs. Addressing language barriers is one of the ways to understand each other, and communicate our urgent policy recommendations and call for decisive action. Unfortunately, the Webex platform aside from being complicated does not provide language translations. Congruence on the information regarding the event is likewise lacking.
We call on CSOs, people’s movements, and grassroots sectors across the region to continue strengthening solidarity with the vulnerable sectors, amplify their demands and reclaim civic spaces amid government and institutional restrictions, and address the worsening health and human rights crisis.
We, as ASEAN nations, will continue to stand our ground in the face of these attacks on our fundamental freedoms. We renew our commitment to dismantling the prevailing neoliberal framework that only serves corporate interests. We will work collectively to create an ASEAN that is truly inclusive, cohesive, and responsive to the needs of its people.
Power to the people!
Defend peoples’ rights!
Stop the attacks!
Resist fascist attacks and corporate plunder!
Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN)
People Over Profit Network (POP)
Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL)
People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty (PCFS)
Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific (RoA-AP)
International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP)
Center for Environmental Concerns- Philippines (CEC)
Center for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG)