Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ASEAN @ 50 - Is Integration Doable?

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Over 150 delegates from various peoples’organizations, social movements, and civil society organizations gathered at the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG) to kick off the two-day Philippine Peoples’ Summit on ASEAN 2016 to discuss various local, national and regional issues as they relate to ASEAN. 

The summit focused on how the ASEAN has changed in the last 49 years and examined the challenges for a regional economic integration. Is a regional integration doable or is it just a delusion? “Peoples’ engagement with ASEAN has been a long and arduous journey,”said Dr. Ed Tadem, President of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and lead convenor of the Philippine Process on ASEAN, citing challenges such as the Mekong region countries being more integrated with China than with the ASEAN region, the social inequalities within and between ASEAN countries, the ASEAN’s failure to issue a joint communique on the South China Sea territorial dispute, and the regional human rights mechanism’s inability to respond to reports of human rights violations. 

Tadem further said that “ASEAN has been a disappointment because the governments have not responded to the demands and proposals from the people. ASEAN has failed in providing for a better life for citizens and member countries. Unrestrained economic growth has only deepened poverty and social inequalities.” 

But if such is the case, is it still worthwhile to pursue engagement with ASEAN or is there an alternative to ASEAN? 

“Integration should be based on solidarity. And by solidarity, it means putting yourself in the position of the other. It should be pro-people and premised on friendship and peaceful co-existence,” said Antonio Tujan, Jr. of IBON International. This has not been the case for ASEAN. 

However, Tujan said there is still value in our engagement with the ASEAN, as this is the proxy organization for Asia, not only in relation to ASEAN affairs but also because of its role in the regional and global arena. 

Although there is a huge imbalance in the space, ASEAN still provides opportunities to people. CSO scan show the way to regional integration, one that starts from below. The ACSC/APF for instance provides a space where people from the region are able to discuss issues, share ande xchange experiences and solutions. 

Representatives from sectors of children, youth, elderly, women and persons with disabilities gave their reactions on what ASEAN integration can do for their sectors. Persons with disabilities said they are not looked at as a relevant sector to the point of being invisible. They see no regional level

solution for their sector. In the case of women, they see alternative regional is one that should ensure women’s enjoyment of their rights and gender equality. 

To further explore local issues in relation to ASEAN, the Summit participants went into breakout sessions to discuss issues on labour and migration, food sovereignty, human rights and repression, trade and foreign policies, peace and security, economic issues and inequality, climate, and gender, inclusivity and intersectionality. 

Recommendations from the different sectors include addressing the cultural, ideological and economic causes of inequality and marginalization. This means clarification and reaffirmation of principles, the exploration of alternatives, establishment of instruments and mechanisms (engagement, transparency and accountability, formal mechanisms and funds), and strengthening of civil society and social movements. 

On July19, the Summit conducted workshops towards a better understanding of what a people-centered ASEAN is all about, as the country prepares for the 50th anniversary of ASEAN in 2017, when the Philippines will assume chairship. 

The Philippine Peoples’ Summit on ASEAN is organized by the ASEAN CivilS ociety Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum 2016 (ACSC/APF2016) Philippine Process, a broad network of civil society organizations, peoples’ organizations and social movements that seeks to analyze ASEAN issues faced by the Philippines and its neighboring countries.

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