MANILA, Philippines - Voices from the margins are not being heard at the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila, various civic groups from across the region said on Tuesday, November 14.
"These biggest sectors of the community have been excluded from the process," according to Dr Eduardo Tadem, a convenor of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference and ASEAN People's Forum (ACSC/APFP).
Members of the multinational coalition expressed their disappointment over ASEAN's alleged failure to recognize the social cost of migration, its impact on families that were left behind, the harassment of Rohingyas in Myanmar, and the 'horrendous' treatment of victims of human trafficking.
They stressed that the protection of basic human rights in the region is "inadequate."
The coalition, which is composed of civic society groups that represent 10 ASEAN countries, wanted "real" representatives of the people at the summit. It believes that the international gathering of leaders is being dominated by business interests that caused economic, social, and environmental crises across the region. (READ: Who are the ASEAN dialogue partners in Manila?)
Mainly a business meeting?
According to Tadem, the ASEAN summit mainly talked about issues that are related to business like how to increase exports and how to promote investments.
"ASEAN is really basically an organization of the region's political oligarchs and business interests, and they've excluded 99% of the people in the region," he added.
The gathering of civil society groups which Tadem helped convene stressed that the ASEAN integration and migration policies continue to neglect realities such as large displacement of people from their lands, labor mobility, and different migration flows.
The unrecognized number of migrant workers found in the low-skilled and informal economy also contributed to this failure, the group said.
10 basic solutions
To address these problems, ACSC/APFP proposed the following basic solutions:
- Put a social dimension to the ASEAN integration with emphasis on the rights of the people, particularly the marginalized and discriminated sectors.
- Uphold human rights and rule of law.
- Review the ASEAN principle of non-interference and advance democracy in decision-making.
- Forge regional solutions to regional disputes like territorial claims and the like.
- Adopt international laws and policies which adhere to human rights standards, labor laws, and laws on refugees.
- Expand spaces for people's participation.
- Build capacities for people empowerment.
- Prioritize people's agenda over corporate interest.
- Support people's alternative regional integration.
- Respect struggles of collective resistance.
The coalition of civic groups called on ASEAN member-states to partner with civic and non-governmental organization to create a just, equitable, and humane region that advances programs and policies that are people-centered.- Rappler.com