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Asia-Pacific Civil Society demands a just and transformative development agenda

Asia-Pacific Civil Society demands a just and transformative development agenda

IBON International Post-2015 Updates 

Bangkok, Thailand – The first region-wide civil society consultation on Post-2015 took place on Friday, 23 – Saturday 24 August in 
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The event was co-organised by UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Campaign for People’s Goals for Sustainable Development with IBON International, Asia-Pacific Forum for Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asia-Pacific Research Network (APRN), Asia-Pacific Indigenous People’s Pact (AIPP) and Asian Development Alliance (ADA).
 
Civil society from across Asia and the Pacific gathered to discuss regional challenges and priorities and to craft key messages from Asia-Pacific civil society for a just and transformative sustainable development agenda for the region and the world. There were strong calls during the consultation for a transformative development framework which promoted a new model of development justice rather than simply economic inclusivity. Asia-Pacific Civil society called for a development framework which aimed to end inequalities of wealth, power, resources and opportunity between countries, between rich and poor and between men and women.
 
Kate Lappin, Executive Director of APWLD and co-chair of the consultation opened the conference inviting civil society to craft a joint message to the Ministerial Dialogue: From the MDGs to a UN Development Agenda beyond 2015 as well as to share strategies for advocating and building a movement around a common development agenda. Referring to the recently concluded inter-governmental meeting on the post-ICPD agenda in the Latin America and Caribbean region which produced a radical statement thanks to a strong civil society intervention, Kate Lappin expressed her hope that this meeting would facilitate a similarly strong civil society voice and called on participants to build a consensus that was both concrete and transformative.
 
Key Note speaker, Masakazu Ichimura, Chief, Environment and Development Policy Section, UNESCAP, noted important challenges for development in the Asia-Pacific region and expressed the support of UNESCAP in facilitating inclusive and transparent dialogues with civil society. Mr. Ichimura suggested that this would be a good opportunity to showcase civil society’s substantive contributions to development debates in Asia and the Pacific.
 
Antonio Tujan, International Director of IBON International, delivered the second key-note address calling for development justice and noting that civil society needs to redouble their efforts to ensure the participation of the marginalized in the post-2015 agenda. He emphasized that civil society should not be limited to consultations and that civil society must make active interventions in determining and setting development policies. While criticizing the current development paradigm where neoliberal policies of deregulation have brought economic instability and wrecked havoc, dismantling environmental and social safeguards for sake of free movement of capital, he called for vigilance to ensure a new development agenda is not business as usual.
 
During the Asia – Pacific CSO Consultation, the first panel of presentations and discussions focused on how Asia-Pacific fitted within the current global processes – the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals and new high level political forum (hlpf) as well as the major groups structure and global governance. Key issues in the OWG were flagged by speaker, Ranja Sengupta of Third World Network, including the strong G77+China statements on the need address structural issues preventing development and the need for economic and democratic governance reforms while developed countries were backtracking from existing agreements and emphasizing the role of the private foundations in their place.  As the hlpf has opened a new space for civil society participation through the major groups, there has been renewed debate on the major groups governance structure. Warning against gate keeping and conflicts of interest, Neth Dano of the ETC-Group called for greater transparency and accountability in the major groups governance structure including disclosure of organizations linked to corporations.
 
During the second panel, participants debated what elements are necessary to create a framework for a new transformative development agenda which would bring in all economic, social, environmental and cultural elements. Lim Mah Hui of the South Centre, questioned calls for inclusive growth which, he said, implies insertion in the current market system without equal rights in agenda setting.
 
Sandeep Chachra of ActionAid India considered the social context of the current development agenda and questioned the silence on the need for a paradigm change while challenging the prevailing trend of accumulation by dispossession. Without environmental concerns mainstreamed, social, economic and cultural changes are meaningless in the face of catastrophic climate change according to Ahmad Syamsul Hadi of Walhi/ Friends of the Earth Indonesia. Finally, Bernice See of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact centred on the importance of culture in development given its inter-generational and inter-dimensional relevance.
 
Paul Quintos, IBON International and co-chair of the consultation, said “There is a deep sense of injustice pervading the world today after over three decades of neoliberal globalization. From Tahrir square and Taksim Park, to the streets of Sao Paulo and Blagoevgrad, to the country sides of Andhra Pradesh and Mindanao, the people are rising up against the many faces of injustice.”  The emerging consensus from Asia-Pacific Civil society was for the need for a new model of development justice which should be framed around five foundational shifts: redistributive justice, economic justice, social justice, environmental justice; accountability to the peoples.
 
These elements are interlinking and indivisible and their achievement can be greatly facilitated through the prioritization of six urgent elements: land equity, decent work including living wages, tax reform, commitment to universal and comprehensive social protection, gender equality, safeguarding environmental justice, and establishing governance institutions and processes which ensure direct accountability to the people. 
 
Emele Duituturaga, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO) said “This is a good start for building a framework for transformative development justice that we can bring to our sub-regions, and national contexts.”
 
As well as agreeing on key messages from the Asia-Pacific Civil Society, there were agreements to establish a regional major group formation to engage with the global major group structure in the hlpf and to create thematic clusters.
 
Eni Lestari, International Migrants Alliance (IMA), closed the Asia Pacific CSO Consultation with a moving call for the participants to use their privilege in being able to travel and participate in processes like this to advocate for their constituencies.  She emphasized that the participants could not let their work end in this room, they would have to challenge their governments and policymakers to agree a framework for development for the people not for protecting the interests of the elites and corporations. 
 
Please find in the link the final outcome document: Bangkok Civil Society Declaration with listed signatories. 
 
Released by Shanthi Sivakumaran

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