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The ASEAN We Want: An Open Statement to ASEAN Leaders

In an open statement to ASEAN leaders participating in 34th ASEAN Summit (Bangkok), 110 community, network and civil society organisations, including PanNature have urged ASEAN to respect people’s rights and livelihoods. 

The full statement is below:

In 2009, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) based in Southeast Asia and working closely with local communities on environment, social and human rights issues, proposed the ASEAN-Civil Society Dialogue on Environment [1] as a framework to dialogue with ASEAN. The proposed framework asked that “ASEAN should launch a fourth Strategic Pillar on Environment and prepare a blueprint that commits the member states to place international best practices on environmental sustainability at the center of decision-making.” The framework outlined three core themes of concern for dialogue:

  1. Large-scale development projects that lead to environment and livelihood destruction, especially hydropower dams on the Mekong and Salween Rivers, and extractive industry sectors (oil, gas and mining).
  2. Climate Change, which increasingly highlights the vulnerability of the region.
  3. Biodiversity, which is threatened by large scale development projects to achieve rapid economic growth. The loss of the region’s rich biodiversity has exacerbated inequality and food insecurity in the region and created “the lack of access and control over land, water, productive resources, genetic resources, as well as social protection.”

Despite growing evidence that environmental destruction and degradation are the main causes of livelihood insecurity and violation of peoples’ rights in the ASEAN region, there have been no improvements by governments, businesses and corporations in addressing environmental problems over the past decade. Instead, people are witnessing and experiencing rapid losses of land, water sources, forests, minerals, biodiversity and good air quality. The impacts of climate change have already resulted in tremendous uncertainty about peoples’ futures, especially those who live in ecologically and economically vulnerable conditions. ASEAN’s prioritization of economic integration and linkages to build the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has encouraged member countries to welcome foreign investors with little regard to the negative impacts on people’s territories, livelihoods and economic conditions. Backed by politically and financially powerful countries, and international financial institutions, private investors have become increasingly more aggressive in their demands to ASEAN governments, and wield far greater influence over policy and law making than ten years ago.  By agreeing to investor protection mechanisms such as Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), ASEAN governments have weakened their abilities to protect local populations, environments and public interest from encroachments  by investors.

On the occasion of the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand from 20-23 June 2019, we, peoples, communities and CSOs from Southeast Asia, and members of concerned international communities, present our hopes and demands for a just, prosperous and genuinely sustainable ASEAN.  Given our experiences and the trends we have witnessed in the region and globally, we want an ASEAN where:

  1. The value of nature as the basis of life and foundation for sustainable development is recognized and respected by all, and not reduced to monetary value and pricing.
  2. Public interest is understood as upholding the needs of majority of the population, not the interests of elite and wealthy members of society.
  3. Economic development does not destroy or degrade the environment and undermine the livelihoods and rights of local peoples and communities.
  4. Resources are distributed and governed to ensure equitable access, especially with regard to critical resources such as food, land, water and energy, and for economically and socially vulnerable peoples/communities.
  5. The roles and importance of local communities in protecting and regenerating the vitality of eco-systems and natural wealth are recognized, respected and upheld by governments.
  6. Diversity means that different ethnic nationalities and genders can practice their cultures with full social and legal support, and are protected against prejudice and discrimination.
  7. Peoples’ visions and practices of food sovereignty, agroecology and environmental stewardship are realized and supported in all their dimensions.
  8. Governments put the needs and aspirations of local communities, food producers, workers and indigenous peoples over the interests of corporations and businesses. Especially important here are the needs of women and youth in all sectors and strata.
  9. The investments made by local people and communities in producing food and protecting their environments are protected by law, and respected over those of private, corporate investors.
  10. Human rights—individual and collective—are upheld in each country as well as regionally, and there are measures to correct past and continuing inequities, inequalities, and injustices. Especially important here are the rights of women, indigenous peoples and workers.
  11. There are no evictions, displacement, dispossession and resettlement of local populations, and peoples’ access to the commons are not restricted or lost.
  12. The rule of law protects people and the environment, not businesses and corporations, and ensures justice for all, especially the most vulnerable and historically marginalized and exploited.
  13. Investor protection provisions (including ISDS) are removed from trade and investment laws and agreements, and investors are held legally accountable for negative impacts and human rights abuses resulting from their projects.
  14. A low carbon and non-extractivist development model is adopted by all countries.

Overall, we ask for a common and collective understanding that “A people-centred ASEAN” cannot be achieved unless the roles, rights and livelihoods of people are sincerely respected and upheld by ASEAN governments and other relevant actors, specially businesses and corporations. We look forward to a real, meaningful dialogue with ASEAN governments, and to working with you to build a better region.

Signed By:

  1. 3S Rivers Protection Network (3SPN), Cambodia
  2. Aksi for gender, social and ecological justice, Indonesia
  3. Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT), Cambodia
  4. Alternative Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM), Philippines
  5. ALTSEAN-BURMA
  6. Assembly of the Poor Pak Mun Dam, Thailand
  7. Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippines
  8. Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Farm Workers Union), Philippines
  9. Asian NGO Coalition (ANGOC)
  10. Ayeyawady Youth Network, Myanmar
  11. Bago Woman Development Group, Myanmar
  12. Bayay Sibuyanon, Inc., Philippines
  13. Baywatch Foundation, Philippines
  14. Both ENDS, Netherlands
  15. CamASEAN Youth’s Future (CamASEAN), Cambodia
  16. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Cambodia
  17. Cambodian Human Rights Action Coalition (CHRAC), Cambodia
  18. Cambodia Labour Confederation (CLC), Cambodia
  19. Cambodian Volunteers for Society, Cambodia
  20. Centre for Social Research and Development (CSRD), Vietnam
  21. Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC), Cambodia
  22. Citizen Action for Transparency (CAFT), Myanmar
  23. Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL)
  24. Comité pour le respect des Droits Humains “Daniel Gillard,” Belgium
  25. Community Peace-building Network (CPN), Cambodia
  26. Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC), Thailand
  27. Community Response Group (COMREG), Myanmar
  28. Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), Cambodia
  29. Culture and Environment Preservation Association (CEPA), Cambodia
  30. Culture Identity and Resources Use Management (CIRUM), Vietnam
  31. Dawei Development Association (DWA), Myanmar
  32. Dawei Probono Lawyer Network, Myanmar
  33. Dawei Watch Foundation (DWF), Myanmar
  34. EarthRights International
  35. Ecological Justice Interfaith Movement (ECOJIM), Philippines
  36. Environics Trust, India
  37. ETO Watch Coalition, Thailand
  38. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontière (ESSF), France
  39. Focus on the Global South
  40. Forum Against Disastrous project in Konkan, India
  41. Foundation for Environmental and Natural Resources (FENR), Thailand
  42. Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Philippines
  43. Friends of the Earth, Japan
  44. GRAIN
  45. Green Innovation and Development Centre (GreenID), Vietnam
  46. Greenpeace Thailand
  47. Human Rights Lawyers Association
  48. Indian Social Action Forum, India.
  49. International Accountability Project
  50. International Rivers
  51. Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG), Myanmar
  52. Kanlat Metta Organization, Shan State, Myanmar
  53. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), Myanmar
  54. Karen Rivers Watch, Myanmar
  55. KIARA, Indonesia
  56. Kruha, Indonesia
  57. Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association (KKKHRDA), Cambodia
  58. LAIN Technical Support Group, Myanmar
  59. Land Core Group, Myanmar
  60. Land In Our Hands, Myanmar
  61. Laos Dam Investment Monitor (LDIM), Thailand
  62. Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research Centre (LPSD), Viet Nam
  63. Living River Association, Thailand
  64. Malaysian Youth League, Malaysia
  65. Mandalay Community Centre, Myanmar
  66. Mekong Butterfly, Thailand
  67. Mekong Community Institute Association, Thailand
  68. Mekong Delta Youth (MDY), Vietnam
  69. Mekong Legal Network
  70. Mekong Wetland University Network, Vietnam
  71. Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEENet)
  72. Mekong Watch, Japan
  73. Migrant Forum Asia
  74. MiningWatch Canada
  75. Minority Rights Organization (MIRO-Cambodia)
  76. Mong Pan Youth Association, Myanmar
  77. Myanmar Cultural Research Society (MCRS), Myanmar
  78. Myanmar People Alliance (MPA), Shan State, Myanmar
  79. NGO Forum on Cambodia, Cambodia
  80. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica, Myanmar
  81. Pace On Peaceful Pluralism, Myanmar
  82. Pakistan Fisherfok Forum, Pakistan
  83. Paungku, Myanamar  
  84. People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature), Vietnam
  85. People’s Empowerment Foundation, Thailand
  86. Perlumpulan AEER, Indonesia
  87. Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam (KUASA), Malaysia
  88. Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Philippines
  89. Program on Alternative Development, University of the Philippines Centre for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS AltDev), Philippines
  90. Project Sevana South-East Asia
  91. Qadir Law Associates, Pakistan
  92. Radio Emergency Communications Network Philippines, Inc. (RECON Philippines)
  93. Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Thailand
  94. River Basin Friends, India.
  95. Salween Basin Community Network, Mae Hong Son, Thailand
  96. Shwechinthae Social Support Group, Myanmar  
  97. Sibuyanons Against Mining (SAM), Philippines
  98. Southern Youth Organization, Tanintharyi, Myanmar
  99. STAR Kampuchea, Cambodia
  100. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia
  101. Summer Shelter Library, Shan State, Myanmar
  102. Synergy-social harmony organization, Myanmar
  103. Taunggyi Education Network, Myanmar
  104. The Corner House, UK
  105. UNLAD-BLFFA, Philippines
  106. Urgent Initiative, Philippines
  107. World Rainforest Movement
  108. Worker’s Information Centre (WIC), Cambodia
  109. Women’s Network for Unity, Cambodia
  110. Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP), Cambodia

 [1] “ASEAN-Civil Society Dialogue on Environment”, 2nd ASEAN Peoples’ Forum/5th ASEAN Civil Society Conference, 18-20 October 2009, Cha-am, Phetchaburi Province, Thailand.   Working group: Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute (CUSRI); Thai NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD); People’s Empowerment Foundation, Sustainable Agriculture Foundation; Thai Volunteer Service (TVS); Altsean-Burma; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia);Committee for Asian Women (CAW); Focus on the Global South (FOCUS); Southeast Asia Committee for Advocacy (SEACA); Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA); Union Network International, Asia-Pacific Regional Office (UNI-APRO) Supporting organisations: Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliances (TERRA), Alternative Agriculture Network Thailand; Thai working Group for Climate Justice; Ecological Awareness Building (EAB); Biothai; PalangThai; Living River Siam (SEARIN), Action Group on Erosion Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), Bank Information Centre (BIC), Focus on the Global South (FOCUS);International Rivers (IRs); Alyansa Tigil Mina 

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