The neoliberal market economy remains the mainstream economy in Southeast Asia as it is in many parts of the world. It is geared towards maximizing returns to Finance Capital at the expense of people and the environment, it systematically creates economic inequality and social injustice, and it cannot offer a solution to the debt, climate, and health crises.
In July 2020, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a new social contract in his lecture in the Nelson Mandela lectures considering that the existing global socio-economic order no longer responds to the requirements of the people especially on issues of social protection, health, education and the global imbalances.
The advocacy of Asian Solidarity Economy Council to build pathways to transformative and solidarity economy aligns with the UN Secretary General’s call for a new socio-economic order. The Social Solidarity Economy is a major component of an alternative to the neoliberal market economy. The Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC) is part of a global effort to promote Social Solidarity Economy. The partners of ASEC fleshed out three types of organized groups of people that make their own pathways to transformative and solidarity economy.
- The first type are self-organized groups of farmers, fisherfolk, workers in the informal economy, grassroots women, indigenous communities and other ordinary people.
- The second type are partnerships between a civil society organization or NGO and a group or groups of local people residing in one or more communities .
- The third type is between a shareholding company and a group of micro and small entrepreneurs.
The common features among them are: (1) democratic, participatory, socially responsible, and gender-responsive governance; (2) edifying ethical values held by their leaders, managers, and members; and (3) the triple bottom line social mission, or the three-Ps: “People” stands for socially inclusive development with focus on providing social protection and services; “Planet” stands for environmental conservation and protection, and “Profit” (towards “Prosperity”) stands for economic and financial sustainability. These are the transformative models of people’s organizations and/or community-based organizations which require further policy and structural support in ASEAN.
In 2020, ASEC was been given the privilege of organizing an online plenary session on the Convergence Space on Transformative & Solidarity Economy (CS-TSE) in the event of ASEAN People’s Forum 2020. This event has been consecutively conducted since 2005, with the host of 2019 was Thailand which was attended by 1040 people and this year’s host is Vietnam. The engagement between APF and ASEAN will also be a focus of this year’s forum, in an effort to strengthen the voices of the people in the building of a people-centred ASEAN Community. The National Organizing Committee (NOC) of Vietnam, set the official dates of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) on November 5-7, 2020 which conducted with both online and face-toface meetings in Hanoi.
To gain participatorily inputs, for more than 2 weeks ASEC hosted round table discussion and workshop on food sovereignty, society resilience, and social protection for workers in informal sectors. The solidarity and participation of each ASEC’s colleagues resulted 3 recommendations :
1. The ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN People’s Forum should recognize and support the innovations and alternative practices of vulnerable communities, workers in the informal sector, stakeholders of community supported agriculture (CSA), movements for food sovereignty, community-based organizations, and social enterprises that build resilient and sustainable communities capable of withstanding a pandemic, disasters brought about by climate change, and other challenges. While ordinary people fall victims to the neoliberal market economy, people’s organizations are also capable of developing alternatives to the neoliberal socio-economic order. Special attention should be given to advancing agroecology and other measures which involve partnership between producers and the community in providing support for implementing food sovereignty and sustainable local food systems and nutrition while conserving the environment.
2. For a truly people-oriented ASEAN, the ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN People’s Forum should facilitate a people to people, community to community ASEAN interface, where the grassroots are able to meet and collaborate to create cross-border solidarity and exchanges. They do not feel that they are equal members of the ASEAN. There must be a conscious effort on the part of the ASEAN Secretariat to provide participatory mechanisms for engaging with grassroots communities to create new solutions to economic, social, and environmental issues. Effective and meaningful participation and engagement is necessary. A transformative economics requires the “people–to–people” partnership and multi-stakeholder, solidarity-based approach, that involves a mechanism for collaboration between and among selforganized groups, social enterprises, CSOs, private sector, state structures (especially local government units), faithbased organizations, academic institutions, and other possible collaborators. Private sector enterprises, in building their strategies to engage in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, should take into account existing challenges concerning human rights particularly of women and children, vulnerability of workers in the informal economy, various forms of inequality, transparency and other governance issues. They can have CSOs Partner Mapping to conduct and realize responsible business practices. The framework on Transformational Partnerships and Women’s Economic Empowerment for inclusive recovery and building back fairer among social enterprises can be mainstreamed.
3. As to the ensuing debt, job, and health crises in a number of ASEAN countries, the ASEAN Member States need to develop, in consultation with the people, safety nets for the economy and universal health coverage for the people particularly for workers in the informal economy. Such safety nets can be developed based on the principles being pushed by the ASEAN People’s Forum: suspension and review of the financial and other economic liberalization measures; more cooperation and solidarity with one another; mainstream the framework on Transformational Partnerships and Women’s Economic Empowerment for inclusive recovery and building back fairer partnerships; social enterprises, co-operatives, SMEs and other Inclusive Businesses; and strengthen people-to-people economic ties along the framework outlined by ASEC.
In 2020, ASEC’s role in advocating and promoting SSE throughout Asia significantly extended thru ASEAN People’s Forum.
Summary report by: Dr. Benjamin Quiñones, Jr. (Philippines), Dr. Eri Trinurin Adhi (Indonesia), Dr.Denison Jayasooria (Malaysia), and Ms Linh Phuong Nguyen (Vietnam) Written by : Chandra Firmantoko (ASEC Secretariat)