South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) has launched its 4th Poverty Report 2013 on 11 September 2013 amidst a South Asian Women's Political Rights Conference which is attended by the political leaders, parliamentarians, civil society activists and human rights defenders of the South Asian Countries. The report was launched by Rt. Ho'nable Permananda Jha, Vice President of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal accompanied by the senior women political leaders and parliamentarians of South Asia include Ms. Bidhya Bhandari- Chairperson of All Nepal Women Association and former minister of Nepal, Pasya Padma- Chairperson of farmer union of Andra Pradesh and executive member of All India Kishan Shabha of India, Ms. Sazida Zulfiqar- Member of Parliament- Pakistan, Ms. Thalatha Athukorala- Member of Parliament, Srilanka, Ms. Rangina Kargar- Member of Parliament, Afghanistan Ms. Rowshan Jahan Shathi- Member of Parliament, Bangladesh and Dr. Shobha Raghuram- Founder and Advisor of SAAPE.
Summary of the report
Most governments of South Asian countries claim to be stern upholders of democracy. They claim to have maintained high levels of transparency and accountability and to have respected the rule of law necessary for the promotion of the interests of their citizens. These are nothing but political dogmas preached by most of the political forces in the region. This report provides and discusses evidence based narratives that uncover the realities of the concerned governments and their responsiveness to the social problems endured by the poor. Irrespective of the nomenclature of the political system and the political forces in these countries, they follow the modus operandi prescribed by the formidable structures of the neo-liberal economic development doctrine that promotes profit at the expense of people. A broader analysis of the dominant development paradigm in operation is made in this report, highlighting its market centric nature and growth (not equity) led development, guided by the harmful principles enshrined in the texts of Washington Consensus and World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Financial Institution (IFIs) and other instruments created for the suppression of the toiling masses in our parts of the world; this has led to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, widening the gap between the rich and the poor. Unbelievable scientific innovations and socio-political transformations have swept over the world during the past decades, impacting the great changes in South Asia, but they have failed to bring about significant developments in the social, human rights, peace and justice fronts. Despite the oppressive forms of political and economic systems existing in South Asian states, the diverse forms of rights movements in the form of resistance movements are increasing. Peoples' struggle against the ill forces of suppression, exploitation and marginalization is becoming more and more purposeful, igniting the hope that these anti-people forces will soon be crippled.
The current report is the fourth in the series of SAAPE's publication on poverty analysis and alternative development paradigms. The first report published in 2003 was an introduction to the status and nature of poverty in South Asian countries. The second, published in 2006, focused on five thematic areas; food sovereignty, gender justice, labour rights, peace, justice and demilitarisation and democratic and just
governance in the region. The third report of 2010 analysed the poverty and vulnerability cycles, capturing the narratives of the survival and struggles of people in the region. All of these are available on the SAAPE website. This time, the report focuses on the crises, vulnerability and poverty in South Asia, building and expanding on previously discussed issues. The report features the voices of people against the injustice and indignity caused by the crisis-led vulnerability and poverty across the sub-continent and suggests sustainable alternatives. Thus, this report provides a critical review of the broad economic policy regime adopted by the South Asian states, the actors and factors influencing or dictating them. This is followed by an examination of transmission mechanisms and the likely effects on the national economy as well as living conditions of the people at the grassroots. The broad ramifications and impacts of the economic crisis on vulnerability and poverty have been analysed along with its impacts on various socioeconomic groups. Further, an assessment on the effect of globalisation on female workers in particular has been made within which the relation between the macroeconomic and labour policies and globalisation is debated. Other important analyses in the report concerns the ongoing social movements in South Asia and the impact of the acts of resistance against the effects of neo-liberal led policies and programmes. Finally, this report presents possible alternative development paradigms based on the emerging trend across South Asia of the peoples' movements in the fight for restoration of the right to life and dignity. The alternative paradigms presented in this report do not stand independent, rather it strongly links the knowledge already built on by SAAPE in the poverty report of previous years.
The alternative paradigm demands the reversing of the trickle-down or top-down approach of the dominant paradigm that perpetuates the exploitation of the deprived and downtrodden through grabbing of resources, opportunities and benefits. The root of the problem is systemic and is linked to a state system driven by anti-people legal, regulatory and related institutional setups. The introduction of various people-centric progressive provisions in the constitution in South Asian countries should be regarded essential and recognised as one of the major ingredients of the alternative paradigm. It can be done through contributions towards transforming the status quo to a more progressive democratic system, not corporate interests, which are rapidly seizing state influence and directing state policies away from the people. An alternative paradigm advocates the need of comprehensive economic policies that could lead to enhanced productive capacity of the economy in which growth and productive employment of the workforce could go in tandem.
At the grassroots level, community and cooperative-based production, services and organisations form the important ingredients of an alternative paradigm. Denouncing militarization and campaigning for mutual trust and cooperation among the South Asian countries should be an implicit part of the alternative paradigm for South Asia. For the purpose of defending the alternative paradigm, an alliance-building of people facing deprivation and marginalisation is the most powerful tool that can challenge the unequal power relations. It is required urgently that we develop strategies for investing in alliance-building that bring social transformations which last and profoundly affects people as individuals and as members of their communities. Social and existential problems do not deserve instrumentalist and technical solutions. Building durable and sustainable alliances while working through rights and dignity issues guarantee their realisation for millions left outside of development rights and entitlements. Strong alliances of social movements and peoples' platforms in South Asia present rays of hope that bring countervailing power from people, thus returning power to the people at every sphere of life.
The Indonesian People's Movement Against Neocolonialism-Imperialism (Gerak Lawan), a national coalition in Indonesia fighting neoliberalism, has released a Call to Action to mobilize not only against the WTO in Bali but against the free trade regime. Gerak Lawan would like to work hand in hand with other movements in Asia and around the world, to dismantle the ongoing efforts to revive the WTO in the upcoming Ministerial meeting to be held in Bali, Indonesia on 3-6 December 2013. Mirgrant Forum in Asia and other social movements in the region are supporting this call to action.
Deal a decisive blow to Neoliberalism
End the WTO and stop the new wave of Free Trade Agreements
The time is now for Economic Justice!
The capitalist system is in a deep crisis. Since the 2008 financial crisis where the system nearly imploded, it has yet to fully recover. And instead, the crisis has spread and has deepened the food, economic, energy and climate crises. The deep systemic crisis is crystal clear evidence that the neoliberal regime must come to an end. However, instead of listening to the 99 percent, the governments, led by the G-20, have imposed austerity measures, cutting social services, making the people pay for the bailout of banks and corporations and doing nothing to curb the speculators who played a major role in the crises.
To make it worse, these same governments have been reviving international institutions that have long been delegitimized, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and now the World Trade Organization (WTO). Together with these institutions, there is a new push for further free trade liberalization, pushing a new wave of free trade agreements (FTAs) such as the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, the US-EU FTA, the EU FTAs with countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, the Bilateral Investment Treaties and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and a new model of capitalist exploitation of nature called the "green economy."
Asia is no stranger to this crisis
The 1997 financial crisis that crippled the countries of Asia has left a deep scar. In a blink of an eye, currencies lost up to 70 percent of their value, local businesses suddenly had debts they could not afford and it plunged millions of people below the poverty line and into unemployment. Indonesia alone, by January 1998, had lost 75 percent of its currency value.
Years after the devastation, most analysts had come to the agreement that it was the liberalization of the economies of Asia, particularly its capital accounts, that had allowed for speculators to come in and out, taking billions of dollars with them, leaving crashing economies behind them. It was also the years of Structural Adjustment Programs imposed by the International Financial Institutions that had turned Asia into export-oriented economies, growing cash crops, becoming completely dependent on the international markets. Finally, the austerity measures that the IMF imposed in the wake of the crisis, did much more harm and wreaked the economies even further. These are the very same austerity measures that the G-20 governments are now imposing on their peoples.
Indonesia's increasing dependency
Many years, after, we can still see the dependency of Asian economies on the international market. In Indonesia, the liberalization of its market led to the increasing dependency on the import of various goods. In 2012 alone, Indonesia imported around Rp125 trillion (13 billion USD) worth of food. It among others consisted of beef, wheat, rice, soybean, fish, salt, and potatoes. As a result of the high dependence on food imports, particularly in the fishery sector, the sector's labor force has gone down. Furthermore, increased importation will further weaken the domestic sectors, impacting especially on the women whose role and contribution to agriculture will diminish.
Another factor that makes matters worse, is the increasing protection of foreign investors. Based on the Jakarta Stock Exchange data in 2012 alone, the value of foreign investment in Indonesia is around Rp 436 trillion (45 billion USD) or 70 percent of the total value of stock trading. In 2012, foreign direct investment in primary sector of food crops, plantation and mining was worth 4.8 million USD. This increasing trend of investment in primary sectors have led to escalation of agrarian conflicts, land and natural resource grabbing by corporations and investors.
In addition, the amount of foreign investment does not correlate with the enhancement of welfare for Indonesian workers. There is a decline in labor absorption. In the agriculture sector for example, during the past few years, 450,000 workers were not absorbed and this has increased the number of unemployment. These facts describe how the national sector, in particular the small economy, has been really hit by foreign companies. And that the government of Indonesia has been giving more guarantees to the foreign investors than its people.
However, this tale of dependency on the international markets and the protection of foreign investors and transnational corporations over the people, can be seen not only in Indonesia but across the region as well. In South Korea, local farmers who have been indebted and plunged into poverty because of trade liberalization, have been led to commit suicide. In the Philippines, the poverty incidence among the fishing population is now at 53 percent, several points higher than the national average of 30 percent. In India, welfare workers have very low wages in special economic zones as part of the privileges provided to investors that was in the investment deal in the Free Trade Agreements signed by India. In Thailand, because of trade related intellectual property rights, countless numbers of HIV and HIV/AIDS patients die as they cannot afford the patented anti-retroviral drugs they need to live.
We need to Change the System
Humanity and Nature will not have a future if we continue down this path paved by capitalism. This system of overproduction, overconsumption, and the over-exploitation of Nature must end. The capitalist principle of endless growth has pushed our planet to its limits and the people have been paying the price with their lives. Extreme weather, floods, droughts, typhoons – have all led to the displacement of millions of people, led to the loss of livelihoods and has led to the loss of lives. In the Philippines alone, the recent devastation by Typhoon Bopha left more than a thousand dead in its wake.
The WTO, FTAs and investment agreements only seek to protect the interests of transnational corporations and the 1 percent that profit out of the crises. We need to end the reign of neoliberalism and put a stop to the WTO and the new wave of FTAs threatening to sweep the world.
The time is Now for Economic Justice
We need to debunk the myth that without the WTO, there will be chaos. We need to demand an end to the free trade regime and fight for a world without the WTO. There are alternatives to free trade and dependency on international markets. Trade needs to be at the service of the people and not the other way around.
What we demand and propose is Economic Justice – a system where there is redistribution of wealth and the recovery of peoples' control over vital sectors of our economy in order to better serve the people instead of the elites. The financial sector and the banking industry cannot speculate and gamble with the future of humanity. The extractive sector, the industries, the agri-business, the service sector cannot over-exploit our Mother Earth and treat humans as slaves.
The Roadmap to Bali
In this light, the Indonesian People's Movement Against Neocolonialism-Imperialism (Gerak Lawan) would like to work hand in hand with other movements in Asia and around the world, to dismantle the ongoing efforts to revive the WTO in the upcoming Ministerial meeting to be held in Bali, Indonesia on 3-6 December 2013.
In this opportunity we would like to link and strengthen our struggle in Indonesia with other movements in our region and the world, with the following proposals:
Declare the WTO as illegitimate – The WTO has abused its legal mechanisms to constrain the sovereignty and rights of States to develop national policies for people and nature. This needs to end.
We want a world without the WTO – No matter how you reform the WTO or improve its agreements, it will never be fair or just, as it is built on the principles of free trade, endless growth and the capitalist exploitation of people and nature. And this includes changing the leadership of the WTO. Even if a new Director General is elected, the WTO will never have the peoples' welfare in mind.
Revoke all FTAs and investment treaties and demand that our governments not sign on to any more FTAs or BITs –The push for further trade liberalization needs to be stopped immediately. Peoples and nature have endured enough abuse.
Formulate an alternative model of international trade based on Economic Justice – Social movements, peasants, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples, women, youth, workers, migrants, environmental and trade justice activists and organizations all have proposals of alternatives that are based on justice. Many have in fact been implementing their alternatives such as agroecology, food sovereignty and several other examples, all showing that it is possible to have a different kind of way of developing and co-existing with Nature. We can come together and reimagine an international trading system that promotes Economic Justice and is based on complementarity, cooperation and solidarity.
We will have a series of activities in the lead up to the mobilizations during the Bali Ministerial and we call on all of you to come join us as we deal a decisive blow to neoliberalism and push forward our alternatives.
We therefore call on all social movements, peoples organizations, trade unions, women, migrants, youth, and environmental and trade justice activists, occupy movements, indignados and other new movements, to all come to Bali, Indonesia this December 3-6, and together, stop the WTO and FTAs and push for Economic Justice. Let us bring back that fighting spirit we had in the streets of Hong Kong during the WTO Ministerial. Together, we can defeat the system and make another world possible.
Gerak-Lawan (Gerakan Rakyat Lawan Neokolonialisme & Imperialisme)
Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) - Bina Desa - Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI) - Solidaritas Perempuan (SP) - Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API) - Indonesian Human Right Committee for Social Justice (IHCS) - Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Kekerasan (KONTRAS) - Climate Society Forum (CSF) - Koalisi Anti Utang (KAU) - Koalisi Rakyat untuk Keadilan Perikanan (KIARA) - Institut Hijau Indonesia (IHI) - Lingkar Madani untuk Indonesia (LIMA) - Jaringan Advokasi Tambang (JATAM) - Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI Jakarta) - Front Perjuangan Pemuda Indonesia (FPPI) - Lingkar Studi-Aksi untuk Demokrasi Indonesia (LS-ADI) - Serikat Nelayan Indonesia (SNI) - Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia (KNTI) - Serikat Buruh Indonesia (SBI) - Asosiasi Pendamping Perempuan Usaha Kecil (ASPPUK) - Perhimpunan Bantuan Hukum dan Hak Asasi Manusia Indonesia (PBHI) - Universitas Al-Azhar Indonesia (Dosen Hubungan Internasional) - Asosiasi Ekonomi-Politik Indonesia (AEPI) - Koalisi Rakyat untuk Hak Atas Air (KRuHA) - Aliansi Pemuda Pekerja Indonesia (APPI) - Migrant Care
All Nepal's Peasants' Federation - Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) - Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Union of Agricultural Workers) Philippines - Automotive Industry Workers' Alliance (AIWA) - Assembly of the Poor, Thailand - Automotive Industry Workers' Alliance (AIWA) - ATTAC Japan - Bangladesh Kishani Sabha - Bangladesh Krishok Federation - Bhartiya Kisan Union, BKU, India - Border Agricultural Workers Project, El Paso, Texas, USA - Focus on the Global South - FTA Watch Thailand - Global Justice Ecology Project - Jubilee South-Asia-Pacific Movement on Debt and Development - Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, India - Kilos Ka, Mindanao - La Via Campesina - Migrant Forum in Asia - Mindanao Peoples' Peace Movement - MONLAR, Sri Lanka - National Union of Workers in Hotel Restaurant and Allied Industries- Northern Peasants Federation, Thailand - NOUMINREN, Japan - Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) - Philippine Airlines' Employees Association (PALEA) - Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association - Philippine Metalworkers' Alliance - Polaris Institute, Canada - Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) - Social Movements for Alternative Asia - South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements - Sumpay Mindanao - Sustainable Alternatives for the Advancement of Mindanao - Thai Poor Act, Thailand - Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) - Transnational Institute - World March of Women - Pilipinas
Today, on International Migrants Day, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) celebrates the contributions made by millions of migrants all over the world and calls on the global community to respect the human rights and dignity of migrant workers and members of their families!
More than 214 million people worldwide are migrants – living, working, raising families and building communities in places outside their countries of origin. The contributions of migrants are vast and multifaceted, with their hard work, dedication and creativity supporting the social, economic and cultural foundations of societies around the world. Countries have prospered as migrant workers have built their national infrastructure and fuelled the engines of their economies.
It is also a feat that in 2012, Indonesia became the 46th State to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (UN 1990 MWC). We will not tire and falter in our ratification campaign until all States ratify and implement the Convention.
While today should be a celebratory occasion on the achievements of and for migrant workers, let us also be reminded of the persistent challenge of the global economic downturn that creates a climate of instability, precarious work and continuing struggles of migrant workers and members of their families. Vulnerable groups including migrant workers are strongly affected by these economic shocks. While they are already discriminated because of their status, their discrimination is increased in times of fiscal crisis. Often they are blamed for causing the instability of the economy and society. This situation calls for a comprehensive approach that not only addresses the working conditions of migrant workers but also of local workers in migrant receiving countries. Instead of pitting migrant and local workers against each other, we should strike at the systemic roots of inequality that promote social and economic injustice.
Migrant Domestic Workers
Although domestic workers are still part of a system of invisible workers who are mostly women, members of minority groups, and are migrant workers, they are becoming more empowered and breaking free from the bounds of slavery. They are organizing and advocating for fair wages, rest days, freedom of association and simply to be treated as human beings. MFA joins hands with the global trade unions and civil society organizations in their campaign for the universal ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 (ILO C189 R201). The ratifications of Uruguay, Philippines and Mauritius of the ILO C89 R201 are significant milestones in the formal recognition on the labor rights of domestic workers.
We call other States and the rest of society for change, to recognize that domestic work is work, domestic workers are workers and are not slaves.
Irregular Migrant Workers
We note that migrants, particularly irregular migrants, are increasingly becoming targets of strict border controls, detention and deportation practices. They are detained on administrative grounds – they lack the required employment and residency permits, identity documents and the like. However, the "act" or "state" of being undocumented seems to be an automatic basis for States to arrest, detain and deport migrants. The consequence of such is criminalizing migrants for their irregular status without due regard to the cause of their "undocumentedness." We echo the calls of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants for access to justice, strong procedural safeguards, attention to the special needs of vulnerable migrants, denunciation of detention as a punitive measure, and the authoritative declaration that detention of migrants should be the last resort. Freedom is the rule, detention is the exception.
MFA calls on the global community to recognize and protect the rights of migrants in irregular situations. Resolution 3499 of the UN General Assembly (1975) affirms that no human being is illegal. Regardless of their immigration status or nationality, all migrants have inalienable human rights that States are required to respect and uphold in the exercise of their sovereignty over all who reside within their geographical jurisdiction.
As we sustain our fight for the rights of undocumented migrant workers, we also commend the positive steps taken by stakeholders in abiding with international human rights treaties. The initiative of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in drafting the general comment on the rights of migrant workers in irregular situation is noteworthy. The general comment provides the normative framework for the protection of the rights of migrant workers in an irregular situation and members of their families.
A growing number of people are migrating internationally, following increasingly complex and sometimes clandestine migration routes. Many migrants fall outside of the traditional classifications of "economic migrant," "refugee," and "asylum seeker" – definitions used to categorically determine what (if any) assistance or protection can be provided to them. Of particular concern to MFA are those referred to as "stranded migrants" – migrants who become "stuck" in the course of their migration, either in transit or receiving countries.
The ongoing conflict in Syria and some parts of West Asia and the aftermath of the natural disasters in Japan and Thailand in 2011 are examples where migrants are caught in the turmoil, affecting their legal status and personal safety, security, and wellbeing.
MFA recognizes these challenges faced by stranded migrants and calls on for a coordinated migrant-centered approach, combined with sensitivity to the need for alternative repatriation and strong reintegration program to ensure that fewer migrants become stranded in dangerous life threatening situations.
Freedom of Association and Right to Organize
MFA expresses grave concerns over the alarming actions of governments in curtailing migrant workers' freedom of association and right to organize. This is evidenced by the recent detention and deportation of Chinese migrant workers in Singapore. Chinese migrant workers staged a strike over grievances that include wage discrimination based on nationality. The strike was deemed illegal by the Singapore government and the migrant leaders were detained while other workers involved in the strike were deported.
MFA denounces this draconian act of Singapore towards migrant workers. The harsh actions of the Singapore government and the deportation of the workers overlook the bases for the complaints against wage discrimination based on nationality. MFA calls for a full and independent inquiry into the dispute.
MFA calls on all states to properly implement ILO C100 (equal remuneration) and C98 (Right to Organizing and Collective Bargaining), and ratify ILO Convention 87 (Migration for Employment Convention) and C143 (Migrant Workers, supplementary provisions).
Human rights and dignity for ALL migrant workers!
Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS) organized a human chain in banner of Citizen Group on 2 October protesting communal attack and atrocities against the Budhdhist community of Cox's Bazar and Chittagong District. A number of organizations joined the protest held in front of National Press Club. They demanded arrest and exemplary punishment for the perpetrators, compensation to the victims, and security to the minorities.
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