The Program on Alternative Development (AltDev) of the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS) co-organized an Open Space workshop at the 13th Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF13) on May 18, 2021. Titled “Converging Alternatives from Asia and Europe towards Alternative Regionalism and People-to-People Solidarity,” the workshop gathered alternative development practices in Southeast Asia and Europe and discussed community initiatives and struggles that respond to the political, economic, and social crises magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Highlights of the workshop
The global crisis, intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, has opened up space for successful, people-led alternative and sustainable practices that demonstrate cross-border solidarity, resistance, resilience, and collective action.
With the failure of dominant model of regional integration like the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) to address the issues and concerns of the region’s marginalized communities, AltDev Convenor Dr. Eduardo C. Tadem argued that there is a need to build an alternative peoples’ regionalism from below based on solidarity, collectivism, social equality, redistribution, cooperation, mutual benefit, and the commons. Alex De Jong of the International Institute for Research and Education (IIRE) in the Netherlands and Ashish Kothari of the Vikalp Sangam in India echoed the same remark on the European Union (EU) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), respectively.
Speakers from Asia and Europe shared concrete forms of people-to-people cooperation and some collective aspirations for the future. Anwar Sastro Ma’ruf of Indonesia talked about the
community-based solidarity economy of the Konfederasi Pergerakan Rakyat (KPRI), while Kothari discussed alternative initiatives for well-being in South Asia. De Jong criticized the Netherlands’ pandemic strategy of controlling the spread of and not eradicating the pandemic and called to lift patents on COVID-19 vaccines to address the “global vaccine apartheid.” Judy Ann Miranda of the Philippines tackled the labor movement’s campaign for a “Workers First Policy” and protests, especially the ones initiated by women-led unions, to exert pressure on government.
Ko Gyi Kyaw disccused the village-by-village COVID-19 pandemic response of the Back Pack Health Worker Team (BPHWT) for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and political activists in the least stable conflict zone areas, particularly at the Thai-Burma border. Meanwhile, Bong Ramilo of the Asian Music for Peoples’ Peace and Progress’s (aMP3) talked about a series of online performances and discussions to raise funds in support of efforts to provide relief to affected communities, including musicians who lost their work. Finally, Khin Sandar of Myanmar urged the international community to join the campaign to cut money, arms, and impunity from the military junta and support the National Unity Government (NUG), aid efforts, and international solidarity.
Solidarity with the peoples of Myanmar
In solidarity with the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar, aMP3 dedicated a song titled “The Birds Haven’t Stop Calling” by Thai singer-songwriter Nitithorn “Ae” Thongthirakul to the peoples of Myanmar. The session ended with a noise barrage with participants banging their pots and pans, a tradition to get rid of evil, which in this case is the military junta.
The biennial Asia Europe People’s Forum, which began on May 17 and will end on May 24, hosts a series of interlinked dialogues, workshops, actions, policy debates and plenary sessions among Asian and European non-government organizations (NGOs) and social movements. The workshop was organized by the UP CIDS AltDev, IIRE, AMP3, Vikalp Sangam (Alternatives Confluence)–India, KPRI, Sustainability and Participation through Education and Lifelong Learning (SPELL)–Philippines, and the 11.11.11 Coalition of the North-South Flemish Movement.