The UP CIDS Program on Alternative Development (AltDev) research on Southeast Asian grassroots responses during the COVID-19 pandemic was presented at the 8th International Degrowth Conference organized online and in The Hague, Netherlands with the theme: “Caring Communities for Radical Change”.
The said research was presented at a conference session: “Stories of Community-based Environmental Resilience during the COVID-19 Pandemic” which was held last August 25, and facilitated by Gaia Foundation and the Global Tapestry of Alternatives (GTA).
Representing UP CIDS AltDev, Ananeza Aban, senior program officer, showcased nine (9) cases of effective community strategies and resilience during COVID-19 times across Southeast Asia which were lifted from the study released early this year entitled: “Reinforcing People-to-People Solidarities towards a Regionalism from Below: Alternatives from Southeast Asia amid COVID-19”. (See https://www.facebook.com/LawanUPAltDev/photos/232981361870621)
Aban explained that the regional context of the pandemic underscored the moral bankruptcy of governments and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as an inter-governmental body, to effectively respond with speed to a global health emergency.
She added that as peoples in Southeast Asia endure the different variations of a lockdown, especially the marginalized communities due to the exponential rise of COVID-19 cases, the pandemic has solidified many authoritarian regimes to consolidate their power over their citizens, and bolstered their neo-liberal policies which likewise resulted to an alarming economic downturn.
However, Aban stressed that the pandemic has also provided a space for communities to demonstrate their cross-border and people-to-people solidarity, resistance to the dominant development model, and collective action through their long-established alternative practices.
Highlighting the other key points of the AltDev study, Aban emphasized that provided these communities embrace the principles of solidarity, social cohesion, cooperation, sharing and caring, and the common good of humanity, they can surely create possible ways and means to help address the socio-economic crisis compounded by a global health emergency.
She presented the narratives of community resistance and the continuing protest actions as alternatives, the role of communities as medical frontliners, and the importance of solidarity economy to address socio-economic problems worsened by the COVID19- pandemic. Examples of which were from Burma/ Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and the Thai-Burma border. The nine (9) communities featured were: Mactan Export Processing Zone Workers Alliance, Bakwit School, Maigting na Samahan ng mga Panlipunang Negosyante ng Towerville Inc., Assembly of the Poor/ Pak Mun Dam communities, Back Pack Health Worker Team, Mae Tao Clinic, Serikat Petani Pasudan, Konfederasi Pergerakan Rakyat Indonesia and Homenet.
The five-day study conference held last 24-28 August which emphasized among others the contradictions between endless economic growth and the ecological boundaries of the planet, was organized by Ontgroei (the Dutch Degrowth Platform) and the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam, Action for Solidarity, Equality, Environment, and Diversity (ASEED) Europe, Casco Art Institute , CodeROOD , Commons Network , Community Economies Research Network (CERN) NL , Fossielvrij NL, Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), Transnational Institute (TNI), the Well-being, Ecology, Gender and cOmmunity- Innovative Training Network, and the Extinction Rebellion Nederland.