Asia-Europe People’s Forum 11

Social Justice: social protection for all, decent work, essential services, tax justice, and other egalitarian alternatives to debt and austerity measures

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 4-6 July 2016

 

1. BACKGROUND

Social justice is based on the principle of keeping people rather than profit at the centre of policy-making. It seeks to stop and correct the major historical impacts of the dominant socio-economic geopolitical system: chronic poverty, and widening inequality and exclusion.‚Äč Concretely, in Asia, despite a booming economy, workers' rights are crushed amid massive joblessness, work informalisation, and poverty-level income; peasants are dispossessed of their land; and millions live in hovels with barely any access to necessities for a life of dignity. In Europe, economic and social rights are also under attack through severe austerity measures. Worldwide, megarich-skewed tax policies, tax havens, and illegal money flows result in foregone revenues that could finance social programmes.

The thematic events on social justice starts with naming the problem and finding ways to redistribute resources and giving equal access to income, opportunities, and services.

The “social” policies proposed by multilateral institutions International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Union, etc. complement neoliberal economic policies and are at their service. This means there can be no universal comprehensive social protection, but only targeted safety-net programmes for the poor with privatised social services through public-private-partnerships, ensuring monopolistic profits to big business.

While at different levels of development, Europe and Asia face the same challenges: to pursue social justice with a renewed and more meaningful role for the State and social movements.

Today, this task is particularly daunting as democracy is receding and an authoritarian form of neoliberalism is being imposed. The proposed thematic events aim to share knowledge and insights towards building common and deeper understanding among participants. We aim to strengthen solidarities and pursue collective strategies and actions towards claiming basic human rights to decent work, essential services, and social security, as well as towards democratic ownership and control of essential services and resources, including work, which are vital to life.

 

2. PHASE ONE: THE PROBLEM (GENERAL CONTEXT & ANALYSIS)

The overarching problem is an authoritarian neoliberal capitalism and its social paradigm. Social policies, which should be objectives in themselves, are instead oriented towards the economy, growth, and productivity. Progressive policies should thus tackle neoliberalism, including the dogma of free trade, and strive for genuine state-guaranteed social policies with people's control, achieving all economic and social human rights.
 

3.PHASE TWO: LESSONS LEARNT (ALTERNATIVES, STRUGGLES, & PRACTICES)

What successful struggles have there been in the past years in North and South, Europe and Asia? What can we learn from them, particularly on vital common concerns like health, labour, water, social security, etc.? What alliances have been made (movements, trade unions, etc.) and how necessary or useful were these political outlets?

SESSION 1: BEST PRACTICES & CASES 

A look into civil society, government, or joint initiatives that have been put into practice -- their strengths and weaknesses.

SESSION 2: ALTERNATIVES BEING PURSUED IN ASIA & EUROPE

An enriched discussion on alternatives with inputs from Session 1, plus key recommendations on agenda content (for government and civil society), and campaigns civil society. How can these proposed or actualised changes be collectively effected, expanded, or replicated elsewhere?
 

4.PHASE THREE: STRATEGISING & PLANNING

Factoring in lessons learnt, what ways are already being done in Asia and Europe, North and South, can we adopt or improve on? What strategies and actions can be developed -- across regional, inter-regional, and international levels -- that contribute to the necessary systemic change? What alliances should be made/how can movements be perpetuated? What common actions can we take or common demands can we make? How do we link the anti-free trade movements and the campaigns for tax justice to the movements for social justice and climate justice? How can these contribute to the growing awareness of the need for fundamental change in the economic and social paradigms in order to realise genuine democracy, freedom, and human rights? What time frames and tasks, including internal and external communication?

 

NOTE: The Thematic cluster 'Social Justice' is being coordinated by Mongolia Trade Union (Mongolia), Network for Transformative Social Protection/Institute for Popular Democracy (Phulippines), Global Social Justice/ATTAC France, and 11.11.11 (Belgium)

By AEPF Working Group, Stiftung Asienhaus, May 2, 2016

The current situations of the labour movements in Asia and Europe are very different, but they are intimately connected. Over the last decades, capital has shifted production to Asia, creating new centres of production and large new working classes in China or Southeast Asia, whilst de-industrialising large parts of Europe.

In Asia, workers’ rights are often ignored by authoritarian regimes of various hues and activists can only organize in semi-legal conditions, giving rise to new forms of militant struggles. In Europe, de-investment and austerity regimes, precarisation and the rise of right wing movements and regimes place new challenges to the labour movement.

When government representatives meet at the ASEM meeting in Ulaan Baatar, their agenda will be shaped by business interests. In their vision of “development” centered on the free movement of capital, “free” trade, and growth, workers rights play a marginal role at best. Freely roaming capital and the shift of investment to low wage countries serve to shift the balance of power more firmly towards capital, while national governments facilitate and promote the flexibilisation and precarisation of work.

Meanwhile, global production networks mean that workers are connected in new and very direct ways between Europe and Asia. For the labour movement as a whole, successful struggles by the new proletariats in Asia are immensely important, as are strategies against austerity and for alternative development trajectories in Europe.

The AEPF meeting in Mongolia and the AEPF process in general is an opportunity for labour activists to learn from each other’s struggles and to develop ideas for labour solidarity between Europe and Asia. European activists have a lot to learn from semi-legal organizing strategies and militant wild cat strikes in Asia, or from organizing in the ‘informal’ sector, whilst Asian activists will be interested in recent experiences of generalizing labour struggles against austerity agendas, particularly in Southern Europe. Labour movements in both continents face similar challenges of precarious work, different forms of repression by capital and governments, the rise of nationalist movements etc. For the labour movement in Europe, successful struggles in the new industrial centers in Asia will be immensely important to stop the downward spiral in wages and social standards.

New forms of labour solidarity are needed. But labour is still trailing behind capital in forging concrete links between the two continents. In particular, transnational organizing along global production networks is still in its infancy. By connecting labour activists from Europe and Asia, we hope the AEPF process will contribute to creating concrete transnational solidarity networks that we need so much.

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