The Impact of the ASEAN Economic Integration on Agriculture, food security

SOUTHEAST ASIAN CONFERENCE Food Sovereignty and Climate Change

On the 13th November 2017 siding the ASEAN People Forum (APF) in Diliman, Philippine, Asia Pacific Network for Food Sovereignty with the collaborative effort of International Movement of Catholic Students Asia Pacific held a regional conference on the Impact of the ASEAN Economic Integration on Agriculture, Food Security, Food Sovereignty and Climate Change. People from different walks of life has participated in the conference, introducing themselves as farmers, fisherfolks, women, student and minority community youth groups. The opening remarks were given by Dean Rene Ofreneo, President Integrated Rural Development Foundation.

The formal conference was started by the key message from “ASEAN Economic integration and agriculture on the “Impacts and measures to promote and protect smallholder agriculture in the region”. He discussed briefly about the Neo-liberal policy in regards to ASEAN Police, Investment, trade and people. More over given the statistics Dr Rene discuss about the flow of the services, Investment capital and labor. Moreover, he highlighted the issue of over population, scarcity of food and climate change using facts and figures from his research.

Ms. Jelan Paclarin discussed about the issues faced by the farmers. As the community at Regional Steering committee chair and representor of farmers at ACF/APF. she brought out some highlights from the budgets, of how there is no relaxation for the farmers in the form of subsidy, providing seeds and fertilizers ect. Moreover, she stated that it is more on making profits rather than feed our people. In the end she addresses the issue by suggesting that” it is very important that the private departments come together and work for the farmers, that is the only way where I think the farmers can overcome this challenge”.

The ASEAN free trade Agreement fully integrating the region to the Neo-liberal economic order was discussed by Megawati Indonesia for global Justice. Using facts and figures she discussed in detail that ASEAN is a magnet for the global market. It’s a big market which attracts the attention of foreign investors. She also highlighted the issue of migration of skillful workers to abroad. Moreover, she highlighted how the workers are being exploited by contractual jobs provided by the multinational companies. While answering the questions she said: that these are all foreign investors coming to the ASEAN looking for cheap labor” adding inequality and social injustice in society.

Mr. Ravi Tissera Asia Pacific Coordinator for International Movement of Catholic Students drawn the attention towards “the ASEAN climate change” He elaborated saying: that ASEAN in along with the coastal area and we are naturally prone to disasters. At the same time ASEAN is rich in natural resource though, but because of mining and deforesting there is a fast rise in sea level. Therefore, we are facing more droughts, excessive rainfalls and other climate related issues.

The panel discussion was headed by Parid Riwanuddin, Soy Sophorn, Mr. Bong Incong, Mr. Romeo Oyandoyan from KIARA, Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, president, United Broilers Association (UBRA) and PCAF (tbc). Briefed about the fisher folks, farmers livestock and rice sector respectively. They mainly focused on the consumption of food. We ASEAN’s having alternative food but we just use four kinds of crops. They added that a great emission of methane gas is affecting green house because of the rice production, but if we use organic farming we can control this emission i.e. up to 50%.  Similarly, Mr. Bong elaborated that if we reduce the consumption of meat it will have great impact on our climate and health as well.

The Second Panel discussion was headed by: Mr. Adrian Pereira, NSI, Malaysia, Trinidad Domingo, NMFS Philippines, Tanseem Pahoh MSFT Thailand, Prof Mendoza Philippines. They discussed about small scale food producers, Rural women Irrigation, Rural Youth and Academe respectively. He also mentioned about the exchange farming programs where farmers can exchange their skills and techniques. Mr. Adrian highlighted the farming that there are some farmers in organic farming but they don’t want to share the skill with other farmers. Mr. Adrian also brought the unhygienic condition of the migrant workers working in the farms and not taking good safety measures after using pesticides in the farms. After that Ms. Taseen Pahoh come up with some Pattani issues. She discussed about the globalization policies effecting this group in Thailand for the personal interests of the investors. Similarly, Mr. Ted Mendoza discussed about the reduction of electricity bills using organic production of rice. He counted other benefit of organic farming as well. While stating the example of south Korea he suggested that we should work like them, where the farmer get the profit up to 60% and it makes them more empowered therefore the continue with their profession.

Key messages from the conference were on how the neoliberalism creeped into the economic, political social cultural of the country, and how ASEAN been a fundamental neoliberal approach to consolidate the economics of the region and integrated it in the local economy order. It’s a myth that the markets, state, and society are separated entities and the market through the neoliberal framework in its own workings can lead our countries into economic growth and then the economic growth need to development which will trickle down as benefits to our people. In the case of experiences in our countries here is opposite and the benefits they say which we receive is actually the benefits to the cooperation. The impact of ASEAN Economic Integration (AEC) are in facts where the cooperation’s are taking over our land, water forest and seas, it’s the cooperate power which is strengthening and expanding in which the food system is corporatize. With that it’s the farmers and fisherfolk will remain the poorest and who their rights are impacted and undermined and violated and the food system is undermined. We also see increasing rural to urban migration where young people are going out of rural areas abandoning farming because farming is no more profitable and we see aging farmers. Most the farmers are old and we see no sustainability in future of farming without strong support from the national governments the country. In term of economics integrations, we see our agriculture is made towards meeting to demands of the export marker rather than meeting the food need of the people. As we also can see the change in the mindset of our people who do not want to support the local food but more the imported food.

And with this context, the rights people in term of economic, social and political rights especially the rural sectors are violated and we clearly see the importance to resist the ASEAN economic integration project.

Our recommendation we presented here

  1. We want to resist the neoliberal system in all forms and in all front meaning at the local, national, international level, even in the different context, like in Philippine, we have democracy where participation of civil society who are resisting but however the policies in some sense is still neoliberal needs to privatization, deduction and more increased cooperation in the system even though we have active civil society but the policy reflects their interest. More it’s in authoritarian regime even in our democracies. all works towards the agenda consolidation of international capitalist system.

At national level – building movement to transform the state to build political power of farmers, workers and fisherfolks to transform policy towards policy which protect the interest of these sectors that are marginalized

Fisherfolk to transform policies that protect their interest that protects the rights the sector marginalized.

At the local only resisting oppression for example are companies are grabbing the land, like in the case of Indonesia working the local authorities to defend the land to prevent the grabbing of the land and the costal resources.

International level building solidarity people to people solidarity and define it further. Recent movement in the international civil societies to push for UN resolution to initiated a binding treaty on transnational cooperation activities which regulate the transnational companies where it can criminalize some action of the transnational cooperation especially those pertaining to land grabbing and resource grabbing.

There is growing movement in the light of impact of climate change, social movement and civil society all over global for system change which we can also take advantage or maximize to building our solidarity.

South South solidarity where this one even more in compulsive as in they ask for system change where it not only talk about production but also in consumption pattern and shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy and even some are campaign for zero emission. Actually this a shifting of capitalize system.

  1. The need of movement building for engaging , reclaiming the policy space public space, as this public space is been dominated by the TNC and their agenda to further consolidate the export orientated and import dependent countries as of our countries and to which they benefit from the stagnation of  manufacturing and industries which benefit more from import and export and they actually influence the policies, so there is need to engage and claiming the public policy space which we means able to be strong to reclaim that and there many ways to do it, we need to be our voices increasing heard and we have shift from mere consultation to actual policy making.

Malaysia no policy for farmers, so need different way of reclaiming base on their own circumstances and that why there is need for greater solidarity, like exchange experience of each other.

How do we mainstream all these practices and making it really sustainable and the needs of our communities and people.  We have organic farming which shown as very viable, earn income for the income for the farmer while protecting the resource space, water and protecting the health of our farmers and our consumers. There is need for funding as subsid that’s why the state should support the transformation of our food system. And transformation of food system is not only production, it should be towards balancing development that mean our farmers and consumers are both taken into account and the farmers and the fisherfolk earns in the process. They should earn income and not become mere supplier and that where need to build cooperative. Cooperative which are of the self-empowerment type and cooperative that from the traders. Cooperative that generate values and earn income for farmers and linked to SMEs.

SME is an area of which we need to look into where the ASEAN economic integration will open up the free flow of investment which will also target SMEs and it is in own respective countries should protect in favor of the lively hood especially SME in which provide employment for the informal sector -worker who are in the informal economy.

  1. In context of climate change, the organic farming how to be really scale up in term of change and adaptation of climate change. Lastly others sectors which are really important in this transformation and our resistant are the young people and women movement, especially our young people who are very vocal and big in number and need to organize them. And the women have a special not only as giver of life but are both into production and reproduction and excellent breeders of seeds. We aim a food system that are sustainable, ecological food system that will resist neoliberal system.

The day was a success the organizer of the conference thanked all the participants for their active participation throughout the day, hoping that this day will be fruitful to them in certain ways.  For the remembrance, group photo was taken at the end of the day.

Insights for Asia Pacific Network for Food Sovereignty Regional Conference: 2017

As a participant of “The Asia Pacific Network for Food Sovereignty” conference on November 13th 2017, listening to the great experienced scholars and professors on global phenomena like Neo-Liberalism, Globalization and Climate Change. It was a chance to sharpen my knowledge and thought to think deep and critical on these issues. It directs my mind to re-think and reflect on: How the poor and the less fortunate people are being abused by the land lords. Mainly, how industrialization is effecting the society as a whole and the individuals at the same time? In addition, how all these so called global phenomenon like globalization, industrialization and privatization penetrating into our lives that as a common people we cannot even realize that we are already part of it, contributing social injustice to society.

The sharing about the foreign investment gives new dimensions to the discussion. We have a large market in Association of South Sea Asia Nations (ASEAN) and the labor market is cheap. Therefore, investors like to invest and keep the profit with them leaving a lot of tangible and intangible impurities like drainage of industrial waste to our oceans, harmful gases for our environment, physical and mental illness and most of all economic depression. Moreover, there is a lack of skilled workers in ASEAN, as they like to migrate to develop countries. Same imply to the farmers as their generation do not want to continue with their profession. They prefer to work in a factory 8hrs/day and have monthly payment. The greediness of industrialization here is that factories offers contractual jobs providing no other benefits for their workers, hence the poor common people left with no choice rather just living her/his life from hand to mouth.

Since times, Power really matters, everyone wants to hold power in his hands therefore, there is no sharing of power, consequently imbalanced society both economically and socially. Hence we violate rights of others that directly leads to different forms of terrorism. Unfortunately, Government is also part of it.

As the civil society leaders we must come up with awareness, for their rights and empowerment. It’s actually the hard work of the farmer who wake up early in the morning to grow food for us. Just to remind we cannot eat money, human being still dependent on crops to eat. We need to empower our farmers pushing our government and civil leaders to provide facilities and opportunities to the farmers. Therefore, their work will be recognized.

by Sana Mariam

State needs to stand up against the bully

Article by Paplu Bengali,
Bangladesh Student Activist

Will Bangladesh government protect those who have burned and vandalised Hindu houses in Horkoli Thakurpara village of Rangpur district today (Nov 10, 2017) similar to other miscreants who have not been punished by the law?

On 30 October 2016, hundreds of people gathered in Brahmanbaria district in eastern Bangladesh, to protest a Facebook post allegedly made by Rasraj Das, 25, is a fisherman and member of the Hindu religious minority. which they claimed insulted Islam. The mob, which had links to the groups Hefajat-e-Islam and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a network of madrasa leaders who hope to introduce Shariah in Bangladesh, went on a rampage through Hindu villages in the area, vandalising at least 100 homes and several temples. As usually, no justice we have got of that assault; however, Rashraj Das has been detained in Bangladesh since October 2016. He was arrested for allegedly posting an “offensive” image on Facebook and charged with “hurting religious sentiment” was locked up and had to be subdued even though he did no crime.

And again On 10 November 2017, after saying prayer of Jumuah, thousands from several villages gathered in front of a mosque and then, many of the people carrying sticks, torched and vandalised Hindu houses claiming that one Titu Chandra Roy ”insulted Islam” on Facebook two weeks ago; but it is very ridiculous that no one of that mob can say what the insulting word is.

We have seen a photo of an aged woman wailing in front of her burned down house. I just meticulously fear to think of her unuttered words and mental condition. Since we are a human being, that howling reaches to our eardrum. We get angered- definitely, these barbarisms make us offend.

Very ago Hefazat-e-Islam, a network of madrasa leaders who hope to introduce Shariah in Bangladesh, threatened and declared that those who would dishonor Islam religion would have been throttled and killed. But, very sadly it is to say that the leaders who threaten people again and again in different ways on behalf of Hefazat are, however, highly entertained at the head office of government. Moreover, the government abides by the demands and makes a syllabus for education system after the assertions of Hefazat. Since the government doesn’t pay attention to these wrongdoings that are being happened in the country, zealot people who need land burn Hindu houses using religious sentiment- besides this, people who want to strengthen political platform using religion are active in the time of persecution.

I have no word to console the oppressed people of Horkoli Thakurpara, Rangpur. To stand by the tormented people, prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina might not go to Rangpur; but, if it were Cricket, she would surely be on the field.

A face of a white whole cloth wearing elderly woman who wailing in front of her burned down house comes again and again on my mind. Is it believable that the howling woman who downtrodden by her neighbors who dwelling just before her house! It is hard to believe in this century but it seems as if it were a very normal thing in our country.

The down-hearted people of Horkoli Thakurpara are going to spend their night under the open sky. They are helpless, burned with envy by the majority Muslim zealot people. It is crying need to stand by the abraded lawful Hindu minority people; but we are being late.

22nd National Conference  of Bangladesh Catholic Students Movement

By Alfred D’ Costa

22nd National Conference was organized by Bangladesh Catholic Students’ Movement and was a four day conference held in Lokkhipur, Sylhet. Bangladesh Catholic Students’ Movement is considered by many, the leading students’ movement for educating students about Catholic Social Teaching. The main theme for this year’s National Conference was “Endangered Environment: Youth solidarity for environmental protection, ensuring natural beauty”. I’m a member of Dhaka archdiocese and representatives of Tejgaon BCSM, and I looked forward to the conference, believing that I would learn a lot about the ongoing environmental disasters and as a Catholic student what I could do to protect the world that I live in, the world that we call Home.

The conference itself was directed towards helping BCSM members to achieve the following goals –

  • To educate everyone the concept of climate change
  • To make them understand the consequences of global warming
  • To inspire everyone to make a stand against climate change
  • To help members to cooperate with students from all over the country
  • To raise awareness among everyone about the vicious effects of climate change
  • To make students “Think globally, work locally.”

The conference had a good response, with over 130 participants, the executive committee tried to involve the participants in the conference as much as possible. Throughout the conference, there were many demonstrations and activities for us to do.

All over, I was very much happy with the conference, as it met positive expectations I had before coming. Although the conference had a few weakness and several strengths, overall there were three aspects that attracted me making it a successful experience. Firstly the conference had highly qualified speakers who had provided us important information and knowledge about the climate change and what could we do about it as a student from our place. The resource persons were very much proactive in making the participants more involved in the sessions. Secondly the conference provided us the opportunity not only to attend sessions or to have discussions but also in allowing us go on exposures and meeting indigenous people face to face, knowing about their everyday life and their connection with environment as they live surrounded by nature and use natural elements in their day to day lives. The participants and me personally love this sort of field work as it helped us to be more involved in our activities and helped us to learn even more for why climate change is so dangerous for the world that we live in. Thirdly, the conference gave all the participants the platform to stand up and speak in front of everyone to eradicate the shyness that holds them back. And the proactive, informative sessions allowed the participants interact with BCSM members from all over the country and that they could learn how the Movement is performing all over the country.

The presence of Cardinal Patrick D’ Rozario and his wise words in the session greatly inspired me to work more precisely for the society that we live in. His sharing proved to be very much successful as the participants took it very seriously and promised to do whatever necessary to protect the our planet Earth, our Home. The great thing about the conference was that the speakers who took the session classes gave us information on objective data of the main theme rather than the speaker’s personal experience. This helped the participants to learn the abstract concepts and ensuring the understanding of concepts and facts.

The presence of Mr. Ravi Tissera, IMCS APC Coordinator, enriched the value of the conference highly. His sharing about IMCS and it’s work were very much helpful as many of the participants didn’t have any idea about IMCS before the conference. And the conference personally helped me to build up a good relationship with Mr. Ravi and was provided with a lot of ideas of how I could improve my activities in BCSM unit. The likes of Mr. Shamsul Momen Polash, Mr. Kazi Anis. Major General John Gomes greatly inspired all the participants with their magnificent sharing. They presented us data and facts about climate change in Bangladesh and the dangers of it, how we can raise our voices and show everyone the violence on environment through social media and various news portals, as Catholic student what should be our duties, how could we work for the environment from our place and many more things.

Each participants were given the opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas of how they can work to protect the nature and uniqueness of biodiversity. The conference provided the key facts of climate change and how we can work on it to stop it. And the primary concept was to aware the participants so that they could raise awareness among everyone in their own society about the affects of climate change. The idea was very successful as everyone including our diocese was committed for the implementation of the facts that we learned from the conference. The cultural programs basing on the culture of indigenous people were very delightful to watch and the football match at the last day of the conference was very refreshing.

There were very few weaknesses such as time management could have been a bit better even though that very much depended on the arrival of the participants timely. In some parts, the sessions got too much informative and as a result participants got a bit bored. More exposures could’ve been added because that interested me and all the participants the most.

The whole conference was very effective and successful in my opinion. The different sessions and sharing from successful, wise and creative educators widely kept me interested throughout the four day conference and made me come to know about many things and facts about the environment that I didn’t know of. I always enjoy being around other movement members who as well work the welfare and betterment of the society. I learned a great deal of new things about what activities I can do in my own unit and diocese for the environment. I was reminded the importance of mother nature, why it is important to protect from the greedy industrialization society, who only thrive for money and for themselves. In a whole, this conference inspired me to work even more hardly for our BCSM and always try to be a part of it. This conference will help me to work on a goal to protect the environment, the biodiversity and the beauty of it. Solidarity among everyone is the only way to stop the vicious effects of climate change. If all of us can stand together make our actions speak louder than words, we can surely fill the world with greenery that she used to have and protect it’s unique biodiversity. I hope we can use all these information that we’ve gathered from this conference and implement in our unit. Our small steps could turn into a huge change in our goal of protecting the planet.

I thank and congratulate the executive committee of BCSM for arranging this inspiring, informative, productive and successful 22nd National Conference. I believe we can go much further in working for the society if we keep going like this. I learned a great deal from this conference and plan on to keep on working for BCSM in the coming days and hope everyone else will also work on the proper implementation of what they have learned from this conference.

Building Bridges

“Building Bridges” – Chiang Ching (Tina)  of Chinese Catholic  University Student Association (CCUSA) of Taiwan experience sharing of IMCS  International Council 2017

Have you ever questioned yourself what a Catholic should be like? Am I different? Am I proud of being a Catholic? I’ve been wondering all these questions during my IMCS journey, for it’s a journey of awareness and introspection. The shining sun led our way to the mountains, breezes ruffling up my curiosity of this exotic country. It was my very first experience in IMCS. As the representative of Taiwan, I was grateful and honoured to participate in the 2017 IMCS International Council which is the global level second-high decision making council of IMCS – Pax Romana held in Foligno, Italy from 28th August  to 8th  September 2017. For both my country and I, it was a golden opportunity to join in this global family. Everything seems new and challenging. But I am ready to serve in Jesus’ name.

On the first day of the council I met all those beautiful spirits from all around the world, nervous and worried as I thought, as soon as I attended the Holy Mass presided by Fr. Fratern Masawe SJ, the International chaplain of IMCS Pax Romana, I knew this is a place I will call home. Wherever I am, whatever language is spoken, within our Catholic church, we all celebrate the same miracle, being raised up by the same father, and listen to the same word from our Lord. It was the moment that I realized how blessed I am as a Catholic, a catholic that embraces the world with solidarity and unity. There’s no barrier in faith. There’s no difference between our loves to the Lord. And this glowing love would spread to the one besides us just like how each participant greeted me with those radiant and caring smiles when I just arrived. All of the sudden, I know this is my family here.

During our first meeting, each country presented the realities of our own situation based on the topic: “Building bridges: protecting migrants by empowering students”. We had representatives from North America, Europe, Middle East, South America, Africa and Asia (yeah!me!), who are all young leaders contributing in our national movements. By listening to different countries’presentations, its give us clearer understanding of each other’s ability and disability. Every country has its own reality. And because of this difficulty; we are all here gathering to understand and find the solutions for the issues. All those young and smart individuals have touched me so many times when seeing them devote themselves to understand others’ difficulties, to approach more complex and global position. This triggered me to think again why we are different from others. We’re here together not only because we care about this issue, but because we can see this problem through our religious perspective, and as I know that is from the eyes of Jesus with endless and unconditional love. “For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was a stranger and you took me in.” We are here to serve the poorest, the weakest Jesus. And that’s the most important difference and strength that we have. Being a Catholic student is not just attending weekly Sunday Mass; we can do so much more with our young hearts.

After days of meetings and courses, we have listened to lots of experts on migration and even the refugee sharing life stories with us. Luca Marin from CIEMI (Center for Information and Studies on International Migration) has provided us the backgrounds and calls of migrants, and most importantly, how can we do for them in both mental and political level. To know the migration background is to see the real world. It is totally beyond history and geography, which brings us back to the origin of civilization where nobody should be excluded or discriminated by their races. Later on, Christopher Dekki, the IMCS UN advocacy team leader demonstrated the aspect of political advocacy of a Catholic student that enabled us to know how to manage our knowledge and strength in the global platform. To most of my amazement the Catholic Social Teaching that Fr. Antoine Sondag and Fr. Masawe shared with us got me thinking profoundly about how a young Catholic should be. We Christians have three basic truths which is life, faith and solution. Jesus is the one who brought our life and faith together. And a solution is to find faith in our daily life, contributing our gifts to the church, fulfilling the virtue of the bible. By seeking the truth of solution, we can simply follow the constant circle: To look at life, reflect what’s going on, to see, judge and act. And here’s the worthiest thing I’ve learnt from IMCS: See before you judge, judge with your critical sight, take action before well recognizing the problem, see and judge again on your action. It’s so important to reflect on our selves every day, refreshed with the tenderness of mercy and grow with the wisdom of life.

Here’s another experience that I can’t forget for my entire life. One of the nights, Sameh Kamel, a member of IMCS UN advocacy team from Egypt requested us to make a row in the straight line. Then, he started to ask several questions, if your answer is yes, step forward, vice versa. “Does your country provide sustainable drinking water?” “Do you ever work/live under an unbalanced gender proportion?”“Do you study in private school?” “Do you dare to walk alone on the street at night? Twenty of us started this game with all of us in a same row as equal and by end of the game we were not in in the same straight line. And I know at that moment, it was about international view. There were a few of my friends standing behind me. And I believed it was not something I should boast about, because our mission is to look back, to see things we always fail to see, the inequality. It’s a world that we don’t dare to see the misery. We refuse to face poverty, disability and cruelty.  But I couldn’t bear seeing any of my friends living in such condition. The world is unfair, but it is human to change this unfairness and its in our hands to bring about the change. When we started to see it, we have already made a difference in our own world, for the real compassion is to witness pain fearlessly.

I’ve learnt and seen so much along the journey, especially to acknowledge what I’ve missed and been lack of.  We made a short film together which brought our concerns on refugee issues; we analyzed using SWOT within our communities; we practiced on how to speak out our minds in United Nation conferences. Moreover, I met all the inspiring people that I admire and respect so much. This is a life time friendship and partnership that will be stored in the bottom of my heart. We are all just young students but because we are young, we are fearless and powerful. While we are young, our evangelization can be sharing the ideas of stopping discrimination toward migrants or encouraging friends to care about the nature. The influence that a young man can extend is immeasurable. There’re many things we can change, just start our journey with see, judge and act.

Pope Francis once said, “I would like to remind you that being happy is not having a sky without storms, or roads without accidents, or work without fatigue, or relationships without disappointments. Being happy is finding strength in forgiveness, hope in one’s battles, security at the stage of fear, love in disagreements.” After my IMCS journey of awareness and introspection, I know I’m happy. I’m different and I’m proud of being a Catholic.