PURSUING TRANSFORMATIVE PROGRAMS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
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Pursuing transformative programs for social change amidst the crisis
A Roundtable Discussion with Francois Houtart and Mamdouh Habashi
4 July 2011, Monday (12nn – 5pm)
Phaltra Building , 139 Matahimik Street , Teachers’ Village, Diliman, Quezon City
Capitalism has plunged the world into a multiple, interlocking web of crises – financial, economic, social, and ecological. Millions are driven out of their jobs and homes, further deepening poverty, precariousness, and erosion of living standards for the vast majority. But the situation has become more urgent as climactic crisis threatens the very survival of the planet and humanity.
Meanwhile, the US, EU and members of the G8 are addressing the crises with a new neo-liberal offensive through austerity measures that are detrimental to the interest of the majority of the people. Waves of resistance are mounting against the lowering of wages, drastic reduction of social and public budgets, and privatisation of essential services. In the Arab world, the explosive combination of political issues and the failure of neo-liberal economic policies e.g. liberalisation, deregulation, and privatisation to address worsening poverty and inequality have brought about upheavals that have overthrown authoritarian regimes.
In the Philippines, even before the crises, the prevailing elite-dominated, neo-liberal economy has already put the country at the edge of a social catastrophe, pushing about 70 per cent of the labour force to the insecure informal sector. Every day, unjust political and economic structures force half of the 92 million Filipinos to live in sub-human conditions.
Nonetheless, the crisis presents an opportunity for progressive forces to rally people around and push for transformative and doable projects that address their immediate and urgent needs, as well as offer the possibility of eliminating the structures of inequality and injustice.
For that reason, this roundtable discussion has invited key resource persons from Europe and the Arab world who have been involved in transformative projects that could widen further progressive spaces towards repudiating neo-liberalism and changing the structure of current power relations. The speakers offer something precious: people-centred alternative solutions to current problems with meaningful, transformative impact on the world.
DR. FRANCISCO NEMENZO, Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines and Chair of Laban ng Masa – an alliance of democratic left groups, will present introductory thoughts about the crisis and need for a thorough-going social change through transformative alternatives.
Afterwards, two resource persons will speak on the crisis and transformative programs they are pushing for – some already implemented, some being implemented. These speakers have long been active in the struggle for social justice:
FRANCOIS HOUTART, well-known theologian, philosopher, and one of the founders of liberation theology. He is a prime mover, with key international NGOs, for a new United Nations Charter entitled the “Declaration for the Common Good of Humanity” which shall seek to de-commodify and de-privatise common goods which are common heritage such as water, seeds, information, electricity, education, health services, etc. He pushes for worldwide provision of quality public services fundamental to life and a life of dignity. Such advocacy complements and pursues further the global advocacy of the UN and International Labour Organisation (ILO) for a global social protection floor that has proven affordable and feasible in developing countries. In 2009, he was awarded the Madanjeet Singh Prize by UNESCO for his “life-long commitment to world peace, intercultural dialogue, human rights and the promotion of tolerance, and in recognition of his outstanding eff orts to advance the cause of social justice in the world. He is ardent promoter of North-South cooperation and the founder of the Tri-Continental Centre (CETRI), a non-governmental organization renowned for its work on development issues and in the International Council of the World Social Forum.”
MAMDOUH HABASHI, vice-president of the Third World Network on Alternatives, co-founder of the Egyptian Socialist Party, and convenor of the South-South Peoples’ Solidarity Network. Most of what the Egyptian revolution has achieved in terms of democratic changes can only be attributed to massive popular pressure and courageous mobilisations. The present organising efforts by progressive groups provide the basis for much bigger rounds of struggle that will push for people-centred alternatives to replace the projects of the old regime and the Islamic fundamentalists. Mamdouh will talk about a people’s agenda expressed through a democratisation roadmap that plans for the gradual realisation of major political as well as economic, social, and cultural rights in Egypt.
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