[Press Conference] CSOs to ASEAN: inclusion, not exclusion in social protection planning, design and implementation

CSOs to ASEAN: inclusion, not exclusion in social protection planning, design and implementation

“Social Protection for All!”

Representatives of Civil Society Organizations from various Southeast Asian countries accompanied by a contingent from urban poor communities in Manila walked to the venue of the ASEAN High Level Conference on Social Protection at Sofitel Hotel on 16 August 2017 to handover their statement containing their recommendations and demands concerning social protection measures even as they decry the limited space given to CSOs in the ASEAN process.

Members of DIGNIDAD and the Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP) that marched toward the venue of the ASEAN High Level Conference on Social Protection, lamented that the ASEAN Conference on Social Protection on 15-17 August 2017 only invited 5 CSOs, and only as observers who cannot speak from the floor. Among these CSOs are the Network for Transformative Social Protection, Coalition of Services of the Elderly and the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, thus they agreed to hold the CSO consultation-workshop to bring together other voices from various people’s organizations, sectors in the region and put these forward at the Conference through the official Conference delegates.

The “CSO Statement to the ASEAN High Level Conference on Social Protection” points out that while the ASEAN Heads of States made a historic act in 2013 by issuing the “ASEAN Declaration on Social Protection” and recognizing for the first time that social protection is a right, there is virtually no mechanism for CSO engagement in crafting social protection measures.

The group, comprising of 30 representatives of civil society, trade unions and people’s organizations from Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and from other regional formations, came together the day before to unite on a set demands to be presented to the ASEAN conference on August 16 and 17 through the statement to be circulated among the conference delegates.

“The ASEAN Declaration on Social Protection deserves to be implemented and budgeted,” said Ana Maria Nemenzo, co-convener of NTSP and Dignidad. She noted that as of the present “there are no clear accountabilities, resource allocations and participatory mechanisms that would ensure each ASEAN state undertakes or improves social protection measures. Due to the ASEAN principle of non-interference, each government is effectively left on its own to operationalize ASEAN’s declared social protection aspirations.”

The CSOs highlighted in their statement to ASEAN the current realities in the region that emphasizes the urgency for social protection. “Nearly sixty per cent (60%) of the workforce in Asia are in the informal economy, enduring precarious working and living conditions. Most of these workers are female who are compelled into this work due to discrimination in the formal economy. On the other hand, workers in the formal sector receive measly wages under unacceptable working environments while being deprived of labor rights such as security of tenure and the right to organize. Discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, age, race, among others, are still rampant. Migrant workers suffer these same sordid realities with the added burden of being unable to access even the limited social protection programs available both in their countries of origin and destination.”

They also pointed out that “the harsh impact of climate change on people’s livelihoods, food and shelter worsen the situation.”

“We call for an expansion in the ASEAN framework on social protection to ensure the progressive realization of a life of dignity for all and which embraces the principles of human rights and social justice,” said Emily Beridico, Executive Director of the Coalition of Services of the Elderly.

“Social protection must move from being targeted to the most vulnerable in the form of a social safety net to being ultimately universal, covering each individual, as a matter of human right to a life of dignity,” added Jelen Paclarin, Executive Director of Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau and chair of the Regional Steering Committee of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum 2017 (ACSC/APF2017).

The statement outlines various specific recommendations that address the rights of everyone as well as demands of the various sectors such as labor, women, LGBTQI, migrant workers, the elderly, persons with disabilities, farmers and fisherfolk.

Undersecretary Flor Villar of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) met the contingent of urban poor and other CSOs outside Sofitel Hotel to receive the statement. She later signed the statement at the premises of the Conference venue. She explained that she will share it with other delegates of the conference from other countries. She also informed the groups that the expected outputs of the conference is just to identify a set of proposed social protection indicators in ASEAN and proposed targets for the implementation of the Regional Framework and Action Plan. The body that will tackle recommendations is the Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development in September this year.

The Regional CSO consultation-workshop was organized by the Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP), Buhay na may Dignidad para sa Lahat (DIGNIDAD), Coalition of Services of the Elderly-HelpAge, ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, SENTRO and the Working Group on Social ASEAN. Among the national and regional organizations that took part in it were ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC), Center for Migrant Advocay, HomeNet Southeast Asia (Thailand), TaskForce on ASEAN Migrant Workers, Social Action Center (Cambodia), Confederation of Indonesian People’s Movement (KPRI) (Indonesia), Tuong Lai Center (Vietnam), PhilRights, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Associated Labor Union (Philippines), Cambodian Grassroots Cross-Sector Network, Center for Migrant Advocacy, Civika Asian Development Academy, Empower: Youth for Agricultural Development, Galang Philippines, Think Centre (Singapore), WomanHealth Philippines, and Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau. Most of these organizations are also in the ACSC/APF2017.

c/o 85-B Masikap Street Extension, Barangay Central, Diliman, Quezon City | Tel. 7097833/44

Press Release
August 17, 2017
Contact: Maris dela Cruz @ 09173153828

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