Synthesis Report of APA concurrent panel session on “Towards a Fair Trade in an Integrating ASEAN: Perspectives of Small Men and Women Farmers in AFA”
1. ASEAN economic integration through liberalization in trade, investments and services has caused massive displacement of workers both at formal and service sectors as well as small farmers and producers, who compose the majority of the ASEAN population. Women bear the brunt of this displacement; since at least 50% of the agriculture sectors are women and the displacement increases the ranks of unprotected informal workers, mostly women.
2. ASEAN economic integration benefits mostly big transnational companies both within and outside the ASEAN region.
3. ASEAN economic integration leaves out workers, farmers and informal sectors in decision-making processes.
4. The needs of small farmers and workers at formal and informal sectors are simple: they want better, quality jobs, more decent and secured livelihoods, and happier, satisfying lives.
5. For ASEAN to be truly a caring and sharing community, it should address the pitfalls of its current economic integration framework and policies. The integration should focus on building cooperation, among member countries and its peoples, in a fair and just trade, within a free economy framework but with a guaranteed level playing field and with special and differential treatment for less developed member nations and for vulnerable sectors. The economic integration should be beneficial to all, and should significantly narrow the development divide among member countries in the region.
To address the pitfalls, we recommend to ASEAN governments the following:
a. conduct macro-economic reforms – tax reforms, anti-corruption and smuggling policies and enforcement,
b. give calibrated liberalization and calibrated protection for vulnerable basic industries and /or sectors
c. give social protection covering all men and women small farmers and formal and informal workers.
d. recognize and enforce international and regional conventions on labor and agriculture ; recognize universal human socio-eco-political and civil human rights, including rights of migrant and service workers .
e. ensure gender equality in the workplace, farms and in the homes, including protection of women against all forms of violence.
f. ensure food security and staple food sufficiency
g. institutionalize mechanisms for participation of grassroots organizations and non-government social development organizations in decision-making processes of ASEAN – e.g. an ASEAN Farmers’ Council, an ASEAN Workers’ Council, which ASEAN officials can consult on matters affecting their respective sectors.
6. Grassroots organizations of farmers and formal and informal workers, together with non-government social development organizations, are committed to help ASEAN governments address the pitfalls of economic integration, through the following:
a. continue organizing and educating our sectors and consolidating our ranks, so we can more and more legitimately represent our sectors
b. work in solidarity with other basic sectors
c. call for specific mechanisms within ASEAN for stronger participation of civil society groups
d. do strong advocacy work , submitting concrete policy and program proposals based on sound analysis of situations and issues