Your excellences, honorable delegates, UN agencies, civil society colleagues and friends;
We bring a message from the Asia Pacific Civil Society Forum on Sustainable Development 2016 on behalf of 135 Civil Society Organisations. We request you to annex our full written statement and more detailed recommendations to the Outcome document.
The Asia Pacific region faces uniform as well as diverse set of challenges spanning all three pillars of sustainable development. We as civil society want to highlight some overarching trends that will make the SDGs impossible to realize and advance our recommendations on the same.
The dominant macroeconomic policy regime in the Asia Pacific region has resulted in increasing privatization, liberalization and deregulation across sectors. Anti-poor and inequitable macro policies have led to increasing suppression of interests of the people at large, especially of those who are economically and socially weaker and unable to participate in the process of policy-making. This inequity is reflected in how the poor, small farmers, workers, women, migrants, indigenous peoples, dalits, the disabled, the elderly and other marginalized communities face a denial of social protection and human rights. Moreover food security and sovereignty is challenged by the expansion of corporate led agriculture that has not only made food costly but also unhealthy, destroyed natural ecosystems and bio-diversity, thus triggering widespread hunger and malnutrition in the region.
Moreover, trade and investment agreements including the WTO and FTAs, have created major challenges for the developing and least developed countries in the region and challenged access to food, land, livelihoods, critical services and resources, and challenged development policy space in general.
Governments have increasingly withdrawn from public provision of essential and quality social services such as health care and education, as well as access to clean and safe water, housing, energy and land. Access to progressive sexual health and education services, in particular SRHR has seen severe opposition in several countries. Limited access has again been skewed against socially weaker groups including children and in particular girls. Universal access to health care and education has been far from realized in the region and specific needs of specific groups such as the disabled, the girl child etc.
Displacements and evictions due to land grab, climate disasters, loss of livelihood, and debt are common phenomenon across economically and socially weaker communities including among farming and indigenous communities. Asia Pacific has been particularly plagued by environmental degradation and climate change. This tendency is heightened by current production practices, both in agriculture and industry, which become environmentally unsustainable with adverse impacts on the ecosystem, and the health and lives of the people. The operation of the extractive industries have destroyed natural ecosystems, displaced communities, undermined human rights, and contributed to health hazards.
We reiterate that discrimination and marginalisation must be eliminated if the SDGs are to be realized. Underlying structures of inequality and marginalization (i.e. caste, patriarchy, sexual orientation, ageism, racism, sexism, among others) remain deeply embedded in historical processes of discrimination and inequitable development in the region. Indeed, many groups, women, persons with disabilities, older people, indigenous peoples, dalits, LGBTIQ, single and widow, ethnic minorities, migrants, PLHIV, young people, people in the remote area, sex workers, informal workers and others, today still find themselves socially, politically and economically excluded and marginalized from national development and governance processes, with few opportunities for redress. Furthermore, the crosscutting issues of marginalized populations have not yet been fully explored, understood and incorporated in the sustainable development framework.
In spite of its limitations, the comprehensive nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers us the opportunity to retrospect and reorient ourselves. Civil society in the Asia-Pacific advocates for a complete reorientation of economic, social and environmental policies (including those for climate change adaptation and mitigation) and a bottom-up approach with participation of grass-root communities and civil society, with shared ownership by the people. Pro-poor and equitable economic and social policies must; provide jobs, incomes and social provisioning, not based on exploitation but rather protection of all; especially women, children, elderly and the youth; workers and migrants; indigenous peoples, the disabled, and those with different sexual orientation. At the same time, trade and investments agreement negotiations must be transparent, participatory and necessarily subjected to independent human rights impact assessments before they are signed. The traditional or significant roles of communities and regions (such as the Pacific) in conservation, nurturing, management of natural resources, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and in preventing and reducing disaster risk must be recognized and harnessed, while their special needs are also addressed.
However none of the above will be possible without accountable, transparent, participatory and just institutions, especially in the state domain. Private sector as development partners and economic players must also be subject to stringent norms of scrutiny, as we would ourselves be. Stakeholder participation must be underpinned by human rights principles including universality, non-discrimination, social and gender equality, participation, empowerment and accountability. Finally civil society participation in sustainable development processes and mechanisms must be institutionalized based on principles of non-regression, democracy and equality, as guided by the HLPF and the Agenda itself.
Bangkok, April 2, 2016