ASEAN CIVIL SOCIETY CONFERENCE(ACSC)/ASEAN PEOPLE’S FORUM (APF)
ACSC/APF is an annual/ regular forum of CSOs in ASEAN Member States, which is held as a parallel meeting to the ASEAN Summit of Heads of State. The meeting is hosted by civil society in the country which it is being hosted
Participants of this forum come from civil society organizations, NGOs, people’s organizations, and people’s movements.
The ACSC/APF also features a forum through which participants can better understand the host country from the perspective of civil society.
In this meeting, CSOs bring up broad issues from different sectors and concerns, such as human rights, development, trade, environment, youth, and culture, affecting many countries in the region.
Initially, this forum was named as ACSC (the 1st ACSC in Malaysia – 2005), and adopted in the Philippines (2006) and Singapore (2007). The additional name APF was added during the IV ACSC (2009) in order to accommodate the different interpretation towards the term CSO and people’s organizations from Thailand’s CSOs. Since then, different titles have been used for the ACSC/APF forum in the subsequent meetings.
The output from this meeting is a joint statement and recommendation for the ASEAN Leaders regarding the ASEAN Summit. A feature of the ACSC/APF is to open spaces for dialogue with ASEAN Leaders. Whether CSO representatives are able to meet with ASEAN Heads of State in the form of an Interface during the ACSC/APF depends upon the attitude of the government hosting the Summit and ACSC/APF. Nevertheless, the joint statements and recommendations are submitted to the ASEAN Secretariat and the government representatives
Background of the Review
Inspired by the purpose of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ―to enhance the well-being and livelihood of the peoples of ASEAN by providing them with equitable access to opportunities for human development, social welfare and justice‖ (Article 1.11, ASEAN Charter), as well as ―to promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building‖ (Article 1.13, ASEAN Charter)2
Emphasizing the development of an ASEAN identity and the building of a people-oriented ASEAN where people are at the centre of community building, through the participation of all sectors of society; Being rooted in the struggles of grassroots communities and peoples‘ movements of Southeast Asian countries, most of which are member countries of ASEAN, and carving out its rightful space among mediating institutions that bring the voices, issues, problems, and solutions of peoples and communities to the public sphere, of which the ASEAN is one; Civil society in South East Asia have been engaging with ASEAN member governments and ASEAN organs and sectoral bodies throughout a ten-year period from 2005-2015. There have been a variety of civil society engagements with ASEAN bodies, mechanisms, instruments, on a variety of themes and issues over this ten year period. One of these engagement modalities is what is now known as the annual ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples‘ Forum (ACSC/APF), held in parallel with the now bi-annual ASEAN Summit of Leaders (See Annex 1)
Begun in 2005 by Malaysia, and organized annually by civil society since through 2015, the tenyears of the ACSC/APF can be characterized to have been marked by growth in terms of numbers of persons participating and in terms of the numbers of countries represented, in terms of the breadth of participating organizations, and the themes represented and policy recommendations proposed. The ACSC/APF can likewise be characterized to have been marked by growth in terms of leadership and membership, by innovation in terms of processes; by dynamism in the context of building unities on issues; by unity, and at times division, amidst diversity.
Appreciating the rich content of annual ACSC/APF recommendations made by civil society and emerging collective knowledge from its processes, and in line with the series of plenary discussions that were started in ACSC/APF in March 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia3 ; in April 2013 in Jerudong, Brunei Darussalam; and, in March 2014 in Yangon, Myanmar4 , the ACSC/APF, through its 2015 Regional Steering Committee, decided to conduct a review of the ten-year engagement by the ACSC/APF from 2005-2015, in order to better inform its next plan of action for the years ahead. The ACSC/APF Regional Steering Committee also decided to conduct a follow-up to and monitoring of the ACSC/APF recommendations, beyond the annual regional conference proper, towards a sustained monitoring of its recommendations to the ASEAN. The study presumes to contribute towards how the ACSC/APF can be a more effective civil society mechanism for ASEAN community building, for engagement with the ASEAN, and an effective platform for projecting South East Asian people‘s voices on policy issues in ASEAN.
Purpose of the Review
The Ten-Year Review describes the contexts of the engagement with ASEAN, namely the prevailing, as well as the evolving, milieu of ASEAN within the processes of globalization and regionalism between 2005-2015.
The Review describes the drivers of engagement, and how they shaped the engagement by civil society with ASEAN, and how the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples‘ Forum—including its organizational processes and dynamics, actions and decisions, and submissions/recommendations–evolved as a modality for engagement with ASEAN. Finally, the Review looks at the outcomes and impacts of the engagement, and lack thereof, as well as the specific adaptations made by ASEAN in terms of policy and institutional changes.