Financial Crisis Workshop Monograph out now!

We are very pleased to announce the publication of the Second Edition the activity monograph of the Regional Conference on the Impact of the Global Economic and Financial Crisis on the Vulnerable Sectors in the Region: Civil Society Voices and ASEAN.

The monograph is a available in both digital and printed format. You can download the PDF here or you can drop by the AsiaDHRRA or Uni-APRO office for the printed version. Do let us know beforehand though as we have limited printed copies.


Background of the Activity

The unregulated global financial system has led to serious and widespread economic downturn negatively affecting millions of highly vulnerable sectors in the region. This is happening in the midst of interlinked crises in relation to food, energy and climate change, arising from both governance and market failure.

Finding solutions to the global crises has now become the major concern across the globe of various instituions, including civil society itself and grassroots organizations. In Southeast Asia, this has become more compelling since a large section of its population lives below the poverty line. Civil society organizations have tackled this issue within their own organizations and across sectors, at various levels the past year, some of these as parallel CSO activities during the ASEAN Peoples' Forum held in Bangkok in February 2009, in conjunction with the 14th ASEAN Summit.

ASEAN likewise has convened a High-Level Forum on Reducing Vulnerability in the Face of Crisis last February 19-20, 2009 which acknowledged that the current financial crisis is a recurring phenomenon, with a much wider scale of impact affecting the ASEAN+3 Countries at various levels, given the differing contexts and the commonalities by which the financial crisis is affecting the region. It also acknowledged that new vulnerable groups are emerging and vulnerabilities are deepening in the societies due to the social impact of the financial crisis, thus the need to address the challenges comprehensively through a cross-sectoral regional plan.

At the global level, the United Nations recently concluded the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development, to take stock of the causes of the crisis, consider existing policy responses and necessary reforms, and catalyze further concerted action.

Given all these developments, and in recognition of the need for a collaborative response among various stakeholders, a regional dialogue between and among CSO representatives, ASEAN leaders, and development stakeholders shall be convened to provide an opportunity to listen to peoples voices on the crisis and define concrete policies and programs to address the persisting challenges of the financial crisis in an already compounded development situation in the region.


Jakarta Conference Recommendations

CSO Recommendations To Effectively Address The Impact Of The Global Financial Crisis On The Vulnerable Sectors In The Asean Region

(August 6, 2009)

We, representatives from civil society organizations of women and men migrant workers from the formal, informal and labor sectors, small-scale farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples, agricultural workers, consumers, academe and non-government organizations from the ASEAN region, gathered at the “Regional Conference on the Impact of Financial and Economic Crisis on Vulnerable Sectors of the Region: Civil Society Voices and ASEAN” held in Jakarta,Indonesia on July 28-29, 2009 wish to register the following recommendations to ASEAN and other intergovernmental bodies:
  1. We acknowledge that the global economic and financial crisis is a recurrent event that creates havoc on the livelihoods and welfare of many communities, especially the most vulnerable sectors. The crisis has been addressed through partial reforms, stimulus packages and bail outs. To prevent or mitigate future crises, we need a thorough re-examination of the global financial system and the formulation of the corresponding systemic, institutional reforms. We need to put in place a new global financial architecture that is fair and transparent, that has a development agenda and that is responsive to shocks. Reforms will include sound regulation of capital and financial markets including the need to control excessive flows and high risk leverage and regulate various financial products( e.g. sub-prime loans and credit cards). There, too, should be proper and timely disclosure of information on the advantages/disadvantages of financial products. A charter for the responsible sale of financial products should be developed.
Continue reading the Jakarta Conference Recommendations here...


Jakarta Conference Action Plans

Regional Conference on the Impact of Financial Crisis on Vulnerable Sectors:
Civil Society Voices and ASEAN
July 28-29 2009, Jakarta
(Final Draft)

Action Plans which participants agreed to work on together:

I. Agricultural Sector
1. Priority Policy Agenda
  1. Create and strengthen mechanisms for dialogue and consultation between CSOs and government, at the national and regional levels, towards the ASEAN Summit.
  2. Address food security issues through the development of mechanisms for fair trade system.
  3. Farmers, fishers and CSOs are able to present their positions /views / recommendations to the new cabinet of Indonesia.

2. Concrete Action points
  1. Conduct of national round table discussions on regional policy frameworks, e.g. the ASEAN Integrated Framework on Food Security (AIFS) and Regional Trade Agreements
  2. Request for CSO participation during key ASEAN events and conduct various lobbying activities (e.g. parallel CSO consultations, position paper on the AIFS, etc.)
  • ASEAN Day (August 8)
  • Special SOM-30th AMAF (Senior Officials Meeting -ASEAN Minister of Agriculture and Forestry) (August 11-13, Ho Chi Minh City)
  • SOM-31st AMAF (October 2009, Brunei Darussalam)
  • 15th ASEAN Summit (October 2009, Phuket)

Download the Jakarta Conference Action Plans here...


Workshop Program

Download the Workshop Program here...


Workshop Objectives

The regional dialogue seeks to strengthen a constructive civil society interaction with ASEAN and policy makers in confronting the challenges of the global financial crisis. At the end of the workshop, the following results are expected:

  1. Improved and shared understanding of the impact and challenges of financial crisis in the region particularly to the poor and marginalized sectors.
  2. Generated concrete policy recommendations and clear action points in addressing the financial crisis both for the national and regional level


List of Participants

Participants were comprised of representatives from basic sectors, national and regional CSOs, ASEAN, international organizations, research/academe and donor community.

Download the List of Participants here...


Presentations - Articulation of Sectorial Impact

  1. Impact of financial crisis to small scale men and women farmers in SEA countries (Mudzakir, Asian Farmers Association)
  2. Global Financial Crisis and Fisheries in Southeast Asia (Mr. Glenn Ymata, Southeast Asia Fisherfolks for Justice)
  3. Indigenous Peoples Show Another Way Out of the Financial Crisis (Ms. Rukka Somblonggi, Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact)
  4. Impact the Financial Crisis for SMEs in Indonesia (Mr. Wahyu Indriyo, Binaswadaya)
  5. Global Financial Crisis: Its Impact to Rural Community Organizing (Ms. Ika Krishnayanti, Bina Desa)


Presentations - Global and Regional Responses to Global Financial Crisis

  1. ASEAN: Dr. Alladin Rillo, Head of Finance Cooperation Division, the ASEAN Secretariat
  2. World Bank: Dr. Riri Alatas, Senior Economist, WB Indonesia
  3. GTZ: Ms. Johanna Knoess, GTZ-Indonesia, Policy Adviser for Social Protection
  4. UNDP: Ms. Michaela Prokop, UNDP Indonesia
  5. CSO: Mr. Sandagran Solomon Joseph Pitchay, NUBE Malaysia, General Secretary
  6. Trade Union (Mr. Mohamed Shafie BP Mammal, UNI-Apro/ASETUC)


Keynote Address: Chris Ng, UNI Apro Regional Secretary

Confronting the Employment and Social Challenges in ASEAN

Yes, ASEAN is very much affected by the global economic crisis. And yes, the most vivid manifestation of the crisis can be seen in the jobs crisis, which the ILO says is likely to persist for several years.

As a result of the global recession, joblessness, precarious informal employment and unprotected flexible work are on the rise everywhere in the region, especially in the export-oriented ASEAN economies. These developments mean growing human and family misery in many societies, aggravated by the fact that most countries in the region do not have a sustainable system of job unemployment insurance and effective social protection.

It is against this background that we, at UNI Apro and the broader labor and social movement in Asia, have been battling for bolder economic and social reforms at the national, regional and global levels. Let me cite the most pressing ones:

First and foremost, the global economic crisis and the earlier Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 tell us that the world needs a new architecture of economic governance at all levels. Frankly, we are disappointed that the G20 meeting early this year agreed only on measures to strengthen the IMF’s capitalization and to cooperate in regulating speculative financial investments. The problem is that while Gordon Brown and others keep saying that the Washington Consensus is dead, their proposals on the ground such as strengthening the IMF, World Bank and the ADB are still neo-liberal in character.

The reality is abundantly clear to the trade union movement; the crisis is rooted in the global economic inequalities compounded by a global epidemic of bad corporate governance. Public confidence in business practices and the credibility of CEO’s and corporate behavior is greatly shaken with the startling revelation of grossly disproportionate executive pay in relation to their economic performance. This is why everyone today is blaming greed, corporate greed, as being at the root of the global financial instability.

The unfettered movement of capital, transnational capital in particular, often leads to a Race-to-the-Bottom phenomenon where labor rights are downgraded in the name of competition.

The Race to the Bottom among transnational corporations have driven wages and worker welfare downward in their global search for super-profits, which, they invest, in turn, in non-productive and speculative financial transactions.

Hence, there is an urgent need to have not only judicious rules in the global financial markets but also minimum standards of ethical behavior for CEOs and among the TNCs. Also, there should be greater space and flexibility for all countries, especially the developing ones, in pursuing coherent social and economic policies protecting the jobs and welfare of their working population. This means the neo-liberal one-size-fits-all formula of deregulation, privatization and liberalization must go and must give way to new rules of global economic engagement – at the WTO, World Bank, IMF, ADB and other global economic institutions.

Secondly, Asia should review the programs of economic liberalization as manifested by the complex tangle of regional trade agreements. There is a simplistic assumption that countries in the region get integrated by simply abolishing trade and other economic barriers.

Sadly, what we see instead is that the development gaps within and among economies are widening instead of narrowing. This is so because there is a lack of focused effort to promote real and beneficial complementation among country. Neither is there any program to close the development gaps for those being left behind.

The regional economic integration being undertaken by ASEAN is also lacking in this respect. We believe that the ASEAN Economic Community has the potential to provide ASEAN member countries with competitive advantages in this age of globalization by spurring economic growth, providing greater job opportunities and promoting overall socio-economic development in the region. We are, therefore, seriously concerned that ASEAN’s laudable goal is being undermined by the lack of a social dimension in its policies and strategies.

This is the time to reiterate the call for globalization with a human face. We need to shape a new global economic order with clear social and labor rules. We need to put people first in the regional and globalization process in each and every situation. All social actors – at the national, regional and global levels – should engage continually in honest and productive social dialogue to develop feasible policies and practical strategy to preserve existing jobs, create new ones, extend social protection to the vulnerables and build the foundation for a just and more equitable socio-economic order
This means that we need comprehensive policies that include:
  • Economic policies orientated to job creation and job preservation
  • Policies to strengthen social safety nets
  • Investment in education and training
  • The adoption of measures to guarantee equal education and training opportunities for women and vulnerable groups
  • Fair rules at work
  • The elimination of child labor
  • Protection of migrant workers
  • Rules to insure that the social and labor rights of the working peoples are protected and respected

In term of the reform of the Financial System, UNI call for:

  • A new customer-orientated and risk-conscious business model where the internal operating procedures and practices should be transparent. Equally the way employees are motivated and constrained in performing their jobs must be transparent (remuneration, incentives, skills, and working conditions).
  • Structured dialogue of unions representing financial workers with financial supervisory agencies at national, regional and international level as well as international colleges of supervisors for finance multinationals.
  • Charters for the responsible sale of financial products to be developed by each financial institution and to be agreed between management, unions and other stakeholders. Such charters should make explicit, public and verifiable the principles being followed in sales and marketing as well as in operating procedures and work practices.
  • A comprehensive framework of financial regulation and supervision to be created at world level. This framework should cover all financial products and players in the industry, should stop ‘regime shopping’ and should ensure rules are strictly enforced. There should be strong coordination at all levels between regulators/supervisors.
  • The maintenance of diversity in the finance industry that includes private, public and cooperative organizations of all sizes.
  • Commercial and retail operations that are insulated from high-risk speculative and investment banking activities.

In the immediate term to mitigate the social impact, UNI in consultation with ILO have recommended the following practical measures:

  • taking account of fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining, and
  • involving the social partners in the reform process insofar as the labor and social dimension is concerned;
  • basing restructuring on dialogue and consultation between management, unions and workers’ representatives;
  • ensuring workers’ employability through skills enhancement, life-long learning and active labor market policies to support adjustment;
  • maintaining advances in equity policies, especially for the large number of women working in the sector;
  • treating workers in atypical employment fairly,
  • coordinating measures to avoid protectionist policies that would aggravate the crisis.

The quest to confront the global economic and financial crisis and socialisation of the globalisation process is not the responsibility of governments, employers or management alone. The workers and their trade unions can and must play a role. Let me explain briefly.

Like the Governments and Employers, we in the trade union movement are anxious to see a stable, progressive and sustainable economy at every level, in every country as well as globally. The truth is - like the employers, the trade unions do have a stake in sustaining the viability, productivity and profitability of business, for this is central in creating decent, secure and sustainable jobs. Such a stable, progressive and sustainable economy requires social harmony and cooperation among the different stakeholders in society – particularly the employers and trade unions.

Without belabouring the obvious, meaningful social partnership industrial relations must be based on co-operative and harmonious labour management relations. This is crucial in building up productivity and competitiveness of a country in a global economy. This is why enlightened employers look at their partnership with the employees and their trade unions as a long‐term proposition. Sustainable business requires sustainable relations with the employees and their union.

The quest towards social partnership industrial relations will require sceptical employers and governments to put aside their misconception that trade union is an obstacle to their effort to confront or adjust to the global competitive challenge. They need also be aware that efforts to weaken the trade union movement will always be in vain as they will be replaced, as it is happening in many countries, by labour related NGOs – equally committed to assert workers rights and certainly more innovative in their strategy to represent the workers’ interests and propagate their rights.

The alternative, as UNI Apro is propagating in many ASEAN countries, is for the Industrial Relations actors, through sincere and genuine dialogue to develop practical strategy, based on the concept of true social partnership to adjust to the global competitive challenge. Of course, true social partnership means going beyond “do‐good or be politically correct.” It means treating the other party as a partner and according this partner the full respect and dignity befitting a partner. On the other hand, partnership also means that the other side, the trade union, is capable of becoming a responsible partner in every sense of the word.

Such strategy will have to include openness to union and employees suggestions on how to make certain business adjustments labour friendly and less painful to concerned employees, how to spread the benefits of business expansion and how to forge labour management co-operation on productivity and other profit-boosting measures. It will also require trade unions to be realistic in their response to the globalisation challenges. Rights come with responsibility. Trade unions cannot avoid, if need be, implement difficult and painful decisions.

Such social partnership between employer and trade union is possible. Even in the most difficult environment or situation. We have conducted such experimentation in Indonesia, in close consultation with the union and management at Hero Supermarket – one of the largest retail chains in Indonesia. The successful outcome has been documented in a report that was launched in February this year in Jakarta. I must state here that the impact is not isolated or confined to Hero Supermarket alone. The positive impact of the social partnership relations on the sustainability and profitability of Hero has now become a competitive advantage that other retailers are inspiring to achieve.

In response to the suggestion of the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration of Indonesia, we have, in co-operation with our affiliate, Aspek Indonesia and the FES Germany, convened the first Tripartite Conference for the Indonesia Retail Sector. This historic Conference held on 22 July 2009 at this same venue, enabled the Indonesia retail workers, their trade unions and employers to explore and set the framework for true and active social partnership to further develop the Indonesia retail sector.

The Conference inaugurated by the Minister of Manpower and Transmigration adopted a comprehensive communiqué calling upon the Indonesian Government to establish a Tripartite Committee for the Indonesia Retail Sector to institutionalize co-operation and collaboration between the social partners in the retail sectors. The Conference believes that such a Committee facilitates their quest to develop a competitive retail sector capable of providing a good return on investments, generate decent employment and contribute to the development of the Indonesian economy and society.

We are confident that the positive experiences of constructive social partnership industrial relations in various companies in Indonesia and other countries will inspire the management and trade unions in other countries to emulate. UNI Apro is committed to work closely with the ASETUC – the co-ordinating body for service sector trade unions in the ASEAN countries to develop, promote and implement this concept of social partnership Industrial relations.

Let me conclude, by reiterating that the trade union movement wants to help shape a ASEAN – a people first ASEAN in a People First World that respects the workers’ core labor rights, including those of the migrants, where all citizens enjoy a decent standard of living in a caring and sharing society. We want the business community to observe true corporate social responsibility not only by abiding with the universal labor standards but also by conducting social dialogue with the Trade Unions and other stakeholders in the communities hosting them.

Let us use the global crisis as an opportunity to create a truly people-centered economy, here in ASEAN, in Asia and in the world. We can make this happen with the solidarity and combined efforts of all the social partners.


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