Civil society groups inthe Southeast Asian region are urged to increase pressure on governments in theregion to do more to mitigate the impacts of the haze currently blanketing someparts of the region.
The secretary-general ofthe Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Rodolfo C. Severino, saidhere on Friday that ASEAN governments had agreements and action plans on theirhands to tackle haze problems, but their implementation needed the support ofcivil society groups. Severino was referring to the agreement reached by ASEANministers following the dramatic haze from land and forest fires in l997-l998,and the comprehensive program to monitor fires and haze, to fight fires and tominimize their effects.
Speaking in his openingaddress at the second ASEAN People’s Assembly (APA), Severino said the hazeproblem was among the number of pressing issues and concerns faced by people inASEAN countries that should be addressed jointly and comprehensively.
The ongoing haze problems,Severino added, had raised fears of repetition of the damage by the forest firesof l997-l998 which caused billions of dollars in economic damage, and muchsuffering for hundreds of thousands of people in terms of health and children’seducation.
He said ASEAN could notwork alone on such a diverse issue and needed the help of people’sorganizations.
Speaking at the sameforum, a member of Thailand’s Parliament, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, agreed thatcivil society groups must inspire ASEAN but he said this would be not easy given”ASEAN officialdom.”
In the first years of itsestablishment, ASEAN focused more on the issue of security and stability, hesaid.
“But now, ASEANshould give priority to human agenda given that it is now facing non-traditionalsecurity problems such as human rights abuse, mass migration, transnationalcrimes, environmental problems and transmission of diseases,” he said.
One of the founders of theASEAN People’s Assembly (APA) Carolina Hernandez described the long process of”an impossible dream” to bring together ASEAN and peoples’organizations in the region.
Hernandez said that theaim was to bring a sense of belonging to ASEAN.
The brochures of APA citethe need to make ASEAN more known and accountable to the people, and to foster asense of community across borders.
A participant fromMalaysia said that it was sad that after thirty-five years, ASEAN remained verymuch closed to involvement from people’s organizations.
This second APA 2002meeting hopes to create a number of regional networks (APA networks) focusing ona number of issues, including terrorism, human rights, health, gender,NGO-governance, transnational crimes and information technology.
The second APA is jointlyorganized by the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies(CSIS) of Indonesia and the ASEAN Institute of Strategic and InternationalStudies (ASEAN ISIS) in Sanur resort complex in Bali.
Some 300 participants areattending the three-day meeting, from 30 August through 1 September 2002. Amongthe attendees are former foreign minister Ali Alatas and members of parliamentsfrom ASEAN countries, various NGOs and scholars. The first APA meeting washeld in Batam in Riau in 2000
By Ati Nurbaiti and RitaA. Widiadana, The Jakarta Post, Sanur, Bali