Presently, Southeast Asia faces serious threats to peace and human security. There is an increased militarization of ASEAN countries due to overlapping territorial and maritime disputes. The inability of a large part of the region’s population to access basic social, political, economic and cultural rights has continued to fuel sub-national conflicts.
In addition to this, global superpowers, aiming to protect their interests in the region, have encouraged militaristic approaches to the resolution of armed conflicts in the countries – particularly in Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand– instead of preventing the escalation of the said conflicts by addressing the root causes of the unrest.
Terrorist threats in other parts of the world have been used to justify foreign military intervention in the region, especially in combat operations against what have been labeled as religious fundamentalists, and have undermined formal peace talks and local peace building that seek to address the roots of these asymmetric, sub-national conflicts.
Weak security plans of the ASEAN countries have made the region open to outside powers to intervene in ‘counterterrorism’ efforts. The United States of America, still among the strongest military forces, has repeatedly used their campaign against terror, to continue their military activities in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao. The US also continues to maintain presence in Thailand and Singapore.
China, now an emerging economic force, is using its military power to expand its territorial claims, aiming especially for the rich marine resources of Southeast Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines. This has manifested in the continued attacks against fishing communities from the two countries, their access to the seas and their livelihood constantly under threat.
In 2016, ASEAN countries collectively spent USD 2,833 million on arms imports, a 30% increase from 2015. Most ASEAN countries have correspondingly increased their spending for importing arms anywhere from 6% to more than 100%, resulting to higher access to arms in conflict areas.
In the meantime, Civil Society Organizations in the region are pushing for non-militaristic approaches to conflict resolutions. In Philippines and in Thailand, there is a need for a sustained support for peace talks that would address the causes of civil unrest. Peace processes should be supported by, and in direct consultation with peoples’ movements on the ground, hence, the participation of stakeholders in the peace process, and sufficient spaces for civil society and peoples’ participation in public life and in governance should be a central concern.
At the bottomline of resolutions to these armed conflicts, there is a need to respect, first and foremost, the right to self-determination of nations, of peoples, including the respect to practice self-governance.
In such context, civil society organisations in Southeast Asia are gathering in the Philippines to organize a variety of activities within the framework of the ACSC/APF 2017 under the theme “Peace Building and Human Security: coming together for alternative just and sustainable resolutions to regional peace and security issues”
ISSUES AND FOCUS OF STRATEGIC ACTION FOR 2017:
· To surface what are already being done regarding the Peace and Security situation in Southeast Asia (given the varied contexts, status, perspectives and challenges);
· To learn from shared experiences and examine perspectives for strategic and meaningful peoples’ responses to the (1) increasing military spending and a war economy, (2) territorial and maritime disputes, (3) right to self-determination struggles, (4) transnational terrorism (5) atrocity crimes perpetrated by states;
· View the intersectionality of corporate resource grabs and military responses and strengthen the links among the CSOs working on these in the region