November 25, 2011
Amidst the current worldwide economic crisis and the growing resentment against the so-called corporate greed, representatives of civil society groups and indigenous communities expressed their concerns over the wanton disregard by big businesses of the human rights of indigenous peoples, migrant workers and other marginalized groups.
In a public forum on corporate social responsibility (CSR) held in Bali, Indonesia the participants said they were disappointed with how the multinational corporations were given almost free access by their own governments to take over their ancestral lands.
“Being highly dependent on resource extraction and exploitation for its economic development, majority of the ASEAN countries have directly taken over lands and resources of indigenous peoples and local communities or handed these over to corporations as concessions for mining, plantations, hydropower plants, and resorts,” said Bernice See of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Indigenous Peoples Task Force on ASEAN.
The participants also disparaged ASEAN’s vision of a Caring and Sharing Community by 2015 when they said this community seems to exclude the people whose lives, livelihoods, homelands, jobs and futures are being sacrificed for this vision.
“The plethora of cases of human rights violations against the collective rights of indigenous and the human rights of workers, local communities, farmers/peasant, and other marginalized sectors of society does not speak well of a caring and sharing community. Large sections of the ASEAN community bear the burden while the benefits are being enjoyed by a few big corporations,” Ms. See added.
It was agreed in the forum that the present CSR framework espoused and supported by ASEAN should be challenged. “It is of great concern to us that, based on the record of businesses and governments in the South East Asian region, CSR is being used to mask the ill effects of existing business practices in the region. Furthermore, it is also used to hide the collusion of private business interests and governments in the pursuit of profit and economic development,” stressed Corinna Lopa, Regional Coordinator of the South East Asian Committee for Advocacy and Co-Convener of the Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacy Working Group on ASEAN.
In her opening speech at the forum, Ms. Lopa also said that they want to see increased corporate accountability in the region, by both domestic and multi-national corporations. She said that greater regulation of the corporate sector by ASEAN member governments should be implemented in order to safeguard the rights of the peoples and communities. “We would like to see enhanced corporate regulatory frameworks in the ASEAN region to ensure the protection of the South East Asian peoples, communities and environment,” she said.
With the take over of their land come the abuses and sufferings
Some of the witnesses, who came from the affected communities in Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia, detailed the effects of development projects and abuses committed by the corporations against their peoples and communities
There were other reported cases of violations of the collective rights and customary laws of indigenous peoples in the mining projects in the Zamboanga Peninsula in the Philippines and in North Maluku in Indonesia.
Towards the end of the forum, the participants said that they will not let ASEAN and the multinational corporations treat them as victims as they will continue to organize, cooperate and build their own capacities to push for the recognition of their rights and for ASEAN and big business respect these rights.
“There is something that we can do. It is us who will change the situation. It is in our power to change the tide against the exploitation of our resources in our territories,” said Joan Carling, Secretary General of the AIPP.
The forum is organized by the South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA), the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) for the Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy (SAPA) Working Group on ASEAN, the SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and the Extractive Industries, and the Indigenous Peoples’ ASEAN Task Force.