Thursday, October 30, 2008

The people’s agenda

The 7th Asian Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) held in Beijing two weeks ago came up with resolutions and recommendations that were sent to the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) of heads of state and policy makers who also held their gathering in Beijing a week later. I was at AEPF—the people’s version—which had for its theme “Social and Ecological Justice” and which preceded ASEM.

The final version of the 2008 AEPF resolutions have been sent to ASEM and I hope the leaders and policy makers who attended ASEM would take heed. After all, AEPF, since its inception 14 years ago, has been issuing warnings against neo-liberalism, globalization and the like. With the Sept. 2008 financial melt-down that changed the world, there is reason for the smart alecks of finance to heed voices from the underside.

AEPF consists of social movements from Europe and Asia with networks in communities, organizations and individuals committed to working for a just and equal world. AEPF’s “people’s agenda” is based on four fundamental principles”: the promotion of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights; the promotion of environmentally, socially and economically sustainable patterns of development; greater economic and social equity and justice (including equality between women and men); and the active participation of civil society organizations (CSO) in democratic life and decision-making process of their countries.

With the current global financial crisis affecting everyone on this planet, AEPF is urging leaders to give special attention to the poorest, the excluded and the marginalized.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The view from the underside

Beijing — As I said last week, although the theme of the 7th Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) is “Social and Ecological Justice”, there was no escaping the current global financial crisis that began in the posh financial enclaves of the world and in the brains of its overpaid architects in expensive suits.

And so even with 33 workshops on different crucial topics, the AEPF Asian and European participants spent night hours outside of the workshops deciphering this financial meltdown.

We called it “Beijing Nights”. Anyway, there was no escaping for a night in town because the venue—sprawling Dragon Spring Hotel with its lovely willow trees and lagoons—was outside the city. Beijing Nights meant there was work to be done in the session rooms and bottomless tea.

AEPF, held every two years, is like an overture to the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) of heads of state. It’s the people’s version, and resolutions arrived at here are sent to ASEM for state leaders to consider when they meet a week later. Will they seriously listen now?

In Helsinki in 2006, the AEPF thinkers-doers and worried civil society delegates already warned about unbridled neo-liberalism. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 was not to be forgotten. There was a lot of discussion about free trade agreements and globalization. A Filipino professor gives this layman’s definition of the much discussed fount of evil called neo-liberalism: “A night watchman’s concept of the state, it means privatization, deregulation, liberalization, with minimal state intervention in the economy.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Asia and Europe meet in Beijing

Beijing--Here we are together again, this time in Beijing, for the Asia-Europe Peoples’ Forum 7 (AEPF7). This is a follow-up of AEPF6 in Helsinki in 2006.

The last time I was in Beijing was 24 years ago. (I was in Nanjing last year.) In 1984 our group was hosted by the Chinese government and we were toured around several major cities for two weeks. Most Chinese people were still wearing the standard green or blue Mao suits and Mao caps with the red star then. I still have those but I didn’t bring them with me for wearing here in chilly Beijing or I’d look stupid or mistaken for a leftist “G&D” in a time warp.

Non-government and civil society organizations (CVOs) that are non-state and non-corporate from Asia and Europe are gathered here for this year’s forum theme: “For Social and Ecological Justice”. AEPF is dedicated to increasing understanding and solidarity between the peoples of Asia and Europe and to promoting harmony, peace and development of the two regions.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

‘Isang bagsak’ for Oca

My heart broke that I couldn’t be present at the Oct. 3 fund-raising evening for Oscar D. Francisco (Oca to his friends) but I told myself that I will do my part to help him. The affair was held at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes).

Oca’s name is not about to be etched on the black granite wall at Bantayog where the names of martial law heroes and martyrs are etched. Oh no. Oca is alive is not about to go into the night. With the prayers and help of his friends, he will get well and again serve communities in the Oca style of bursting energy, intensity and, most of all, laughter.

Oca, hang in there.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Filipino mandarin

It was a big but not a glitzy, showy affair. Definitely not for the loud society pages but more for the art critics maybe. From the invitation to the event, the book, the food and drinks to the renderings in sculpture and painting, and most of all, the music—they all suggested muted elegance. Perhaps one could call that class.

Music lovers were treated to a musical feast at the Meralco Theater last Saturday evening for the celebration of the 85th birth year of the late Robert Coyiuto, a trailblazer in the insurance industry. It was an event so well planned by his descendants who chose fine classical music to honor their patriarch and set the tone of the celebration. More on the music later.