Social Watch Asia Regional Meeting in Cambodia

The Social Watch Asia Regional Meeting was held in Siem Reap, Cambodia from March 30 to April 1st 2005.

Social Watch
Asia Regional Meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia
30 March –
1 April 2005


We are representatives of Social Watch from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Tanzania. We have come together for three days, from March 30 to April 1, 2005, in the city of Siem Reap, Cambodia, site of the world heritage Angkor Wat, to share experiences in monitoring the implementation of commitments pledged by Asian governments in 1995 (Copenhagen Social Summit and Beijing Women Conference) and in the Millennium Summit five years ago. More importantly, we have come to this Social Watch Asia Regional Meeting to discuss how best to address new challenges confronting our region, build solidarity and renew our commitment to pursue social justice and sustainable development.

As governments account for what they had promised to deliver we as social watchers must contend with the stark reality that our region remains home to two-thirds of the world’s poor— more than half of them women--- whose deprivation and vulnerability were further underscored in the recent tsunami tragedy. There is no justification why these millions of poor must continue to be deprived of their right to be secure in food, shelter, education, health, in their individual choices and pursuit of happiness.

We are deeply disturbed by rosy reports coming from official quarters (governments, intergovernmental bodies and multilateral institutions, eg UNESCAP, UNDP, WB, ADB) as to the progress made in poverty reduction in our region. While we recognize that millions have been lifted out of poverty in some countries in our region, we also see major reversals and so much unfairness and injustice around the region. We are witness to how open market policies are driving this fast-growing region and changing lifestyles but also simultaneously reducing and reproducing poverty and inequality at all levels in different countries. We also realize that these same policies have led to further exploitation of already much-depleted natural resources and to more rapid increases in CO2 emission levels. The conventional development model that Asia is pursuing does not promise an end to poverty and exclusion.

We believe that the MDG are minimum benchmarks of a broader set of entitlements enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We note with concern that even after engaging the MDG as a platform to promote social justice, peace and democracy five years ago, too many governments in Asia continue to be unaware and unmindful of their accountabilities in fulfilling their obligations.

The Social Watch Asia Coalition demands that the UN as well as signatory countries should:

  • improve on governance systems by deepening democratic values and changing bureaucratic culture by making public administration economical, efficient and effective, combating corruption (which is a major impediment to development in most Asian countries) and promoting a culture of greater transparency and downward accountability through participatory governance.
  • substantially increase public expenditure on health, education and other basic entitlements and curtail spending on security and defense.
  • improve existing monitoring systems by ensuring transparency and participation and disaggregating statistics based on gender, ethnicity and geographic areas.
  • introduce gender budgeting and auditing systems to make sure public expenditure responds to different needs of women and men.
  • improve gender parity in education and women’s access to health and waged employment and women representation in business and government and even in civil society.
  • meaningfully address women’s exploitation as expressed in the massive trafficking of women and children as well as local traditions that undermine the dignity and survival of women (e.g. dowry killing in India, honor killing in Pakistan, high suicide rates in China due to multifaceted reasons).
  • expand political freedom that is currently being arbitrarily limited in many Asian countries. Restrictions on political freedom limit the potential for human development and undermines some of the progress that has been made as regards to MDG. Without an increase in political freedom, excluded groups remain extremely vulnerable to social and economic shocks and disruptions, thereby perpetuating the vicious circle of poverty.

On the issue of debt, aid and trade

Asia is host to some of the world’s poorest and heavily indebted countries like  Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal and Bangladesh where a substantial portion of their national budget goes to debt servicing, a lot more is lost to corruption, and very little, if any, is left to finance spending for social services.

The spate of natural disasters that has stricken Indonesia and other Asian countries, combined with a constricting fiscal space, strengthens and justifies the call for the cancellation of bilateral and foreign commercial debts and the provision of more resources through untied aid.

The continued pressure on developing countries to liberalize trade with unfair trade rules being used to the hilt by developed countries have aggravated the food and job insecurity of developing countries.

We therefore call upon governments of developed countries to:

  • provide a debt relief package not just for highly indebted poor countries (HIPC) but also to Asia’s heavily indebted countries.
  • increase aid to the 0.7% of GDP level that they have committed and disallow tied aid particularly for health and education.

We further call upon governments of developed countries and those of emerging economies to:

  • allow the full implementation of the special and differential treatment.
  • accept changes in trade rules that remove double standards that work in their favor.
  • respect developing countries’ right to determine special products and special safeguard mechanisms to protect food security, small farmers livelihood and to push rural development.
  • prevent the domination of the intellectual property regime overriding human welfare, particularly in the case of essential medicines.

On the issue of environment

Recognising that growth-driven development and liberalization policy adopted by governments aiming to achieve fast and high growth rate have an adverse impact on the environment, we call on all governments:

  • to ensure effective enforcement of environmental laws and the implementation of policies to achieve the aim of sustainable development. Towards this we call for the framing of a clear sustainable consumption policy to be adopted as a national agenda.
  • to shift to renewable energy as an alternative to overcome the fast depletion of natural resources. We also call for avoidance of wasteful use of energy and the adoption and implementation of a national energy efficiency policy.
  • to frame and encourage the formulation of a national chemical free and GMO-free agriculture policy to curtail the degradation of the environment.
  • an adoption of an inter-governmental and multilateral cooperation approach to address trans-boundary environmental degradation with active and effective participation of CSO and affected communities.
  • to arrest the indiscriminate destruction of the environment by large scale projects funded by multinational corporations and private enterprises resulting in adverse effect on the livelihood of communities, their subsequent displacement, forced migration and becoming victims of abject poverty.
  • to address the issue of monopoly of natural resources by private companies through government concessions and thereby creating inequity and deprivation of resources for the poor.

On the issue of peace and security

With regards peace and security we have identified a number of issues that need serious attention and action. Gross human rights violation is one of the major hurdles to achieving peace and security in the region.

In order to change such unacceptable conditions we call for greater attention to the following:

  • the injustice and inequality in the world in terms of resources distribution and power by rich and influential countries have contributed a great deal to terrorism, militarism and authoritarianism which resulted in gross violation of human rights. A living example of resurgent authoritarianism is Nepal. We call for a halt of the latest human rights violation and the restoration of democracy and peace there.
  • the unacceptability of Myanmar’s chairmanship in the next ASEAN summit which should be revoked unless it embraces democratic reform and unconditionally releases all its political prisoners.
  • the security situation and extreme poverty in Afghanistan has paved the way for drug mafia to encourage farmers to grow poppy and put Afghanistan on the top of the poppy cultivating countries. International society should assist Afghanistan not only in its fight against drugs but also in its fight against poverty.
  • arms trade is another big threat to peace and security and is badly affecting the human rights situation in countries where these arms are used. The arms producing countries contribute to the creation of conflicts for the purpose of testing and selling their weapons. Action is needed to control arms trade consistent with reduction in defense spending and speeding up of disarmament.
  • extra-judicial killings carried in the name of restoring law and order in fact exacerbate conflict and insecurity and grossly violate human rights.


Making good on commitments to social development, gender equality, and the Millennium Development Goals are less about meeting targets but more about honoring human rights obligations. They are either being respected here and now or they are being violated. Alongside our allies in the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (G-CAP), Social Watch Asia therefore demands governments to create all the necessary conditions for the full enjoyment of human rights by all citizens NOW.