The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) was founded in 1925 as the political legacy of Germany´s first democratically elected president, Friedrich Ebert. Since the beginning of the foundation's work in South, Southeast and East Asia nearly 40 years ago, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has been focusing on promoting democracy and strengthening the social dimension of economic development. In the past years, FES has promoted international dialogue within Asia as well as between Asia and Europe. Here, the priorities refer to the social dimension of Asian cooperation and integration as well as to the issue of conflict prevention with regards to the processes of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
The regional cooperation of FES in Asia consists of four major programmes:
1) Promoting Social Justice in Asia
2) Shaping the Economy of Tomorrow in a Sustainable Way
3) Reinforcing Peace and Security
4) Strengthening Democratic Processes and Progressive Networks, incl. Support of Media
In its work, the FES cooperates with a number of governmental institutions, trade unions, political parties, social movements, NGOs, media and scientific institutions, as well as international and regional organizations. The responsibilities for the individual programmes are distributed among several representative offices in Asia. However, the FES Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia based in Singapore is responsible for the general coordination of the regional programme activities.
Understanding Multiple Discrimination against Labour Migrants in Asia - An Intersectional Analysis
Labour migration is an important source of income in Asia. Women in particular leave their home countries to seek employment in other Asian countries. They are often subjected to multiple forms of discrimination, however. It would not do justice to the complexities of their social position to ascribe these forms of discrimination exclusively to their gender. The study »Understanding Multiple Discrimination against Labour Migrants in Asia« by Sohoon Lee and Nicola Piper applies an intersectional approach to analyse labour migration in Asia. This perspective opens up the view to the multiplicity of discriminatory mechanisms and complex identities of female labour migrants in Asia. The study thereby presents insights that are relevant beyond the Asian context.
Regional Workshop “Ideas For a Civil Society Roadmap on Social Protection Floors and Comprehensive Social Security Systems in Asia”
21-22 May 2013 - Phnom Penh/Cambodia
The majority of Asia’s people do not enjoy any protection in vulnerable times such as sickness, aging or unemployment. Existing social security systems in many countries are rudimentary, underfunded, badly administered and poorly accessible. Prevailing tremendous socio-economic, demographic, and technological changes require the governments in Asia to build and extend their country’s social security systems.
The adoption of the Social Protection Floors Recommendation (R202) at the 101st International Labour Conference in Geneva in June 2012 has created a window of opportunity for changing the global debate on social protection. Social Protection Floors (SPFs) aim to provide social protection for all citizens and especially for the most vulnerable members of societies. They follow a rights-based approach to social security and shall guarantee universal social protection including health insurance, income security, sustainable financial structures and fair wealth distribution. Being widely recognised as an innovative approach to fight poverty, SPFs have emerged as a realistic policy option in many developing countries.
A 2-day regional workshop held on 21-22 May 2013 in Phnom Penh was organised by the ILO Berlin Office and FES. It is part of a series of workshops in Africa, Latin America and Asia, which aims at supporting NGOs involved in the implementation process of SPFs.
24 participants from eleven Asian countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Thailand – most of them are representatives of the civil society – shared their experiences, good practices and challenges with regard to the promotion, implementation and monitoring of national SPFs and social security systems in their countries. Together, they collected ideas for a civil society roadmap on social protection that will be further discussed at a closing South-South workshop to be held end of this year.
Trade Union Strategy Meeting on Engagement with ADB, Preparatory Meeting and Participation in 46th ADB Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors
1-5 May 2013 – Greater Noida, India
An impressive number of 70 representatives of Global Union Federations from eleven countries met with the new ADB President, Mr Takehiko Nakao, during the Civil Society Program at the 46th Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors in Greater Noida, India. Ms V. Lakshmi, the regional secretary of Public Services International (PSI) in Asia-Pacific, was requesting the ADB President and his Vice-Presidents to recognize the labour issues in their projects and to review their social protection strategy. Furthermore she stressed the precarious working conditions workers in ADB-funded projects have to face every day. Afterwards All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers Union (JICHIRO) International Secretary, Mr Katsuhiko Sato, presented a traditional handmade fan to the ADB Chief to remind him of the ongoing privatisation of the power sector in the Asia Pacific region.
During the Global Unions’ workshop on “Pensions Towards Socially Responsible Investment” much concern was raised among the panellists and participants on risky investment of workers’ pensions. With presentations from India, Japan and the Philippines the difficulty of responsible investment by pension funds was made more clear. ILO representative Mr Markus Ruck could draw the linkage between socially responsible investment, decent work and pension funds in which trade unions could play a key role.
For a good preparation of the participants to attend the ADB Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors 2013, PSI and FES conducted a workshop on PSI’s impact assessment on ADB in the past seven years and a preparatory meeting on 1 May 2013.
The manifesto of our FES Economy of Tomorrow project has just been published: “The Economy of Tomorrow. How to produce socially just, sustainable and green dynamic growth for a Good Society”.
The manifesto outlines the EoT development model for socially just, sustainable and green dynamic growth, and begins to translate the technical language into a political communication tool. The EoT project aims to provide a platform on which a rainbow coalition can join forces for the struggle for a "Good Society".
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’12 by 12’ Campaign, Regional Workshop Asia
28-29 April 2013 - Phnom Penh/Cambodia
Millions of Domestic Workers in Asia, mostly women, have been struggling due to a lack of decent working conditions for many years. The lack of regulations and protection often leads to abuse and exploitation of Domestic Workers, including long working hours, non-payment or poor wages, re-strictions of freedom and sexual and gender-based violence.
To protect Domestic Workers, the ILO Convention 189 was adopted on 16 June 2011. It is the first-ever international treaty that provides comprehensive protection for domestic workers – local and migrants. The call for ratification of ILO C189 is part of a growing global campaign called the ‘12 by 12’ campaign, which is lead by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)., Eight countries have ratified the convention so far with the Philippines being the only Asian country.
A 2-day regional workshop held in Phnom Penh, 28-29 April 2013, was organised by ITUC, the Inter-national Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) and FES. It aimed at sharing updates from the Asian region on the 12 by 12 campaign, presenting strategies concerning the ratification of C189 and the implementation of labour law reforms strengthening domestic workers’ rights. 38 participants of the workshop - domestic workers and members of national trade unions from ten Asian countries (Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea and Cambodia) - further discussed strategies on alliance building between domestic workers and trade unions throughout Asia as well as strategies on organizing and capacity building of Domestic Workers. The workshop ended with the drafting of action plans in the context of national, regional and international strategies in support of the 12by12 Campaign.
4th Economy of Tomorrow Regional Forum in Bangkok: "Bubbles, Booms and Busts: How to promote a Balanced Growth Model to curb economic instability?"
25-26 February 2013 - Bangkok/Thailand (Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI))
There is a growing sense all over the world that the growth path of the second industrial revolution has come to an end, and that a new development model is needed. The objective of the Economy of Tomorrow (EoT) project is to bring together economic thinkers and decision makers from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Germany, Poland and Sweden to analyze common challenges, share experiences and sketch the outlines of an alternative development model. Participants in the first three inter-regional EoT fora have already achieved consensuses on several key points. In Bangkok, participants called for the end of GDP fixation, and suggested that three-dimensional, qualitative growth is needed to produce the conditions for a “Good Society” with full capabilities for all. The “Seoul Consensus on Socially Just Growth” recommended a balance between supply side and demand-driven economic policies. In order to address what was analyzed as a lack of aggregate demand, higher income equality is needed to boost domestic consumption demand. The “Delhi Consensus on Dynamic Green Growth” highlighted the higher efficiency achievable by decoupling the “old economy” from energy and resource use. With a view of advancing the third Industrial Revolution, the opportunities of green growth need to be fully embraced.
The 4th EoT Regional Forum in Bangkok discussed the challenges posed by unstable growth in boom and bust cycles. Economic thinkers from Asia and Europe shared experiences with financial market regulation, capital controls, social partnerships and macro-economically coordinated monetary, fiscal, wage and exchange rate policies. The objective was to identify a mix of policy guidelines that could lead to more stable and balanced growth. Please find the forum documents here.
Courtesy Call to the ASEAN Secretary-General
14 February 2013 - Jakarta, Indonesia
Ms. Julia Mueller (center), Director of the FES Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia and Ms. Valeska Hesse (left), Resident Director, FES Indonesia paid a courtesy call to H.E. Le Luong Minh (right), Secretary-General of ASEAN at the premises of the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Gender Mainstreaming Training for the ASEAN Secretariat
13-15 February 2013 - Jakarta, Indonesia
“The spirit of promoting gender equality should be an integrated part of ASEAN’s policies and programmes towards the ASEAN Community. The goal of gender equality should be central to all three pillars of economy, political-security and socio-cultural of ASEAN,” said H.E. Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of ASEAN, in his opening remarks at the Gender Mainstreaming Training at the ASEAN Secretariat.
Supported by FES, over eighty ASEAN Secretariat staff members joined the training on Gender Mainstreaming, which aimed at enhancing knowledge on the elements of gender mainstreaming approaches and strategies. The training also targeted to assist staff in gaining practical skills on measuring organisational capacities to address gender issues and mainstream gender perspective in their respective lines of work. It further provided a background on how to act in a gender-sensitive manner in their interaction with ASEAN Member States, dialogue partners, target groups, resource persons and the general public. Hence, a clear understanding of the gender concept, its application and implications should be shared by all staff members.
A screening of a film and a discussion themed “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” took place at the end of the first day of the training. The training further coincided with the global campaign to end violence against women on 14 February 2013, called the "One Billion Rising" movement. This was the first out of two training sessions. A second training on gender mainstreaming training for the staff will be held in the second half of 2013.
The Asian Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Labour Migration: Strategies for Effective Social Protection Migrant Workers
23-26 November 2012 - Manila, Philippines
Migrants are development actors who make significant contributions to both sending and receiving countries, and the global economy. However, they continue to face significant discrimination and a lack of basic social protection.
Parliamentarians from the Asian and Middle East region as well as representatives from civil society and international organisation such as the ILO joined in a meeting to share their collective commitment to ensure the rights of migrant workers and to develop national and cross-border strategies to ensure their welfare. They stressed that social protection not only primarily ensures migrant’s workers rights to a life with dignity but also allows for governments and states to develop strong foundations of a coalition of countries to respond to the various contradictions of a global capitalist system.
In this context it is urgent to develop social protection frameworks within existing structures and institutions vis-a-vis social protection for migrant workers in Asia. The caucus committed to initiate dialogues in their respective governments on strategies to strengthen collaboration with migrant host countries on ensuring social protection coverage for migrant workers that is both totalising and portable.
The meeting resulted in a declaration which was signed by the parliamentarians and presented at the 5th World Social Forum on Migration (WSFM), a summit of civil society, social movements and activist groups addressing migration and development issues around the world. The WSFM took place one day after the caucus. The Asian Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Labour Migration was formally established by formal resolution in Phnom Penh in 2011, following 5 years of engagement on migrants' rights issues. This years’ meeting was hosted by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Migrant Forum in Asia (technical secretariat) and the Philippine House of Representatives' Committee on Overseas Workers' Affairs.
3rd FES Economy of Tomorrow Regional Forum
5-6 November 2012 - New Delhi, India
The 3rd FES Economy of Tomorrow (EoT) Regional Forum in New Delhi brought together participants from six Asian countries (China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and India) and from Germany. The main focus of the EoT Forum was the debate about the most suitable growth model for developing as well as developed countries in Asia and Europe. In his keynote address the German State Minister of Economics, Labour and Technology in the Free State of Thuringia, Matthias Machnig, outlined his proposals for promoting a green industrial policy. The following presentations and discussions revealed that in all six countries of the EoT Network initial government initiatives promoting “greener” growth have been launched. However, often there is a lack of conceptual clarity, of policy coherence, of alignment with other sector policies as well as of popular support which stand in the way of a more sustainable green dynamic growth. In order to promote a more dynamic green growth that is able to create decent work and simultaneously takes into account considerations of social, economic and ecological sustainability, the participants agreed governments must introduce a more comprehensive ecological industrial policy (referred to as a “3rd industrial revolution”).
The participants of the EoT Forum agreed that green dynamic growth can only be triggered if governments create an enabling environment that sets out the right economic incentives for green growth. If the right framework exists, green dynamic growth can create new jobs in green industries in all six Asian countries of the EoT network. Support for “greening” the economy and corresponding policy initiatives need to come from across all spheres of society including the private sector, markets and civil society. The launch of an urgently needed “3rd industrial revolution” therefore depends on an overall change of the discourse about the quality of growth. Taking into account the results of the previous two EoT Regional Forums (that took place in Bangkok and Seoul in 2012), in New Delhi the participants developed the “Delhi Consensus”, which further complemented the discourse model/matrix of the EoT project in order to promote green dynamic growth.
Regional Symposium on “Universalisation of Social Security in South Asia”
3-4 October 2012 - Kathmandu, Nepal
Providing social security to South Asia's 1.5 billion people, nearly one fourth of the world's population, is a formidable challenge. Each country in the region has its own social security system aiming to protect those who are vulnerable, focusing on poverty reduction, gender equality, protection of minorities, employment generation, and minimum wages and labour standards for the workforce. Despite several success stories in social security through various innovative experiments in South Asia, many people in this region are still left outside the protection of social security.
Under the framework of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a regional Social Charter is being implemented, assisted by National Social Charters and Citizen's Social Charter for South Asia. In this context, the Social Charters are regarded as frameworks providing several entry points to revitalise a regional discourse on social security issues.
Against this background, the South Asia Centre for Policy Studies (SACEPS) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) jointly organised a regional symposium on universalisation of social security. The two-day event was devoted to identifying existing practices, challenges and prospects for universalising social security in the national and regional context. The participants provided their assessments of the Social Charters in terms of entry points and mechanisms for regional cooperation for realising universal social security in South Asia.
Following presentations of country studies and a paper with a regional focus, the participants split into smaller working groups in order to develop action plans towards universalisation of social security in the region from both national and regional perspectives.
The symposium brought together former secretary-generals of SAARC as well as other leading representatives from regional and international organisations, governments, parliaments, trade unions, academic institutions, civil society organisations and the private sector.
Finalization Workshop: Comparative Study on ASEAN Labour Laws and Practices
1-2 October 2012 - Singapore
With the adoption of the ‘Declaration on the Roadmap for ASEAN Community (2009-2015)’ the ASEAN head of states established the ‘ASEAN Political-Security Community’, ‘ASEAN Economic Community’ and ‘ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community’, which pave the way towards an ASEAN community. As labour-related issues play a crucial role in all three pillars, a profound understanding of labour laws in ASEAN Member States is central for the further integration process. With this understanding, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Viet Nam (MoLISA) initiated last year a comparative study of labour laws and practices. A first workshop to conceptualize this study, which is supported by ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), was held in March 2012. All stakeholders agreed to focus in this study on the following aspects of labour laws: ‘Equal Opportunities in Employment for Persons with Disabilities’, ‘Gender Equality in Employment’, ‘Protection and Promotion in the Employment of Young Persons’ and the ‘Promotion of Social Dialogue’. International standards as most importantly Conventions of the International Labour Organization serve as a benchmark for the comparison.
After the research period, Senior Labour Officials from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam met again with the responsible researchers on 1-2 October 2012 in Singapore to discuss research findings and finalize the work on the Comparative Study on ASEAN Labour Laws and Practices.
The results and recommendations of the study shall then support the work of the Senior Labour Officals Meeting (ASEAN-SLOM) in harmonizing the labour laws of the ASEAN member states according to the ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Work Programme 2010-2015 and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint.