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Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy 2009, Tokyo: Civil Society Steps Up Efforts towards Alternative Economy[Notice]

  • Shoko Uchida

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  • Shoko Uchida
    Secretariat of Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy 2009, Secretary General of Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC)

There is an economic model that encourages local social entrepreneurship initiatives, builds a smaller-scale and independent economy, expands social networks, and promotes grassroots-based initiatives towards sustainable development. These ideas are summed up in the concept of the solidarity economy. “Solidarity economy” has gradually gained currency in today’s international scene. This term, which was first coined in the annual World Social Forum (2001 to 2008), an open forum for global justice and alternative globalization movements, is rapidly spreading in several regions of the world, including Latin America and the EU. The concept of solidarity economy, which is in itself proposed by civil societies across the world, endorses a civil monitoring of the “failure” of the market economy. One of the main objectives of the solidarity economy is to supervise the transparency and accountability in the behaviour of governments as well as in the functioning of the market. The solidarity economy demands that the government carry out public policies and that private corporations take social responsibility for their economic activities. Furthermore, it encourages various non-profit activities in civil society, including social and community enterprises, fair trade, the non-profit organizations’ (NPO) activities, civic finance, local currencies, and environmental protection. Thus, the solidarity economy serves as a platform for practising alternative socio-economic activities. Chief among these are the revitalization of local economies and the creation of employment through the democratization of local communities; the promotion of human capital training, gender equality, and social inclusion; as well as the advocacy for the human rights of migrants and overseas residents, whose number is growing in the age of globalization, and of the people who are often characterized as “the weak.” The solidarity economy has already produced a significant outcome in Latin America, Africa, and the EU. In Japan as well as other Asian countries, a number of related activities have recently been organized and practised spontaneously. However, apart from the occasional World Social Forum, substantive communication among practitioners of the solidarity economy and those who are interested in it is still absent from the Asian continent. This is why the first Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy (AFSE) was held in Manila, the Philippines, in October 2007. The chief organizer of the first AFSE was the Coalition of Socially Responsible Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Asia (CSR-SME Asia). Mr. Ben Quinones, who was CSR-SME Asia’s leading organizer, aimed at promoting the solidarity economy not only in the Philippines but also in other Asian countries. “CSR-SME Asia” is the self-explanatory name of an entity that began germinating in Kuala Lumpur in 2000 and is now a full-blown organization that has facilitated business dialogues through five Asia-wide conferences involving over 700 individuals representing 100 entities from 15 Asian countries. CSR-SME Asia was in the midst of preparing the Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy of October 2007, which would be held in Manila and preceded by an electronic forum. Over six years of background work as well as real-life experiences and their evaluation, among others, would be feeding this notable event. Since 2004, CSR-SME Asia had organized a series of consultative workshops in the Philippines with local SMEs, savings groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations, and fair-trade organizations, to lay the groundwork for a multi-stakeholder process that would bring together socially responsible producers, consumers, investors, and service providers in an integrated supply chain advancing the principles and standards of an alternative economic system called “Bayanihan Compassionate Economy” (BCE). Bayanihan is a Filipino word that denotes “solidarity,” help, and caring for each other. The initial target of this initiative was 150,000 members from around 5,000 Bayanihan Financial Centers (BFCs) established in …