Europe and Asia: the need for an Asian European civil society Network

The link between Europe and Asia has intensified in recent years as trade, investment and export of natural resources from Asia to Europe has grown considerably. Bilateral partnerships and agreements between single states as well as multilateral forums such as the ASEM (Asian Europe Meeting) show the close political and economic interconnectedness between the two continents. The shifts in global power relations and the rise of China and India as global players and their economic and financial clout have aided this process.

However, this process has not led to furthering the well being of people or the state of environment. On the contrary, European and Asian member states follow social, financial and economic policies that are key drivers of the ongoing economic crisis and neoliberal globalisation – despite the lack of benefit for millions of people. Growth rates, especially in Asia, are sustained by the exploitation of surplus labour. In each region rising inequality has been the result of particular financial structures and political arrangements. Trade agreements, the growth of the mining sector, the surge in right wing policies, a rise of undemocratic rule and shrinking spaces for civil society, as well as responses to migration indicate more than ever that Asia and Europe share some key challenges.

Civil society, social movements and progressive NGOs need to critically engage with Asian-European relations. It is the same dominant neoliberal economic system affecting people in both regions, even as its policies manifest differently due to the different levels of development in these two continents. There is a strong need to exchange ideas and strategies for working towards a more just, equal and sustainable world. Corporate power, privatisation and austerity policies need to be analysed, questioned and pushed back. The unsustainable use of resources, extractive industries and a carbon intensive development model designed to benefit a few needs to be addressed and altered. The economic system that has led to the recent economic crisis and that remains a corner stone for the development paradigm needs to be challenged. Simultaneously, alternative visions and policies need to be developed collectively and put into practise. European and Asian social movements and civil society organisations are key in strengthening democratic processes, furthering peaceful cooperation and the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of people. And there is massive but fragmented resistance to the systemic injustices millions of people face in their daily lives. Building upon years of exchange, cooperation and trust the Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) remains the only permanent network and forum linking Asian and European movements and organisations.

Its biannual forums, the Asia Europe People’s Forum, occur parallel to the ASEM (Asia Europe Meeting) and have successfully been held for nearly 20 years. AEPF12 will take place in Brussels, 2018.