It’s “all systems go” for the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) 2014, which will be held in Yangon on March 21-23. The conference, expected to attract 1,200 participants from diverse grassroots, national and regional organizations, could be the largest regional civil society conference held in Myanmar in recent years.
    This week, members of the ACSC/APF 2014 Steering Committee will brief media, diplomats and officials in Jakarta (3-4 March) and Bangkok (5 March), in the lead-up to the conference.
    Daw May May Pyone, Chair of the ACSC/APF 2014 Steering Committee, who is leading the Jakarta advocacy delegation, will brief media on 6 March upon her return to Yangon, with fellow delegate Mr. Aung Zin, an organizer of the ASEAN Youth Forum.
    Ms Premrudee Daoroung, Co-Chair of the ACSC/APF 2014 Steering Committee, will provide a briefing at 10am, 5 March, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, along with ASEAN Youth Forum organizer, Mr. Joel Barredo.
    Under the theme “Advancing ASEAN Peoples’ Solidarity toward Sustainable Peace, Development, Justice and Democratization”, the ACSC/APF will feature 4 plenary sessions and 27 workshops on 4 thematic clusters i.e. Peace, Justice and Human Rights, Development, and Democratization.
    Last week in Yangon, organizers at the 4th Regional Consultation prepared for the conference and decided to reinforce their commitment to maintain inclusiveness and independence of the (ACSC/APF). Participants finalized many aspects of the program and agreed on how to move forward in solidarity. This included the adoption of regulations and principles to ensure the event is accessible, independent and inclusive.
    Daw May May Pyone, Executive Director of NGO Gender Group and chair of the Steering Committee of the ACSC/APF 2014, appreciated the current support of the Myanmar authorities and requested visa-on-arrival facilities for participants. “This event is an important milestone for Myanmar’s transition and for the ASEAN Community 2015,” she emphasized.
    Premrudee Daoroung, Co-Chair of the ACSC/APF 2014 Steering Committee, expressed appreciation for national organizers’ commitment to regionalism. “Myanmar has been an important focus of ASEAN civil society since the first ACSC in 2005, so this event is extra special to us all,” she explained.
    ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum is an ASEAN civil society event first held in Malaysia in 2005 and has been carried on since. Its sole purpose is to channel voices of the grassroots civil societies of different backgrounds from across the ASEAN region. The ACSC/APF 2014 will be preceded by the ASEAN Youth Forum which will be held on March 17-20, also in Yangon.
    ACSC/APF 2014 Backgroud
    At the close of the East Asia Summit in Brunei in October 2013, President Thein Sein accepted the gavel of ASEAN that symbolizes the presidency of ASEAN that was then officially transferred to Myanmar for 2014. Myanmar government has reaffirmed to the ASEAN and international community that they are ready to take the chairmanship. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commented the chairmanship was a “good opportunity” for Myanmar to build on its socio-economic progress and democratic transition while he expressed the concerns for many challenges the country is facing. ASEAN said it realized the challenges the country is facing and would encourage Myanmar government to continue to undertake more reforms. Amidst all of these, what comes with the chairmanship is for Myanmar to host more than 1,000 ASEAN affairs related meetings in 2014.
    Every year before the ASEAN Summit, a conference known as the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) is held independently paralleled to the official ASEAN Summit. Myanmar’s bid for the rotating ASEAN chair was granted so it is responsible as well to host the ASEAN People’s Forum where hundreds of civil society actors from the ASEAN region will gather to represent voices of civil societies.
    The organizers of the event work to sustain the REGIONAL character of the event and thus the conference is organized by the region with the host and facilitation of the CSOs from the chair country, with the participation by the peoples of the region where the issues concerning to the people are discussed.
    This year ASEAN People’s Forum will be organized under the theme ofAdvancing ASEAN Peoples’ Solidarity towards Sustainable Peace, Development, Justice and Democratization and address issues around Peace; Justice and Human Rights; Development and Democratization; and ASEAN.” The National Organizing Committee aims to bring about 1,200 civil society actors from Myanmar/Burma and other ASEAN member countries as well as from Timor Leste, while it would also welcome the participation from the UN agencies, embassies and INGOs.
    The ACSC/APF is a space for the people of ASEAN that is not only independent but also inclusive representing diversity of the ASEAN peoples. With the first ACSC convened by the Malaysian government as the ASEAN chair in 2005, the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum process since then evolved as the civil society’s led process and each year was organized with the aims towards building community and solidarity amongst SEA peoples, building community and networking in the host country, socializing ASEAN among its peoples, creating space for engagement with ASEAN Heads of State, and contributing towards Institutionalization of engagement mechanisms and processes in ASEAN. There remain a great challenge for participants since the independency and inclusiveness of the ASEAN People’s Forum depends on the level of social and political freedom allowed in the host country and resources available for such civil society gathering.
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    Target Institution

    Civil Society Organizations in South East Asia