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SAPA gets formalised for more effective participation of civil society groups

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SAPA (Solidarity for Asian's People Advocacy) second consultation held in Singapore from 19-20 September 2006 finalised its modality and working mechanism to facilitate effective participation of interested groups. During the two day meeting, key decisions were made such as election of six civil society organisations as Regional Steering Committee members with a two-year term.Due to increasing interest in the work of SAPA (Solidarity for Asian’s People Advocacy), a second consultation was held in Singapore from 19-20 September 2006 to finalise its modality and working mechanism to facilitate effective participation of interested groups.

SAPA, first proposed among some regional civil society organisations present at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Civil Society Conference 2005 on the 11th ASEAN Summit (12-14 December) held in Kuala Lumpur, came about when participants felt strongly a need to have a mechanism, forum or platform where information and resources can be shared to enhance effectiveness of civil society engagement with inter-governmental processes which were rapidly increasing in Asian in recent years.

During the two-day meeting, key decisions were made such as election of the six organisations as Regional Steering Committee (RSC) members with a two-year term.

The six are Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), AsiaDHRRA , FOCUS of the Global South (FOCUS), Migrant Forum Asia (MFA) and Southeast Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA).

FORUM-ASIA was appointed the convener of the RSC.

Another important decision was the affirmation that SAPA should include more People Organisations, Trade Unions aside from conventional NGOs who are engaged in action, advocacy and lobby at the inter-governmental processes and organisations.

To make it different from the other regional civil society networks and coalition which were mobilised based on specialised issues, SAPA aims is to enable cross sectoral cooperation among its members and partners to increase the impact and effectiveness of their engagement with inter-governmental bodies.

The main venues of inter-governmental engagement at different levels include: sub-regional (e.g. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); regional (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (UNESCAP), Asian Development Bank (ADB); inter-regional (Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and global (e.g. United Nations (UN), World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Main areas of engagement for SAPA include democracy and human rights, peace and human security, sustainable development and environment, as well as globalisation and trade, finance and labour.

Due to the encouraging experience of the current active SAPA Working Group (WG) on ASEAN, which has been systematically engaging the ASEAN in terms of formulating the ASEAN Charter, the RSC has received new proposals from members to create more WGs.

So far, four proposals were received – WG on Labor and Migration (proposed by Think Center), WG on Migration (proposed by MFA), WG on Human Rights Council (proposed by FORUM-ASIA) and Task Force on ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism under the WG on ASEAN (proposed by Human Rights Working Group -Indonesia).

Criteria for SAPA members and partners were also finalised, while the first General Forum (GF) was proposed to be held in Bangkok on 5-6 February 2007.

It was also decided that SAPA’s current website at will be revamped.

SAPA is currently inviting interested organisations who wish to be involved in its work or wants to engage in the formulation of the new WGs.

Those interested may contact the RSC or write to the convener of the SAPA RSC at [email protected]