Thu, 13 Oct 1994

NGOs vow to fight for people's sake at APEC

JAKARTA (JP): International non-governmental organizations promised yesterday to help make the institutionalization of the Asia-Pacific (APEC) forum benefit business and the masses equally.

NGOs in the Asia-Pacific region will try to influence decision makers in the 18 APEC member countries to make sure that the masses will benefit from the cooperation, M.S. Zulkarnaen, Director of the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi) said.

In a press conference at the office of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), he said the NGOs would air their views on crucial issues at the APEC meetings in Jakarta and Bogor next month.

"Our main concerns will be the responsibility of governments in ending injustices and environmental destruction resulting from the new mechanisms within APEC, the economic rights of small- scale economies and low-paid labor and the preservation of the environment and natural resources," he said.

He added that NGOs from the Asia-Pacific countries would formulate a country report compiling these issues.

Among the NGOs which will help INFID in the lobbying activities are the Bangkok-based Asia Cultural Forum on Development and the Australian Council for Foreign Aid.

Some 20 foreign and local NGOs will take part in the activities, which consist of holding discussions in each individual country and lobbying, both at home and in Jakarta.

Zulkarnaen explained that the NGOs dropped their original plan to hold parallel gatherings during the APEC meetings due to a shortage of funds.

Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, Director of the Agency for the Study of Community Advocacy (LSAM), said NGOs would insist on regulating the standards of labor protection in APEC member countries and see to it that the same environmental issues become the concern of all NGOs alike.

"We have to make sure that certain pesticides which are forbidden and no longer produced in an industrialized country are not dumped on developing countries," he said citing an example.

Hakim said that the focus of the NGOs' activities are to assure that capital flow would not undermine national sovereignty in the country of destination.

While all APEC members, as a business community, were against linking human rights and environmental issues to trade matters, Indonesian NGOs in particular are more interested in seeing that discussions on international trade and trade liberalization encourage the recognition of economic, social and cultural rights of the people.

Zulkarnaen said that NGOs would in the future institutionalize themselves to become a permanent instrument which would directly monitor the investment activities within APEC countries as well as its social-economic aspects.

He acknowledged, however, that this would not be an easy job because NGOs were more often considered as "outsiders".

The only government which strongly approves of NGOs' participation in APEC is Canada, while China and Singapore are strongly opposed.

"We may become an institutionalized body but we are very aware that we are in a difficult position. But we are confident and we do not need money from the business community," he said.

Japanese, New Zealand, Canadian and Australian NGOs are among those which strongly favor the institutionalization of NGOs.(pwn)