Following in the footsteps of years of dynamism and productivity, 2016 saw Socdem Asia spearheading various activities and publications with a focus on grassroots democracy in Asia, energy security, gender equality, and building open and safe societies in an age of terror and strongman populism. The year saw Socdem Asia organizing major events, which gathered leading progressive thinkers and activists from the Asian region and beyond. This year also had focused on capacitating activists at different level on campaigning, political management and inclusive policy development work. Without a question, the year was a difficult one for progressives around the world owing to the electoral victory of anti-democratic forces, rise in xenophobia, and precipitous decline for progressive, democratic values around the world. It also saw renewed challenges to freedom and democracy across Asia. And this is precisely why Socdem Asia’s activities this year were filled a larger-than-usual sense of duty and urgency.
Countering Right-wing Populism
The right-wing populists that promote xenophobia, fundamentalism and violent radicalization seem to be on the rise and winning the debate in Europe, USA and South East Asia.
Political and economic marginalization aggravated by the financial crises in different continents since the 90’s have contributed to undermine established political leaders and stirred popular discontent. Many voters responded by electing maverick politicians who promised to target corruption, establish fresh agendas and radically solve all problems. In many cases, populist leaders based their appeal on the frustrations and aspirations of groups excluded from political power or afraid of the current socio-economic challenges.
There are several reasons why they seem to be winning: they are well organised and they seem to care what people think. But the latter does not necessarily relate to facts, on the contrary it rather relates to perceptions and emotions. There is a need to consolidate the consensus in our societies around tolerance, fundamental rights and pluralism. As our societies become more diverse and immigration reaches more communities, more people ought to become less prejudiced and more supportive.
We need to rebuild public support by tackling issues that lie at the root of public anger. Inequality and social injustice are fuelling the frustration of traditional left-wing voters, especially when they see elites benefiting from privileges, tax evasion and misuse of public funds. By strengthening tools to combat corruption and tax evasion and by establishing remedies against discrimination and exclusion, progressives can show that institutions serve more than the interests of economic elites. By speaking truth to power that be, reaching out to our traditional base of support from the ordinary people, and continuing to pose concrete but strategic solutions, progressives can remain alternatives to short-term, divisive and often hollow populist calls.
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Greetings of Peace to all of us
It is with tremendous pleasure and happiness that I stand here and speak to you, delegates of the members of the Progressive Alliance, and delegates of political parties as well as those from labor parties and organizations. Welcome to the Gods Island. This moment reminds me to a historical event which also attended by several countries and initiated by Indonesia, the Asian African Conference. The spirit and soul of the conference has become milestone for the establishment of countries in the Asian, African, and Latin America regions. Dasa Sila Bandung has incinerated the birth of nation movements, to have mutual relationship in order to fight for their freedom and independence who have been under the claw of colonialism and imperialism. For me, this is the most important example in our human kind history, how collective awareness and also solidarity have been overstep the boundaries of countries, they became a positive strength of independence, which therefore was continued by the first Non-bloc Summit Conference in Belgrade/Beograd in 1961. I was present as the youngest delegate, at that time I was 14 years old.
What remained in my memory, and even became an aspiration/dream that I could not erase from my soul and thought is the establishing of a strong brotherhood among countries, an emotional bonding of nations, and eventually a cooperation between countries. It was certainly extraordinary, that at the time the world’s political condition was crystallized into two huge blocs, the eastern bloc and the western bloc , a new hope emerged from and was spearheaded by a handful of leaders of very young countries.
Clearly and distinctly they said “we non-blocs, we do not side with any bloc”. That movement was based by a spirit of effacing the practice of “exploitation de l’homme par l’homme, exploitation de nation par nation”.