Sunday, November 29, 2009

2009 Asia Forum for Solidarity Economy Concludes Successfully in Tokyo

The Asia Forum for Solidarity Economy, which held its first meeting in the Philippines in 2007, wrapped up its second conference in Tokyo on November 10.

Over 400 people from some ten Asian countries attended the four-day event, which was held in Tokyo's Aoyama district at the dual venues of Aoyama Gakuin University and United Nations University. The forum featured sessions examining the solidarity economy within both global and Asian contexts, as well from a number of additional perspectives including microfinance, fair trade, social welfare, local agricultural initiatives, and international finance regulations.

The program also included three site visits to see the fledgling solidarity economy in action, including an organic farm in Ogawa-machi, Saitama; social enterprise initiatives in Yokohama; and local citizen actions in Atsugi-shi, Kanagawa.

One of the primary conference organizers was the Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), an organization with roots in the era of Vietnam War protests. Together with its newly created sister organization, PARCIC (PARC Interpeoples' Cooperation), PARC continues to focus on strengthening ties between Japan and other Asian countries with a number of grassroots-level initiatives.

From the 2009 Forum website:

The Solidarity Economy (SE) is an alternative framework for economic development that is based on the principles of solidarity, equity in all dimensions, participatory democracy, sustainability, and pluralism. The solidarity economy framework seeks transformation rather than band-aid solutions, yet rejects an one-size-fits-all blueprint. It isn't an abstract theory nor pie-in-the-sky utopianism. Rather, it pulls together and builds upon the various elements of solidarity-based economy that already exist. Some are new innovations,some are old, and we already have a variety of experiences in Asia. And the journey of creation is ongoing.

A number of recent English-language reports on the solidarity economy in Japan and beyond may be found on the forum's website here and here. The website of the Asian Alliance for Solidarity Economy, based in the Philippines and subtitled "Building an Alternative and Compassionate Economy", also has extensive information on how the solidarity economy is taking shape throughout Asia, including links to various member organizations' websites. Reports from the Tokyo event may also be found in its "Solidarity Asia" section, here and here.

The Third Asia Forum is planned for Malaysia in the fall of 2011, with a preliminary meeting scheduled to be held in Bangalore in August 2010.

"To go forward with the solidarity economy, we must change our mindset at the local and territorial level to build a holistic approach, taking into account the challenges of globalisation," said event organizers in an initial post-forum report. "Our networking process takes time, but since Asia has more than 50% of the planet's population, it is of strategic importance."

--Kimberly Hughes

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