The eleven-year experience of engagement with the official ASEAN process has taught civil society movements in Southeast Asia valuable lessons that should guide its future trajectories. Disappointment, rejection, and disillusionment should now be a thing of the past and chalked up to experience. The real challenge facing ACSC/APF today lies from outside and beyond the established ASEAN process.
Pundits have been keen to predict that Southeast Asia will soon leave behind its authoritarian past and head toward a more democratic future. This optimism was boosted in 2010 by Myanmar’s decision to “transition” to democracy, allowing for elections and assigning a role to the opposition.
Civil society space is under attack worldwide. In her welcoming speech to the Global Perspectives Conference, Barbara Unmüßig urged 160 representatives of civil society organisations from around the globe to stand in solidarity with each other and to put the issue of shrinking and closing spaces back on the political agenda.
On 12 October 2016, SEA Junction organized a panel discussion titled “ASEAN Governance: Is There a Role for Civil Society?" in partnership with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia. More than 70 participants, many of them from Southeast Asia, filled SEA Junction premises at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC) in Bangkok, Thailand to eagerly listen to the speakers and exchange views on the challenge of establishing a more representative governance system for ASEAN as a "people-centered" inter-governmental institution.
An analysis carried out by CIVICUS indicates that in far too many countries and in all global regions the conditions for civil society work and activities has worsened. Some of the solutions to this problem could be taken by civil society itself.
In the last six decades all over the world autocracies and military dictatorships were overthrown and initial steps toward democracy were taken. But over the years it has be-come clear that the transition from autocracy to democratic rule is difficult and by no means guaranteed. The authoritarian developing state – as an alternative to democracy – has gained massive momentum. Even in its ostensible strongholds democracy is un-der pressure today in many parts of the world. Institutions of democracy assistance like the Heinrich Böll Foundation and pioneers of political freedom have been struggling against a significant headwind for some time now. However, supporting democratic en-gagement worldwide is a core concern of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Human rights, democracy, and ecology – this triad stands at the center of the Foundation’s interna-tional work. The present publication “For Democracy” outlines and analyzes the state of democracy worldwide as well as the possibilities of democracy assistance. At the same time, the publication provides concrete insights into the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s political work for democracy. In addition, four essays approach the subject democracy assistance in a basic and passionate manner.
In August 2015 the Bersih 4 rally drew thousands of protesters to the streets who demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak. Where draws the movement its supporters from and how is it in ethnically diverse Malaysia percepted? Which challenges lie ahead?