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Governance and Structures of the Asia Europe People’s Forum

 

What is the AEPF?

AEPF emerged in the mid 1990s from a common desire and need among people’s organisations and networks across Asia and Europe to open up new venues of dialogue, cooperation and solidarity. 

The first AEPF bi-regional conference was organised in Bangkok on the occasion of the first ASEM in 1996. Since then People’s Forums have been held bi-annually as an Alternative Summit to the ASEM.  ASEM stands for Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), the official meeting between heads of state of the European Union and 16 Asian countries. Since Bangkok, People’s Forums have been held in London (1998), Korea (2000), Denmark (2002), Vietnam (2004) and Finland (2006). The next ASEM will be held in China in 2008. The AEPF network has expanded over the years and has mobilised new organisations and movements from the AEPF host countries.

From its beginnings, the AEPF has provided a space for social actors in each region to:

  • strengthen network building on a national and regional level and undertake cross-regional initiatives and campaigns
  • analyse issues of common interest such as security, militarisation and neo-liberal globalisation and their consequences for the peoples in each region and develop alternatives
  • provide people’s organizations and networks with a channel for critical engagement with official policies of ASEM countries 

In 1998, a ‘People’s Vision towards a more just, equal and sustainable world’ was elaborated and widely endorsed by hundreds of people’s organisations and networks. It was later revised and endorsed at the ASEM 2000 Peoples Forum in Seoul. An AEPF Charter of Principles was adopted in December 2005.

Who are we and what are our objectives?

The purpose of this bi-regional network between organisations and movements from Asia and Europe is to contribute to a world based on the concepts of peace, participatory democracy, social justice, human rights, food sovereignty, sustainability and people’s rights to self-determination. The AEPF is a space to link struggles and visions on alternatives from both regions.

The formation of the bi-regional network opens a new chapter in people to people relations between civil society organizations in Asia and Europe. Social actors from both regions recognize the growing significance of inter-governmental relations between Asia and Europe and the necessity to develop new political and organizational responses. 

The AEPF advocates a positive agenda of joint proposals and demands that enable us to influence policy on EU-Asia relations at the ASEM government and EU level.  The AEPF also facilitates strategies and action as civil society on a variety of issues concerning both regions.

The Asia Europe People’s Forum Charter  EXTRACTS

What are the Forum’s key initiatives?

Every two years we organise a People’s Forum as an Alternative Summit to the ASEM. Based on shared struggles, work and experiences, priority issues in the bi-annual forum have been:

·  Participatory democracy and human rights

·  Peace and security

·  Social and economic rights

·  Environmental justice and sustainability 

Although organising People’s Forums held in parallel to official Summits is neither the beginning nor the end of the network’s activities and agenda, the holding of these alternative summits does provide key opportunities for strengthening and consolidating the work of the network and for making it visible. 

How we work

These are the Governance and Structures of the Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF).  These are how we strengthen the AEPF and enable greater clarity and transparency in decision making. 

The Charter of the Asia Europe People’s Forum provides our reference point and the fundamental basis for how we work and what we aim to do.

Structure

The AEPF structure is aimed at enabling places and spaces for all who wish to be part of the AEPF.  The AEPF should be a space for open and democratic debate and exchange  providing the possibility for networking of people’s movements in Asia and Europe for joint actions which include lobbying the ASEM and related institutions and the European Union’s agenda in Asia. 

The AEPF is not only ASEM related but focuses on broader Asia-Europe relations. Therefore we are not the ASEM Peoples Forum but the Asia Europe People’s Forum.

We believe that the AEPF is inclusive and transparent, democratic and open.  We are working towards a series of linked circles of two types. 
1.       Geographical Circles at national and regional levels. 
2.     Thematic Circles for areas of work and activities of the AEPF.
The circles and how they link are outlined in detail below.

We also work through our International Organising Committee which, in the preparation and running of the  People’s Forum held every two years, works with a National Organising Committee.  The ways of working of the International Organising Committee and the partnership with the National Organising Committee are also outlined here.

 

FACILITATING STRUCTURES OF THE AEPF

Principles

  • We aim to strengthen solidarity between peoples of Asia and Europe. 
  • Inclusive.  We will enable people and organisations with different and diverse backgrounds to be part of the AEPF.  However we will ensure that a pro-people orientation remains fundamental.

  • Work is based on and builds on the AEPF Charter and our People’s Visions including their fundamental principles.  This is our fundamental common ground. A commitment to the principles agreed and stated in our Charter is fundamental to participation in and collaboration with the Asia Europe People’s Forum.

  • We work on Asia-Europe relations but not exclusively those located in the ASEM process.

  • Transparent, democratic and open 
  • We need to celebrate diversity and encourage and recognize that there are multiple solutions.

  • We recognize that Women’s access to rights and resources is often still unequal and inappropriate and that this needs to be challenged and changed.

  • Linking with networks and movements, being complimentary to the work of others and providing a space for others. The AEPF places importance on membership organisations, networks and movements with democratic decision making processes. This is key.

  • Build on collective energies and actions

We note that

  1. There is a need for an inter-regional structure and that this has to be founded, informed and inspired by people’s experiences, strategies and visions.

  1. The base should be geographical and thematic, building on our strengths and the Asian and European regions.

  1. Our structure should bring together organizations and movements and facilitate exchanges of experiences, information, strategies and actions between them.

  1. The type of organizational structure most appropriate to the development and strengthening of the AEPF is not pyramid shaped but circular.

  1. We do not have the resources for one permanent secretariat.

 

THE STRUCTURE

 

Circles

The Circles are the foundation of our structures.

Circles are created and made up of people who are representatives and activists from organizations and are people committed to working on the issue or activity that is the focus of the circle.

Circles are open and not closed.

Circles can agree on their most appropriate ways of working.

Circles should develop and agree plans for their work and share these as appropriate.

Circles will intersect.

Circles, when formed, will elect a link person(s) to link to other appropriate circles.

Types of circles

There are two types of Circles envisaged

·        Geographical and

·        Thematic Circles.

Geographical Circles are envisaged at a minimum of three levels

  1. The AEPF International Organising Committee (IOC)
  2. Regional AEPF Circles (Asia and Europe)
  3. National AEPF Circles  

Different areas of work can generate different Thematic Circles.  These can also exist at the three geographical levels if appropriate. They are likely to be established first at the international and regional levels.  As activity and interest is developed then connected national circles might be developed.

A member of a Thematic circle would be elected to be the link person for that area of work or activity from their circle to national/regional circles and/or the IOC.

Members of Thematic circles have the obligation and responsibility to share their work with other members of their national or regional circle. 

Linking of Circles

One of the most important parts of the structure is the way in which circles link together.  Each circle will elect a member to be the link person to other appropriate circles.  This could be between two different thematic circles or between a thematic and geographical circle. The linking has many roles and responsibilities. It is key to enabling the AEPF to be more comprehensive and to making sure that the geographic and thematic circles share their ideas and activities.  The links can also enable us to join and co-operate with other movements and networks. 

Many individuals and organisations involved in the AEPF across the world are already involved in specific advocacy work.  The AEPF aims not only to generate credible people centred alternatives but also to recognise, collate and endorse such alternatives that emerged before and after the Asia Europe People’s Forums and that will emerge in the future.  Some are linked to the AEPF and others are independent. The structure ensures that they have a place for this to continue, to be able to share this better with other activists and to link with other people and organisations engaged in complementary activity.

Geographical Circles 

The Geographical Circles are based on joining regional and eventually national circles.

The initial regions are

  1. Asia
  2. Europe  

Through discussion, consultation and evolution we will be able to evolve a regionalization which reflects what each region feels is a viable and a positive contribution to the AEPF.

National Circles

The IOC should encourage where feasible the development of national circles and for them to link with regional circles.  National circles can be established by organisations and movements working on Asia-Europe issues coming together. A national circle will need to apply to the Regional circle for recognition. The Regional circle will then forward this application to the IOC which needs to agree the recognition of a national circle. They can develop their own specific ways of working.  These should recognise the principles stated earlier.   A national circle should also

  • nominate a focal or contact person for the National Circle
  • nominate a  link person(s) with the appropriate AEPF Regional Circle and the IOC.

Focal Points

There are two Focal Points for the AEPF International Organising Committee, one in Europe and one in Asia.  They play an important role in catalysing and facilitating the different circles and their inter-relationships. The Focal Points can rotate after an agreed period if this was felt to be desirable and feasible. The role and functions of the Focal Points are outlined below.

AEPF International Organising Committee

The AEPF International Organising Committee (AEPF IOC) is the reference body for the AEPF.

Membership Criteria

The IOC has up to sixteen members – six from Asia based organizations and six from Europe based organizations and up to two regional networks per region.

The size and composition of the IOC is reviewed every two years.

In principle there is an aim to have a balance of members from Asia and Europe.

Membership is for organizations and networks supporting the Charter.  It is not for individuals. There is no more than one national organization per country on the IOC.  Regional organizations like Forum Asia and Focus on the Global South can be IOC members as regional networks.

In each region there should be no more than two regional networks who are members of the IOC.  This means that the maximum number of members of the IOC is at present 16.

The IOC was initially constituted by organisations and networks that were committed to develop and strengthen the People’s Forum process since it began in 1996. They formalised this commitment and have subsequently enlarged the IOC.

Current members are

Asia

Institute for Popular Democracy (The Philippines)

Focus on the Global South (Asia Regional)

Forum Asia (Asia Regional)

Monitoring Sustainability of globalisatioN MSN (Malaysia)

Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation (Vietnam)

IPGI (Indonesia) 

Europe

Transnational Institute (The Netherlands)

Asia House (Germany)

One World Action (United Kingdom)

Centre Lebret (France)

Finnish AEPF Committee nominated organization from Finland

11 11 11 (Flanders/Belgium)

The membership and composition of the IOC is decided by the IOC

The Composition of the IOC, including the organisational memberships and names of representatives on the IOC should be reviewed at an IOC meeting which should be held immediately after the bi-annual People’s Forum.  This IOC meeting should also consider new applications for membership.

Criteria for application for IOC membership

Each prospective IOC member must

o       support and be committed to the AEPF Charter  

o       have a proven commitment to bringing Asia Europe relations and issues to wider audiences in their country and /or regionally;  

o       have a proven commitment to positive working with the IOC and existing member organisations and networks. This can include within Thematic Circles;

o       have a recommendation from their respective regional circle;

Membership of countries hosting People’s Forums

Every two years there shall be a People’s Forum held just before the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) in the town or city which is hosting the ASEM summit.  The IOC has co-organized this with a National Organizing Committee (NOC) formed in the hosting country. The individual People’s Forums are organized jointly by the IOC and the NOC with decision making between the IOC and NOC taking place on the basis of consensus and where necessary negotiated consensus. There will be an IOC meeting that inaugurates the preparations for the People’s Forum.  From then up to and including the Forum the NOC will nominate one representative to be a member of the IOC. They will be member of the IOC until the IOC that is held after the People’s Forum. This representative will be the formal link between the IOC and the NOC.  After the People’s Forum an organisation or network from the hosting country can, if they wish, apply to be a member of the IOC. Like all applicants any applicant from the People’s Forum hosting country must fulfil the pre-requisites for becoming a member of the IOC. The IOC will assess and decide on this application in the context of the IOC’s criteria.

Responsibilities of the IOC

The main responsibilities of the IOC are

o       To take forward commitments made in the AEPF Charter, The People’s Vision and the Declarations made at the People’s Forum. 

o       Taking forward the Charter 

o       Strategic planning, assessment of progress and reviewing the direction of the work of the AEPF

o       Coordination, supporting and facilitating the work of the Regional and National Circles, Regional Focal Points and Thematic Circles

o       Organising, with a National Organising Committee from the host country, a People’s Forum held just before the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM)

o       Overall responsibility for the finances, fundraising and related reporting whilst delegation agreed activities to the Finance and Fundraising Transparency Committee

o       To discuss and agree or reject requests to establish National and Thematic Circles.

o       Liaise with ASEM and related institutions

Frequency of Meetings

IOC meetings are convened by the focal points.

IOC meetings should take place at least once a year. At least one meeting a year should be a ‘face-to face’ meeting.  Additional meetings can, where feasible, be by phone conference.

Regional Circle meetings should take place at least twice a year. One meeting a year should be a ‘face-to face’ meeting.  Additional meetings can, where feasible, be by phone conference

One IOC meeting should be held immediately after a People’s Forum.

Decision Making

Quorum for an IOC meeting is 50% of both Asia and Europe members

This will be rounded up if there is an uneven number of regional members. Currently three members from each region will be considered as quorum.

There are no nominated/proxy votes.

The fundamental aim is decision making by consensus.  This is a working principle of the AEPF IOC.

If consensus cannot be reached then an open vote will be taken on a proposed recommendation. This would be accepted if there is at least a two thirds majority voting for it.  To be accepted the vote in favour must be at least two thirds of both Asia and Europe members present. If requested objections to a decision can be minuted.

Meetings, including skype meetings, will be minuted.

Minutes will be circulated within two weeks of day of or closing day of the IOC meeting. They will be agreed by participants within a subsequent four weeks with any written amendments being submitted within this time frame.  If no comments are received within the four weeks from when the minutes have been circulated, they will be considered accepted. Final minutes will then be circulated to all IOC members.  If requested reservations or objections to a decision can be included in the minutes.

An IOC Meeting should be called with at least six weeks notice to members for a physical meeting.

Meetings are in principle open for observers to attend on a case by case basis to be agreed by the IOC.

Urgent actions can require a telephone conference which requires one weeks notice.

Legal Status

The AEPF and the AEPF IOC do not have a legal identity in itself.

Delegation of Responsibilities

IOC can agree the delegation of responsibilities 

·         in consultation with the funding circle/group, to delegate authority to raise funds for AEPF supportive and related activities

·        for contracts to support AEPF supportive and related activities

It is stressed that the organisation that has responsibility delegated to it and has signed the contract is wholly responsible for the terms and conditions of the contract and the risks and liabilities related activities undertaken.

The AEPF IOC cannot accept liabilities for financial short falls or breaches of contract as it has no legal identity or own/core funds.

It may be desirable for the AEPF IOC Circle to elect a smaller group who would be a reference group for the Focal Points on certain agreed issues. This could consist of six representatives of which three will always be from Asia and three from Europe.

Links to Thematic and Geographical Circles

The IOC can create and agree circles/working groups for specific activities.  Each circle should elect/nominate a link person. The link person has the responsibility to report to the IOC on the plans and progress of the circle.

Focal Points

In principle there are two focal points, one in Asia and one in Europe.  These are recommended by regional circles and the recommendation must be approved by the IOC.  The Focal points are accountable to the IOC and National Circles.

At present the Transnational Institute is the Europe Focal Point and, following a recommendation and agreement by the Asia IOC members, IPD are currently co-sharing the focal point responsibility with MSN

The Focal Points have the responsibility for

·        Facilitating and coordinating agendas for regional discussions and meetings

·        setting meetings

·        co-ordinating within the respective regions

·        co-ordinating between the regions

·        fundraising

·        lobbying and advocacy coordination in region and between regions

·        receiving requests to establish a National Circle and, after assessing them against the AEPF criteria, submitting them to the IOC

Thematic Circles

There are two main types of Thematic circles

a) Working Circles- to enable the development and strengthening of the AEPF

Thematic Circles could be developed for activities that are key to the development and strengthening of the AEPF itself. These will generally begin as International Thematic Circles.

Initially these are

·        Planning and organisation of the currently bi-annual People’s Forums

·        Peoples Vision– popularizing, translating and promoting

·        Funding, fundraising  and Budget

·        Relationship with and lobbying of ASEM meetings 

b) Thematic Circles – for policy and lobbying work

Thematic circles could also be developed for specific areas of policy and lobbying work.  Some of these might be of a short duration and related to an activity others may be on-going. This is an open ended list.  If there is the commitment and energy to establish and contribute to a circle then its establishment should be considered. 

It is proposed to build these around the four themes of activity

·        Participatory democracy and human rights

·        Peace and security

·        Social and economic rights

·        Environmental justice and sustainability 

Current work already covers 

·        Local and participatory democracy and government

·        Water and alternatives to water privatization

·        Security and Peace

·        EU Free Trade agreements with ASEAN, Korea and India  

These are not exclusive themes. This list will be organic and based on people and organizations ability and commitment to do things.

Thematic Circles are not necessarily fixed or with a fixed membership.  They should work respecting the AEPF Principles stated earlier and respect the AEPF Charter. 

To establish a circle, a group, organisation or network should elect a focal link person/organization as outlined above.  The Thematic Circle will need to apply to the IOC for recognition. Share who the focal link person/organization is and agree to report regularly to the IOC.

Some Thematic Circles might be first established at the International level

In some regions for some Thematic circles, regional or even national circles may be appropriate and desirable.

The AEPF IOC will decide on the most appropriate ways of relating to and linking with both the Thematic Circles- to enable the development and strengthening of the AEPF and the Thematic Circles – for policy and lobbying work.

Specific attention will be given to the ways that the circles work and interact and outlining the principles they can work with in more detail. It may be appropriate to develop briefings on possible ways to establish and work in circles.

Developing AEPF positions and responses

Position papers and documents supported by the AEPF should be backed by a process of collective endorsement.  Though individuals and organisations are encouraged to take public positions under their own names, an AEPF position should evolve more collectively. 

Accountability and Responsibility

As stated above, a key concept in the Thematic circles and the geographical circles is accountability back to a constituency.  This may also be important for members of National AEPF Circles as they may be there from and on behalf of certain constituencies.

AEPF National Organising Committee (NOC)

AEPF National Organising Committee (NOC) should be established by the host country of a People’s Forum.

The NOC has the responsibility to work in partnership by consensus with the IOC to host the People’s Forum.

The People’s Forum must respect the AEPF Charter and contribute to the fulfilment of its principles and respect its stated ways of working.

The NOC should be constituted by a range of organisations and networks that can ensure that the People’s Forum takes place on the basis of the principles and ways of working agreed in the AEPF Charter. The NOC should be open to cooperating and collaborating with local organisations that support the AEPF Charter.

 The NOC is required to

1.       nominate a representative to be a member of the IOC in the preparation of and during the People’s Forum. 

2.     nominate four representatives to be members of a People’s Forum core group to work with four representatives of the IOC.  (The IOC representatives will normally include a representatives from each of the Focal Point organisations)

3.     Agree an appropriate basis for the secretariat for the organisation of the People’s Forum

4.     Work in partnership and through decisions made by consensus with the IOC to agree the process in the preparation for and building up to an AEPF which includes the respective roles for the IOC and NOC in

o       Drawing up the thematic statement about the aims and focus of the forum, including a working name;

o       Agreeing timing, location, venue(s), accommodation;

o       Agreeing processes for developing a programme including its structure (Plenaries/workshops/public events etc.), number of days and main content;

o       Agreeing a process for Workshop subjects and then, who proceeds to organize them and how and with what accountability to both the IOC and NOC;

o       Agreeing a working budget and related fundraising strategy and division of labour to raise funds;

o       Invitation of participants both national and international, relation to resources. This will include process for agreeing a timetable to ensure visas for international speakers and participants. 

The IOC and NOC will agree lines of communication and decision making, including levels of decision making, between the NOC and IOC; 

The People’s Forum

Every two years we organise a People’s Forum as an Alternative Summit to the ASEM. Based on shared struggles, work and experiences, priority issues have been:

·  Participatory democracy and human rights

·  Peace and security

·  Social and economic rights

·  Environmental justice and sustainability 

Although organising People’s Forums held in parallel to official Summits is neither the beginning nor the end of the network’s activities and agenda, the holding of these alternative summits does provide key opportunities for strengthening and consolidating the work of the network and for making it visible.

The People’s Forum is

o       An event that precedes the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM)

o       It will be held in the ASEM town/city of the host country as close in time to the ASEM as possible

o       It focuses on Asia-Europe relations but does not limit itself to either the ASEM agenda or ASEM member countries

o       It is open to social movements, organisations, networks and individuals who support the AEPF Charter and who are committed in taking it forward

o       It welcomes participants from ASEM member countries and non-ASEM member countries in Asia and Europe

o       It can invite speakers to contribute to discussions and reflections on the themes of the Forum from anywhere. 

 

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Governance and Structures of the Asia Europe People’s Forum

 

Agreed by IOC

 

 

 

Port Dickson, Malaysia

8th December 2007

 

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