2012 Volume 2012 Issue 169 Pages 169_1-15
Recent years have seen an increase in the role of civil society in policymaking aimed at addressing global issues such as poverty, human rights, environmental problems, and conflicts beyond the borders of the nation, despite the principle of nonintervention. Civil society is clearly playing a major role in global governance.
What is “civil society”? There have been many definitions of civil society from ancient Greece to the present. However, I would like to define it as “the public area oriented to the citizen, independent of government and market.” It then tries to participate in the decision-making process in support of humanitarian interests. Therefore, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), Non-Profit Organizations (NPO), Civil Society Organizations, and other organizations with the aforementioned purposes are included as part of civil society.
I am focusing on the Asian NGO network for democratization, and discuss the civil society movement with respect to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), in particular. ASEAN has maintained a policy of nonintervention known as the “ASEAN Way,” under the leadership of Track I governments. However, the role of civil society is increasing in the field of human rights and democratization.
One NGO, ANFREL (Asian Network for Free and Fair Elections), has worked on the problems of capacity building for voter education, voting procedures, and election laws aiming at the 2010 general elections in Myanmar. Although the 2012 by-election had inadequate operations, ANFREL perceived an improvement in this election and is targeting the 2015 general election for perfect civil society participation. Peacebuilding NGOs also play an important role in the resolution of Asian conflicts such as the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) in Aceh and International Monitoring Teams with local NGOs in Mindanao.
Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that the goal of realizing justice, equality, fairness is shared all over the world. Therefore, global civil society makes efforts to complete the common agenda in cooperation with civil society across borders. On the other hand, we have to respect Asian values, culture, and history as “subsistence” which Ivan Illich emphasizes for development. Moreover, we have to consider the balance between endogenous conception from Asia and external ideas from the West.
This volume contains 8 articles focusing on the challenges of civil society which confronts and engages with governments and markets because it aims at international peace and international welfare.