MASSA (Southeast Asia)

MASSA (Southeast Asia)

The Movement for AlternativesAre activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainabiity. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call "radical or transformative alternatives", which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them. and Solidarity in Southeast Asia (MASSAMovement for Alternatives and Solidarity in Southeast Asia (South East Asia)) aims to identify movements that are resisting mainstream development and promoting alternative practices by grassroots communities, and link these to form the building blocks of a people’s alternative regional integration in South East Asia.

Members

MASSA Steering Committee is composed of the following organizations:

  • University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies Program on Alternative Development (Philippines)- AltDev is currently acting as the secretariat
  • ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (regional)
  • Asian Music for Peoples’ Peace and Progress (regional)
  • Asian Solidarity Economy Council (regional)
  • CIVICA Research (Malaysia)
  • Focus on the Global South (regional)
  • Fundasaun Hafoun Timor Loro’sae (Timor Leste)
  • Homenet Southeast Asia (regional)
  • Kdadalak Sulimutuk Institute (Timor Leste)
  • Konfederasi Pergerakan Rakyat Indonesia (Indonesia)
  • Milk Tea Alliance (regional)
  • Serikat Petani Pasundan (Indonesia)
  • Sustainability and Participation through Education and Lifelong Learning (Philippines)
  • University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations Center for Labor and Grassroots Initiatives (Philippines)
  • Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation (Vietnam)

Introduction

The experience gained from the decades-long engagement of Southeast Asia civil society organizations and social movements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has helped in guiding its future trajectories: to move beyond merely engaging the state-led regional body, and to be firmly linked with grassroots initiatives of peoples struggling to carve a better and more dignified life. An emergent movement in the Southeast Asian region called the Movement for Alternatives and Solidarity in Southeast Asia (MASSA) is taking up this challenge to and doing this pioneering effort in building an alternative peoples’ regional integration based on the alternative practices from Southeast Asian grassroots. This is a long-term vision that cannot be accomplished overnight and will take years of perseverance and commitment to realize.

Figure 1. MASSA Logo

Evidently, CSOs in Southeast Asia including the ACSC/APF must act outside the ASEAN framework, and explore a radical restructuring of CSO engagements with Southeast Asian states, and chart new modes of integration for Southeast Asian peoples. It is in this context that the Movement for Alternatives and Solidarity in Southeast Asia (MASSA) has started. MASSA is a convergence of peoples and grassroots organizations working together to forge an alternative: a regional model of integration from below that challenges the ASEAN paradigm. This alternative regionalism is based on 'alternatives' — the resistance and non-mainstream development practices that Southeast Asian peoples are already doing on the ground — which are guided by cooperation, solidarity, mutual benefit, the commons principle, and joint development.

These above-mentioned principles are well reflected in MASSA’s logo (See Figure 1), taking inspiration primarily from the vernacular stilt houses in Southeast Asia and secondarily from the weaving traditions also prevalent in the region. These elements were chosen to communicate that the movement sees itself as both a shelter and a platform in which these alternative grassroots practices in Southeast Asia are nurtured and strengthened by way of weaving together solidarity and identity based on common histories, and aspirations. The arrows pointing up (which makes the roof of the house) symbolize the upward movement of Southeast Asian peoples in expanding their networks of solidarity and in building an alternative just future. The chosen colors symbolize the diversity of nations in the region. While the overlapping pattern seen at the center of the logo symbolizes the similar histories of people in Southeast Asia as well as their deep interconnections created by their shared experience of marginalization: elements that create the conditions for peoples to unite.

Objectives

To build this alternative model of regional integration, MASSA undertakes the following:

  • Surfacing the alternative practices through research and documentation and building a database of these;
  • Linking and facilitating knowledge sharing amongst the alternative development practitioners through People-to-People Exchange;
  • Popularizing and mainstreaming the alternative practices through regional workshops and conferences, solidarity actions, and social media platforms;
  • Building and strengthening the solidarity between the alternative development practitioners;
  • Expanding the solidarity networks of the movement by continuously engaging with other groups outside the network, either within the region or outside.

Initial steps were already taken by the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS) Program on Alternative Development (AltDev) after it was established in 2017. A total of fifty-six case studies of alternative development practices from the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, Thailand, and Thai-Burma Border have already been produced. In 2020 and 2021, a total of sixty-three caselettes that highlight the struggle of the grassroots and marginalized communities and their COVID-19 responses have been produced.

AltDev, as the interim secretariat of MASSA, is also in the process of including cases of alternative development practices from areas outside of what ASEAN deems as part of the region, namely, Northeast India and Southwest China1). A People-to-People Exchange was also hosted in West Java and Jakarta, Indonesia by the Konfederasi Pergerakan Rakyat Indonesia, and the Serikat Petani Pasundan in July 2019. Participants from Laos, Thailand, Philippines, Timor Leste, and other parts of Indonesia were engaged as participant practitioners being oriented on existing alternative practices undertaken by the hosting organization and asked to participate directly. The exchange serves as an out-of-conference type of platform where grassroots organizations may learn based on real-life and practice-based experiences.

In November 2018, October 2019, and November 2021 (that was conducted online because of COVID-19), the regional conferences brought together alternative development practitioners from across the Southeast Asian Region. The goal of the regional conferences is for organizations to showcase their alternative practices and draw parallelisms from the models, issues, successes, and challenges, and all together create the movement for Alternatives that is now called MASSA.

Currently, MASSA has twenty-three civil society partners and networks from the Philippines; six from Indonesia; six regional groups; four from Timor Leste; four from Thailand; three from Vietnam; two from Burma/Myanmar; one each from the Thai-Burma Border, Laos, Malaysia, and Cambodia. The 14 Steering Committee Members of MASSA are as follows: University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies, Program on Alternative Development, currently acting as the secretariat; ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (Regional); Asian Music for Peoples’ Peace and Progress (Regional); Asian Solidarity Economy Council (Regional); CIVICA Research (Malaysia); Focus on the Global South (Regional); Fundasaun Hafoun Timor Loro’sae (Timor Leste); HomeNet Southeast Asia; Kdadalak Sulimutuk Institute (Timor Leste); Konfederasi Pergerakan Rakyat Indonesia; Milk Tea Alliance (Regional); Serikat Petani Pasundan (Indonesia); Sustainability and Participation through Education and Lifelong Learning (Philippines); and the Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation.

MASSA’s priorities moving forward will revolve around the following undertakings:

  • Expand the database of alternatives by continuing the documentation of alternative practices across the region and beyond it
  • Strengthen the movement through knowledge-sharing initiatives, network-building activities, and regional solidarity actions
    • Maintain the engagement with regional and global networks and spaces that can bolster the discourse and support alternatives and alternative regionalism

References

UP CIDS Discussion Paper: Deepening Solidarities Beyond Borders Among Southeast Asian Peoples: A Vision for a Peoples’ Alternative Regional Integration. University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies Program on Alternative Development. Quezon City. 2020. https://cids.up.edu.ph/discussion_paper/up-cids-discussion-paper-series-2020-04-deepening-solidarities-beyond-borders-among-southeast-asian-peoples-a-vision-for-a-peoples-alternative-regional-integration/

UP CIDS Public Policy Monograph: Towards a Peoples’ Alternative Regionalism: Cases of Alternative Practices in the Philippines. University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies. Quezon City. 2020. https://cids.up.edu.ph/up-monograph/public-policy-monographs-towards-a-peoples-alternative-regionalism-case-of-alternative-practices-in-the-philippines-volume-1/

UP CIDS Public Policy Monographs: Solidarity through Cross-Border Regionalism: Alternative Practices in Southeast Asia. Quezon City. 2020. https://cids.up.edu.ph/download/public-policy-monograph-series-2020-01-solidarity-through-cross-border-regionalism-alternative-practices-across-southeast-asia-volume-1/

COVID-19 Grassroots Report Volume 2: Southeast Asian Peoples in Pandemic Times: Challenges and Responses. Quezon City 2021. https://tinyurl.com/AltDevSEAcovid19v2

COVID-19 Grassroots Report Volume 1: Reinforcing People-to-People Solidarities towards a Regionalism from Below: Alternatives from Southeast Asia amid COVID-19. Quezon City. 2020. https://tinyurl.com/reinforcingp2pcovid

https://asean.org/legaldocumentparent/the-asean-declaration-bangkok-declaration-bangkok-8-august-1967/

https://asean.org/the-founding-of-asean/

http://www.asean-china-center.org/english/2010-04/24/c_13265663.htm

1)
Southeast Asia is a much greater entity than what ASEAN currently encompasses. Various scholars have argued that the region should not be confined to the ten ASEAN member states, but should include areas in other countries whose peoples bear similar cultural and ethnic characteristics as those who live in what has been normally referred to as Southeast Asia. In addition to Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste, both of which continue to be denied full ASEAN membership, references have been made of Southeast Asian historical affinities with parts of Northeast India and three southwestern provinces of China.