Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development

Fight rising inequality in Asia by ensuring policy places the burden of environmental and social risk on the corporations that earn profits in the region.

Freedom for Equality

Resisting inequality and climate injustice

Inequality in Asia and the Pacific is on the rise. Since the early 1990s, the region has experienced a tremendous socioeconomic transformation, facilitated by strong and sustained economic growth. Unfortunately, the gains from this remarkable performance have not always benefited those most in need. As a result, many countries in the region have experienced a widening of existing inequalities, accompanied by increased environmental degradation. In 2017, the net worth of the region’s billionaires was more than seven times the combined GDP of the region’s least developed countries (LDCs). Income and wealth inequalities are strongly linked to other dimensions of inequality, such as access to education, health care, finance, clean energy and water and sanitation.

Environmental degradation is also closely linked to inequality. Low-income countries in Asia are more exposed to environmental degradation such as air pollution, which claims an estimated 4 million lives per year in the region. Vulnerability to climate change and its negative effects has intensified especially for the poor. Natural disasters cause disproportionately greater impacts on poorer countries and households and therefore exacerbate exacerbates inequalities among countries, but also between the rich and the poor.

Economic growth alone cannot overcome these problems. Tackling high inequalities requires fiscal policy interventions to support progressive investment in essential public programmes, such as health care and education. The Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) points out that it also necessitates reining in privatisation and the commercialisation of essential services. It also calls for a shift towards economic paradigms that do not privilege corporate profit and instead democratise control over economic resources and give priority to people’s needs and rights.

The Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) is a regional alliance of peoples’ movements, community organisations, coalitions, NGOs and networks across Asia that advocates people-centred development, economic and environmental rights, climate justice, and gender justice. For the APMDD, there is urgency to the struggle against inequality and climate injustice – it is, very simply, a matter of survival for poor peoples and for the planet itself.

In May 2018 they joined other civil society activists to protest outside the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as they held their annual Board of Governors’ meeting. They demanded that the ADB end their “anti-poor and anti-development” strategies across Asia and the Pacific in response to the bank’s latest corporate strategy,which they argue ensures that the private sector profits while environmental and social impact assessments are neglected. They criticised the bank’s major role in the privatisation of basic services such as water and power in The Philippines and it’s role in the introduction and continued financing of coal-fired power plants, which devastate the environment and contribute to climate change.

APMDD coordinator Lidy Nacpil described the problem, “Today, we have an avalanche of coal plant projects being railroaded; with ADB leading the growth of Philippines’ dirty energy through its million dollar loans for projects like the Korea Electric Power Corporation’s 200-MW coal-fired power plant in Cebu and the rehabilitation of Masinloc Power Partners Ltd.’s 600-MW coal-fired thermal power plant in Zambales province."

The APMDD stresses the need to uphold the 2015 Paris Agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries all parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCC), with a commitment to keep the increase in global warming temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Achieving or failing to achieve the 1.5 degrees mark will determine who will survive, how many islands will sink, who and how many will have food and shelter, [or] what new diseases will threaten life,” said a joint statement signed by the APMDD and its members and allies.

APMDD is boldly taking on inequality, recognising that a transformation in the international financial system is necessary in order to truly overcome it. By challenging the dominant development paradigm and rejecting the kind of growth that is destroying the planet and creating further inequality, they are striving towards a healthier and more equal world.

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