Milan becomes the home of peoples from around the world

Villagio Globale: 10 October 2014 (Unofficial translation)

forum-milanoThree days of seminars and workshops on international trade, social protection, food security, climate change, peace and security. An appeal to governments and institutions around the world for Sombath Somphone’s safe return.

An empty chair and an appeal to governments and institutions around the world for Sombath Somphone’s safe return. This is how the People’s Forum kicked off today in Milan, home of the tenth Asia-Europe People’s Forum, or AEPF10.

Shui Meng Ng, wife of activist Sombath Somphone, is a winner of the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize and became a victim of enforced disappearance on 15 December 2012, gave the keynote speech in front of the more than 400 delegates from all around the world. Sombath was one of the organizers of the ninth AEPF in Laos, under the slogan of struggle against poverty and inequality.

“I repeatedly asked myself whether Sombath crossed some unknown political line and annoyed those who refuse to allow for greater space for civil society,” Shui Meng Ng said. “Sombath would have never regretted his life-long work and commitment. He would have never regretted what he did,” she added.

Basilio Rizzo, President of Milan’s City Council and symbolic host of the event that is being held on the premises of the Steam Factory, joined Shui Meng’s appeal: “I confirm the authorities’ commitment at all levels to working for Sombath’s safe return home. Today, more than ever, it is impossible to think of any policy without the crucial contribution of civil society which you represent here so well.”

Starting today, Milan becomes the home of peoples from all around the world. Milan’s City Council President Basilio Rizzo, who greeted the 400 delegates from organizations and movements that campaign for sustainable development, represents local authorities at the 10th Asia-Europe People’s Forum.

The President of City Council is not the only representative of Milanese society. The simultaneous translation of the round tables and planetary sessions is provided by the young students of the Carlo Bo School. Lunch and afternoon snacks are provided by Laboratorio Procaccini Qauttordici.

From Malaysia to the Philippines, from Greece to Finland, our country will host a busy program that covers a wide range of issues, including sustainable development, fair trade, cooperation, international finance, social justice, arms trade, climate change, and food security.

In addition, to underscore the pivotal role of the Forum, Andrea Perugini, Director for the Asia-Pacific at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will give the closing remarks at the end of the event on 12 October.

Civil society’s agenda

During three days of meetings and experience-sharing, participants will discuss five very hot topics in specific workshops and plenary sessions. Equitable investment and trade; universal social protection; right to work with dignity; access to essential services and social security; food security and sustainable management of land and natural resources; climate change and sustainable energy production; pace and security.

An important event will be the round table on the consequences of proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction (Friday, 10 October, 2:30pm).

There will also be discussions on the US-EU Free Trade Agreement and agreements benefiting multinational corporations that eye Asian markets (Friday, 10 October, 2:30pm) as well as the ILO’s (International Labor Organization) proposal for the adoption of new minimum standards for social protection (Friday, 10 October, 2:30pm). Competition for natural resources, the quest for a model that goes beyond intensive farming and dependence on fossil fuels (Saturday, 11 October, 9:30am), and climate justice, presented by the Zero Waste network, are also key topics of the AEPF10.

Among the speakers are Filipino MP Walden Bello , Pablo Solon from Focus on Global South-Thailand, Yannis Almpanis from Syriza (Greece), Spanish MP Lola Sanchez, Helmut Scholz from Die Linke, (Germany), Ingeborg Breines (Norway), Pham Van Chuong (Vietnam), and Gianni Tognoni and Antonio Tricarico (Italy).

On 11 October, the forum will bring to Italy the international mobilization against the Transatlantic Free Trade Area between the EU and the US. The “Stop TTIP Campaign-Italy” will call for an “immediate end to the negotiations”, which envision an aggressive policy of liberalization that favors a few multinational corporations and damages worker rights.

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