Indo-Pacific Civil Society Forum

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Background:
The Indo-Pacific region has become a central feature of any discussion on international relations. Countries within and beyond the Indo-Pacific region have realised its strategic importance in global geopolitics. Working with like-minded countries, India and the United States have led efforts to shed historical hesitations and initiate a fresh discourse around the need for a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. As the governments of these countries navigate closer cooperation on security, strategic, and economic issues, the non-governmental stakeholders should not be left behind. In particular, there is immense scope for positive collaboration among Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to complement the efforts at the inter-governmental level towards greater synergy in the Indo- Pacific. A coalition of CSOs in the Indo-Pacific region, connecting well-established CSOs across participating countries with each other, can serve as an important platform for such collaboration.

Objectives:
1. An informal forum of CSOs in the Indo-Pacific will be established. This forum, called the Indo-Pacific Civil Society Forum, will be a coalition of reputed CSOs (NGOs, think-tanks, etc.), which will work towards realising a shared vision of peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

2. The Forum will be an informal networking platform where we can exchange experiences and discuss developments in the Indo-Pacific region. There will be a focus on sharing of views, exchange of ideas and incorporating them in our respective operations.

3. The Forum participants will primarily deliberate on how we can collectively improve our engagement with policy-making on Indo-Pacific issues at the national and international levels, and how we can collectively drive change at the grassroots.

4. The underlying basis of our engagement will be a recognition that the Indo-Pacific region requires a vibrant civil society network, which can enhance democratic norms and values.

5. The ultimate objective will be to make the Forum a platform for advocacy on important issues common to the Indo-Pacific region and to our areas of work. The aim will be to make the Forum a catalyst for change in the region.

Expected Outcomes:
1. An Indo-Pacific Civil Society Forum will help institutionalise the sharing of lessons and experiences gained by CSOs working with ground-level challenges in individual countries of the region. Thus, this Forum will be a strong link between the citizens at the grassroots, opinion-makers and policymakers at national levels, and policymakers at the international stage, spread all across the vast geography of the Indo-Pacific. This will help bridging macro-micro information and policy gaps.

2. There is currently no platform for effective engagement between CSOs actively working in the Indo-Pacific region. The Indo-Pacific Civil Society Forum will, thus, be an ideal informal platform for constructive collaboration to jointly contribute towards a shared vision of a peaceful, stable, secure and prosperous region. Such a coalition has the potential to bring about transformative changes in the region, which will have an enduring impact on people’s lives. This would have far-reaching implications for improving relations between the people, societies and governments of the Indo-Pacific.  

Objectives


Objectives:
1. An informal forum of CSOs in the Indo-Pacific will be established. This forum, called the Indo-Pacific Civil Society Forum, will be a coalition of reputed CSOs (NGOs, think-tanks, etc.), which will work towards realising a shared vision of peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

2. The Forum will be an informal networking platform where we can exchange experiences and discuss developments in the Indo-Pacific region. There will be a focus on sharing of views, exchange of ideas and incorporating them in our respective operations.

3. The Forum participants will primarily deliberate on how we can collectively improve our engagement with policy-making on Indo-Pacific issues at the national and international levels, and how we can collectively drive change at the grassroots.

4. The underlying basis of our engagement will be a recognition that the Indo-Pacific region requires a vibrant civil society network, which can enhance democratic norms and values.

5. The ultimate objective will be to make the Forum a platform for advocacy on important issues common to the Indo-Pacific region and to our areas of work. The aim will be to make the Forum a catalyst for change in the region.

Rationale


Rationale for an Indo-Pacific Civil Society Forum:
1. The Indo-Pacific Civil Society Forum will herald in a new era of regional cooperation, unconstrained by the historical baggage of North-South divisions. As important participants in international diplomacy, a robust civil society including think-tank network can influence rule-shaping both from the inside and outside. A coalition of trans-national CSOs, working collaboratively towards a shared vision of the Indo-Pacific, will have significantly greater influence and impact collectively than individually.

2. The future of the Indo-Pacific region as a global strategic and commercial hub will be founded on regional stakeholders joining forces with each other as a coalition of democracies. A forum of CSOs from like-minded countries will be an important pillar to strengthen democratic values in the region. As key stakeholders in participatory democracy, CSOs are a bridge between citizens and the State. A civil society network in the Indo-Pacific will lead to enhanced trust and confidence-building among the CSOs working in the region, which will, in turn, build greater people-to-people ties across the Indo-Pacific. These efforts will contribute to closer ties and elevate trust levels between the governments of the Indo-Pacific region.

3. CSOs have deep and impactful relations with the societies in which they operate. The foundation of any well-informed society lies at its grassroots. CSOs play an integral role in generating issue-based awareness in societies, bottom-up from the grassroots. They have also traditionally played a very important role in capacity-building programmes in their areas of operation. A civil society coalition operating across the Indo-Pacific can play a pivotal role in promoting awareness of major challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region.

4. The indicative areas of capacity-building and awareness programmes, inter alia, can be sustainable and inclusive development, the prospects and challenges in the digital economy, and post-pandemic recovery. Issues like climate change, consumers’ rights, gender equality and media freedom will be other avenues for cooperation. Such efforts would be instrumental in promoting a better understanding of contemporary issues in these societies as well as highlighting the need for trans-national cooperation among the Indo-Pacific countries to find relevant, collective solutions.

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