The 5th Tokyo Democracy Forum (TDF) -Defending Democracy and Civic Space in Asia (DDCSA)

THINK lobby

Date&Time: 2pm-5pm ICT time (GMT+7), Wednesday 6 March 2024
Organized by: Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) / THINK Lobby


Aoi Horiuchi, Senior Advocacy Officer, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC)


With only a half of 6 years remaining until 2030 to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), none of Asian countries have great achievements for SDG16, an overarching goal on peace and justice. This goal covers areas on key components of democracy and civic space such as rules of law, participatory decision-making, representative and accountable institutions, access to information, etc.

In 2022, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) have conducted 6 thematic projects with Key Implementing Partners (VANI in India, CHRD in Mongolia, NFN in Nepal, Awaz-CDS in Pakistan, Asia Centre in Thailand, and INHURED International in Nepal), and have identified areas that we still need support in the contexts of defending democracy and civic space, especially in different contexts of Asian countries. For example, some of our Key Implementing Partners organized social media campaigns through twitter or podcast in order to create awareness of SDG16, or developed a Chapter of Demand for Civic Space. Such engagement with wider parts of a society can be applied to different countries.

We also need further analysis on policies that restrict rights-based organizations’ work, and sensitize the Parliamentarians and other policy makers to make favorable amendments in those policies. Most small and medium-sized CSOs are not able to follow clauses of those policies fully, so initiating CSOs sensitization and capacity enhancement initiatives are needed. CSOs also lack capacity on human rights-based approaches and development practices therefore their capacity building interventions may also be considered for the next phase.

We also implemented research and analysis on free and fair election, as a crucial component of civic space, especially in Southeast Asia with our Key Implementing Partners. Southeast Asia continues to grapple with various challenges related to free and fair elections as an indicator of democracy. Since 2020, a new round of elections has been underway in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Timor-Leste. Each time a country gets into an election cycle, political party laws, election advertising laws, fake news laws and laws governing political donations have been introduced or amended and stand in the way of holding free and fair elections. Anti-democratic populist movements, using disinformation campaigns over social media also drowned out the much-needed civic participation in politics. There is also the rising post-election phenomena of military coup d’etat, regime change uprising and election annulment by partial election commissions which overall leads to poor electoral integrity.

Emerging issues and trends related to democracy and elections in Southeast Asia and intervention, as well as advocacy points will be shared at the Tokyo Democracy Forum.

1. To promote democracy, human rights including Business and Human Rights, civic space and SDG16, by conducting research and advocacy and by supporting CSOs’ activities for effective social change in Asia. Global development issues such as climate change, gender equality will also be addressed.
2. To influence political discussions at coming UN meetings with regards to SDG16 and civic space, including the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), and the Summit of the Future.

Program (all time in ICT/GMT+7):
Introduction and welcome remarks
-Ichal Supriadi, Executive Director, Asia Democracy Network (ADN)

Roundtable Discussion 1 – Civic Space and Rights Holders (Climate activists, Voters)
-Marc Piñol Rovira, Research Manager, Asia Centre
-Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, President, INHURED International
-Zia-ur-Rehman, National Chair, Pakistan Development Alliance
-Khoirunnisa Nur Agustyati, Perludem
-Soo Soh, Senior Program Manager, Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
Key questions:
1. Based on your research, what is your assessment for current situation around civic space in Asia?
2. How can civil society use opportunities of elections in 2024 to strengthen civic space in Asia?
3. How can civil society who work on different topics support with each other to defend civic space?

Roundtable Discussion 2 – Civic Space and Responsible Business
-Harsh Jaitli, Chief Executive Officer, VANI, India
-Arjun Bhattarai, Secretary General, NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN)
-Urantsooj Gombosuren, Chair, Centre for Human Rights and Development
-Jyotsna Mohan, Regional Coordinator, Asia Development Alliance (ADA)
Key questions:
1. How can business sectors can contribute to securing civic space, and how can CSOs can collaborate with them?
2. How can governments support responsible business conducts in a time of regional conflicts?

Opportunities for further international engagement – APFSD, HLPF, UN Summit for the Future, G7/G20/BRICS Summits in 2024
-Anselmo Lee, APSD, C20 International Advisor, Peoples’ 20 Co-convener
-Jyotsna Mohan, Regional Coordinator, Asia Development Alliance (ADA)

Concluding remarks
-Hideki Wakabayashi, Board, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC)


Aoi Horiuchi, Senior Advocacy Officer, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC)