The Asia Land Meeting was an initiative born from interest expressed during two meetings: one, an international meeting in Washington DC in April 2002, of a group of academics and activists working with or representing people’s organisations from throughout Asia, each involved in the struggle for land rights in their respective countries.
This informal group felt that there was a wealth of experience in the region which was difficult to tap due to limited contacts. A meeting was therefore proposed to establish a closer network of organisations working in this field, build up solidarity and to explore the development of a common strategy and joint activities for the future. And two, the Asia Social Movements Meeting that was held in Bangkok, Thailand in August 2002. This meeting brought together numerous movements and local organisations from across Asia, many of them engaged in land and agrarian reform struggles. Here too, thoughts were expressed about the importance and timeliness of organising a regional meeting specifically on land and agrarian reform, in order to create an opportunity for establishing closer contacts among like-minded groups, to build solidarity across movements and struggles, and to strengthen the power of peoples’ movements demanding progressive land and agrarian reform.
Substantive support and partial funding for the meeting was received from the Land Research Action Network, an international network of activist researchers committed to producing and disseminating research for movements involved in land struggles. The Heinrich Boll Foundation in Chiang Mai, and Action Aid, Bangkok also provided financial support for the meeting.
Participants from 31 organisations and 10 countries (Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, The Lao PDR, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam) came together for the meeting. Valuable contributions were also provided by activists from elsewhere including Brazil, Colombia, South Africa and the United States (see agenda and international participants list). A major strength of the workshop was the interest and participation of about 100 people from all four regions of Thailand, including landless and indebted peasants, urban poor and activists.
The primary purpose of the meeting was to bring together the different movements and people’s organisations, with a view to strengthening the links between them. The idea was not to create a new network, but to give the groups a chance both to share and discuss their own experiences and strategies as well as to learn from others.