As a side event to the People’s SAARC Meeting, the Asia Democracy Network (ADN), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Regional Initiative for a South Asia Human Rights Mechanism in cooperation with the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), Nepal are organizing an inter-regional dialogue on regional human rights mechanisms with a focus on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) during the People’s SAARC in Kathmandu, Nepal on 22-24 November 2014.
Four speakers who have been engaged with the ASEAN Summit and ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR) as well as South Asian human rights mechanisms at the SAARC shared their experiences and insights about CSO advocacy in terms of lessons, challenges and strategies. Several CSO leaders from various countries in South Asia are also invited to discuss the topics in light of their national context.
This inter-regional dialogue was an opportunity to build regional solidarity through the promotion of inter-regional learning and sharing among CSO advocates to advance human rights and democracy in Asia, in particular, South and Southeast Asia.
Below is the declaration of the outcomes of the People’s SAARC 2014.
People’s SAARC 2014 – Declaration
“People’s Movements Uniting South Asia for Deepening Democracy, Social Justice & Peace”
22-24 November, Kathmandu, Nepal
We, the participants of People’s SAARC Convergence met in Kathmandu on 22-24 November 2014 to reaffirm our solemn commitments to justice, peace, security, human rights, and democracy in the region for equality for all and to eliminate all forms of discrimination.
We have come together to challenge the systematic and structural marginalisation and exclusion of people through the dominant neo-liberal economic model that is at play currently; which has been violently restructuring the region’s economic policies and cultural life of the people and undermining and devaluing both the values and institutions of democracy directly or indirectly.
We have come together to resist this threat to democracy from chauvinism, sectarianism, and communalism. Increased securitisation and militarisation of states and society in the name of combating terrorism and defending national security and increasing arbitrary detention, torture, custodial rape and extra-judicial killings have reduced space for democratic dissent and freedoms.
We have come together to respond to new challenges that have emerged in the form of climate change and environmental degradation which are of transnational dimensions; extraction of natural resources; food, water and energy crisis; and resource grab by governments and corporate
We have come together to fight increasing violence against women and girls, dalits, tribals, indigenous peoples; all minorities including religious, sexual, linguistic, cultural and ethnic; persons with disabilities; migrants and refugees; and socially oppressed groups. These systematic and structural processes and practices further reinforce and reconstitute the traditional forms of exploitative and oppressive structures, like patriarchy and caste, in new forms, in the name of progress, modernisation and reform.
Resistance has to come from civil society and mass upsurge of people as contemporary experiences from around the world is showing that in fact it is the people’s movements that can deepen the process of democracy; contend ideologically, politically and organizationally with all forms of regressive and chauvinistic regimes, viewpoints and ideologies; and build a secular framework for peaceful co-existence.
This coming together became visible in Kathmandu with the convergence of rallies across the city by a host of vibrant social movements, trade unions, peasants, indigenous peoples, women, feminists, conflict affected people, tribals and dalits, youths, elderly, academics, people with disabilities; sexual, religious and ethnic minorities and human rights activists from across South Asia and beyond with dialogues and deliberations by over 2500 activists in plenaries and more than 70 thematic sessions.
P-SAARC notes the renewed focus on SAARC by member countries and believes that ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity’ is possible only when this cooperation goes beyond the interests of regional elites and corporates, allows socio-economic empowerment, and enables the people of South Asia to build their regional identity, just development, and sustainable livelihoods towards re-shaping the democratic institutions for peace, security, equality, and prosperity for life with dignity.
P-SAARC welcomes the Government of Nepal’s initiative to form a Social Committee to give voice to the people of South Asia in the SAARC process. We hope this pathbreaking precedent becomes a regular mechanism of SAARC for meaningful engagement with civil society and people’s movements of South Asia.
Reclaiming the region requires the assertion of people’s movements with an alternative vision of a progressive regionalism based on peoples’ needs and aspirations, universal human rights, different degrees of democratization and development, and allowing the diversity, including natural and environmental diversity, of the region to flourish. This can be made possible only if alternative people centred economic cooperation challenges the neoliberal model.
P-SAARC advocates the people’s aspirations onto the SAARC agenda through people’s movements and where there is shared interest with a South Asian State, possibly aligning with it.
We reaffirm ourselves to the alternative vision of political, social, economic and cultural systems to enable ecological, social and sustainable development of the region that eliminates all forms of discriminations based on class, gender, sexuality, disabilities, caste, ethnicity, religion, language and geography; which leads to a situation free from exploitation and oppression.
We commit to create a climate in which each individual will have the opportunity to realize all human rights for all, including collective rights, and full development of their human potentials; restore the balance and harmony with nature; eliminate the artificial and human barriers that divide lands, peoples and minds; and transcend all boundaries.
P-SAARC 2014 demands earnest attention and action from the states and governments of the South Asian countries gathered here in Kathmandu for participating in the 18th SAARC Summit to “walk the talk” and act urgently with clear time bound response to the following:
P-SAARC finally demands implementation of all charters, declarations and conventions adopted by SAARC in the previous summits; and as members of the global civilization, all SAARC member states should immediately ratify and enforce all core international human rights instruments.
On behalf of People’s SAARC 2014,
Sharmila Karki, Convenor, P-SAARC National Organizing Committee
Dr. Sarbaraj Khadka , Coordinator, Declaration Drafting and Lobbying Committee
24 November 2014
FINAL People’s SAARC 2014 Declaration (PDF Version Click)