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People’s SAARC Conference held in New Delhi on 21-23 April 2010

Press Release and Final Declaration and Statements from thematic workshops

26 April 2010

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Press Release

26 April 2010, New Delhi

Some 300 people from across South Asia from social movements, civil society organisations, labour unions, peasant organisations, women’s groups, ecologists and human rights activists gathered in New Delhi from 20th April to 23rd April, 2010 as part of the process of a ’Peoples SAARC’ to forge a vision for a union of South Asian peoples’. Among the participants 120 people came from Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Among the prominent individual participants of the People’s SAARC Assembly in New Delhi were Mr Kuldip Nayar (veteran journalist from India), Mr Iqbal Haidar (Former Law Minister and co chairperson of the Human Rights commission of Pakistan), Mohamad Mahuruf (Janavakesha, Sri Lanka), Mr Karamat Ali (cofounder of the Pakistan Peace Coalition and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research), Kamla Bhasin (Founder of SANGAT -South Asia Network of Gender Trainers), Samina Khan (Sungi), Arjun Karki (coordinator, South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication), Rezaul Karim (Equity Bangladesh), Jatin Desai (Peace Mumbai), Mazhar Hussain (COVA), Farooq Tariq (Labour Party, Pakistan), Vijay Pratap (SADED); Amongst the prominent participating organisations were: GEFONT (Nepal), National Trade Union Initiative (India), Migrant Forum South Asia, National Forum of Forest Workers (India), All Ceylon United Workers Congress, INSEC, Focus on Global South, Labour Party of Pakistan, National FishWorkers Forum (India), Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, AITUC, Muttahida Labour Federation Pakistan, Bonded Labour Liberation Front (Pakistan), Shirkat Gah, Sungi, PILER, Sindh Democratic Forum, South Asians For Human Rights, Vani, Aman Trust (India), SADED (India), SAP -PK, All Ceylon United Fisherpeople Trade Union, National Trade Union Federation (Pakistan).

Background:

This year’s Peoples’ SAARC is a culmination of a process of more than a decade and a half. The first People’s SAARC meeting had taken place in New Delhi in July of 1995, as a parallel event to the 8th official SAARC summit . And the last public assembly of the People’s SAARC had taken place in Colombo in 2008.

The latest People’s SAARC assembly held in April 2010 in New Delhi reaffirmed the South Asian Peoples commitment to creating a South Asia free from all forms of discrimination, exclusion and domination. It also called for the peoples of all SAARC countries to struggle against militarism and jingoism; and demanded of the governments to reduce defence spending and make available funds for socially useful spending on public welfare and social security for all; for a regional people’ perspective on Climate change and on environmental degradation. It called for the right to mobility with dignity across South Asia. It calls for equal respect among all countries irrespective of size, and power. A broad public declaration was adopted at the conference that lists the thematic issues reflecting the concerns of social movements across South Asia. (see below Text of The Delhi Declaration)

One important event of the conference was the South Asian Parliamentarians Forum in which parliamentarians from India, Pakistan, Nepal, participated. There was overwhelming consensus among them about the need for a collective platform of Parliamentarians of the region for strengthening the SAARC process and to work towards South Asian Union. The Indian Parliamentarian Mani Shankar Iyer argued at length about a shared history and a common heritage among South Asians and the need to actively build regional cooperation.

The conference resolved to lobby the SAARC governments on a set of specific demands:

  • The SAARC governments should seriously engage with the issue of
    Climate Change and apart from adhering to the existing international commitments, should consider a common South Asian Policy on Climate and environmental issues including a regional water sharing framework. The developing countries in the SAARC region should fulfil their responsibilities vis a vis the less developed countries and the most vulnerable in the region via financial and technological means.
  • The proposed SAARC University must become operational this year as envisaged originally. Students and faculty of the SAARC university in New Delhi must be granted a restriction free SAARC Visa by the Indian government.
  • SAARC Governments should start sincerely and genuinely cooperating according to the commitments made in the SAARC charter and its various conventions and protocols. All governments in the region must put a halt to all kinds of covert activities against each other. They should also establish a joint mechanism to combat terrorism as per the requirements of the SAARC regional convention of 1987 on suppression of terrorism.
  • SAARC Development Fund and Food Bank should become operational forthwith, in order to guarantee a right to food for all South Asians. SAARC Agri perspective 2020 should be prepared in participatory way with adequate involvement of civil society organisations.
  • All South Asian governments should enter into a No-War Pact with a commitment to resolve all disputes through peaceful and democratic means only. Military expenditures should be reduced by 10% annually and funds be diverted towards social spending.
  • All governments without further delay should establish a universal and portable Social security system as envisaged in the SAARC social charter.
  • All governments in the SAARC region must ensure freedom of movement, the right to work and to conduct business for SAARC citizens.
  • We take serious note of thousands of Bhutanese Citizens evicted from their homeland by way of political victimisation and intolerance for the voice of democratic dissent. This inhuman treatment and denial of human rights along the Indo-Bhutanese border and in the camps of Nepal violating all norms under international law has been perpetuated for the last 18 years using force, including kidnapping, illegal arrest and indefinite detention. We demand the right of return to their homeland under conditions of dignity and honour and full citizenship rights. We demand that the forth coming official SAARC put this issue on the official agenda and persuade the Bhutanese Government to immediately facilitate the return of the Bhutanese refugees to their homeland. All SAARC states must create a legal and policy regime that protects the rights of refugees.

At the conclusion of the conference the steering committee of the People’s SAARC met and took the following decisions.

1. A secretariat for the People’s SAARC process will be established at Kathmandu

2. Thirteen thematic working groups have been formed to develop South Asians regional campaigns

3. A People’s SAARC processes will be established in each country to mobilise public opinion towards a union of South Asian people’s.

4. A South Asians People’s Regional Assembly will be constituted within the next three months

Released to the media by:

- Babulal Sharma
- Kamla Bhasin

CoConveners
- on behalf of the Steering Committee of the People’s SAARC
- by the Indian Organising committee consisting of Aman Trust | AIPSO | AITUC | CEC | CDSA | COVA | Ekta Parishad | Focus on the Global South | Global Gandhi Forum | Intercultural Resources | ICYO | MFA | NACDOR | NAPM | NCDHR | NFFPFW | NFIW | NTUI | PWESCR | SADED | SANGAT | SANSAD | SAPA | VANI | WNTA | South Asians For Human Rights

For futher information, please contact any of the following organisations::
- Aman Trust, jamalkidwai at gmail.com, (91-11) 41 32 80 40 /41
- Focus on the Global South, a.jafri at focusweb.org, (91-11) 46 15 03 53,
- Intercultural Resources, ihpindia at gmail.com, (91-11) 26 56 01 33
- New Trade Union Initiative, secretariat at ntui.org.in, (91-11) 26 48 69
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People’s Saarc Press Conference 26 April 2010 (Photo 1)
People’s Saarc Press Conference 26 April 2010 (at India Women’s Press Corps, New Delhi) 1
People’s Saarc Press Conference 26 April 2010 (Photo 2)
From Left to Right:
Kuldip Nayar, Ashim Roy, Kamla Bhasin, Karamat Ali, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Senator Abdul Malik

Read Also :

Delhi Declaration from the People’s SAARC Assembly 23 April 2010
- http://www.sacw.net/article1404.html

Statement Adopted by Trade Unions from South Asia, 21 April 2010
- http://www.sacw.net/article1406.html

South Asia’s rivers must be seen as a sources for nourishing and uniting peoples, not dividing them! Statement Adopted at the Water and Climate Change workshop on, 21 April 2010
- http://www.sacw.net/article1410.html