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People’s SAARC Memorandum to 17th official SAARC summit

10 November 2011

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Eradicate Poverty and Injustices by Building Bridges and Connecting People

PEOPLES’ SAARC-2011

Press Release

November 10, 2011, Addu City, Maldives

The 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit that is being held in Addu City, Maldives on 10-11 November, 2011 is expected to ink several deals covering the areas of food security, collective response in natural disasters as well as trade, customs and good governance. This year’s summit appropriately titled “Building Bridges” by the host nation, strives to improve communication and collaboration among the eight members of the South Asian grouping.

We, at the Peoples’ SAARC, a parallel process to the official SAARC aimed at presenting the South Asian civil societies’ collective voices on pressing regional issues, have convened a series of country processes to evolve consensus on the future direction of the SAARC, and consolidated the outcomes of these country initiatives into this regional Civil Society Memorandum which is submitted today to the official 17th SAARC Summit for its urgent consideration.

The Summit is taking place at a time when South Asian states are beginning to look inwards to realize the region’s immense political, economic and diplomatic potentials. This is reflected in a number of initiatives undertaken by the SAARC countries to forge closer alliances to harness these potentials. While the agenda of economic and social development might have moved up as a priority item for the SAARC countries, South Asian states, at the same time, continue to veer towards their aspirations for superior military might which prompts them to scale up their military budget, diverting resources away from developmental goals, thereby compromising the basic living standards of a large section of the region’s population.

As the representative of the civil society of the South Asian states, we believe the SAARC process should be more pro-people and committed to eradication of poverty and injustices through regional developmental processes. In this outset, we do underline the need for the SAARC to expand its ambit to cover all areas of political, environmental, economic, and social and human rights, peace and justice spheres of the South Asian region. The SAARC must also strengthen its structures to deliver on the aspirations for growth and progress of the people of South Asia through the creation of an enabling environment for enhancing connectivity of the common people and by building mutual trust and easing visa regime that ensures (barrier) free mobility of people across the region.

The potentials of the region should be harnessed through equitable share of natural resources between nations and within nations to eradicate poverty and reduce income gap by drastically dropping wasteful expenditure on militarization and relocating resources for human and social development. We understand that the guarantee of informed and effective participation of indigenous people, minorities and marginalized section of the society in all spheres of life is cardinal to development, peace, justice and regional harmony.

We demand that the rights of migrant workers and their families as well as refugees should be protected by immediately ratifying relevant international instruments and creating appropriate regional mechanisms. Similarly, the long-cherished regional human rights mechanism should be established without further delay in conformity with the principles of universally accepted standards, norms and values in order to safeguard and promote human rights of people in the region. We also urge the SAARC member states to consider creating an independent climate commission with a view to promote more effective mitigation and adaptation programs to curtail adversarial impacts of climate change. We would also like to see the establishment of a regional monitoring body with a mandate to assess the compliance of the member states in installing, safeguarding and institutionalizing democratic governance based on the provisions of the proposed SAARC “Democracy Charter”.

Since women bear the brunt of all forms of inequality and rights violation, the SAARC must adopt every possible measure to ensure zero tolerance on violence against women and exhaust enabling environment to promote women’s economic security and leadership in decision-making, peace-building, security and conflict transformation endeavors. Finally, SAARC should encourage the member states to adopt competent and credible constitutional‚ legal and administrative framework to end all forms of discrimination, displacement, deprivation and the deeply rooted culture of impunity to secure a better future for the billions of inhabitants of the region.

Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti
- Peoples’ SAARC Secretariat Kathmandu, Nepal Tel: +9771 4004507, -Fax: +97714004508 URL: http://peoplesaarc.org/

Mr. Ahmed Nizam
- President Maldives NGO Federation 2nd FL, G. Uthurubin, -Alikilegefaanu Magu Male’, Republic of Maldives Tel: +960 3345818, -Fax: +960 3345817

People’s SAARC Memorandum 2011 Final