The three-day People’s SAARC Regional Convergence-2014 concluded in Lalitpur district adjacent to Kathmandu here on Monday adopting a 24-point declaration.
“We’ve 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,” reads the declaration.
The declaration has pointed out that militarisation in the SAARC member states has been increasing in the name of combating terrorism and defending national security. “Arbitrary detention, torture, custodial rape and extra-judicial killings have reduced space for democratic dissent and freedoms,” states the declaration.
Representatives of South Asian Organisations 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 sectors, it states.
“We’ve come together to fight increasing violence against women and girls, tribal, 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,” the declaration further says.
After its adoption, the declaration was handed over to the Nepalese government as the country will host the 18th SAARC Summit scheduled for November 26-27 in Kathmandu.
Sharmila Karki, coordinator of People’s SAARC Regional Convergence and also president of NGO Federation of Nepal, handed over the declaration to Nepalese Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey at the closing ceremony held at Staff College Jawalakhel at Lalitpur.
Speaking at the closing ceremony after receiving the declaration, Pandey expressed his belief that the People’s SAARC declaration will remain as a part of the SAARC declaration. “We’ll try our best to implement the People’s SAARC declaration,” he said.
The minister also observed that commitments made in the previous summits could not go into implementation due to internal political transition of the respective SAARC member states such as Nepal that was passing through a ten-year-long armed insurgency.
Stating that peace is a perquisite for prosperity, Pandey was of the view that SAARC should focus on fundamental areas of people such as quality education, food security and poverty alleviation. “Democracy is always for the common people. I hope the SAARC will address common people’s aspirations in the days to come,” Pandey added.
A total of 72 thematic issues were discussed in the three-day convergence where some 2,500 activists representing over 150 South Asian organisations including Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Maldives, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Nepal, took part.
Participants of People’s SAARC Convergence that began on November 22 reaffirmed their solemn commitments towards justice, peace, security, human rights, and democracy in the region for equality for all and to eliminate all forms of discrimination.
It was noted during the convergence that the resistance has to come from civil society and mass upsurge of people as contemporary experiences from around the world show that it is in fact the people’s movements that can deepen the process of democracy; contend ideologically, politically and organisationally with all forms of regressive and chauvinistic regimes, viewpoints and ideologies; and build a secular framework for peaceful co-existence.
On Saturday, Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bamdev Gautam formally inaugurated the three-day convergence with the slogan of ‘People’s Movement Uniting South Asia for Deepening Democracy, Social Justice and Peace’.
Civil society members gathered in Katmandu to push the agendas from civil society perspective to the formal process of SAARC.