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People’s SAARC Declaration - 2014

January 22, 2015, at 12:00 am

 Created: 22 January 2015


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 against any humankind. 

We, the people (women, men and third gender) from the South Asia Region and beyond 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 socio-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 address  increasing violence against women and girls, dalits, tribal, indigenous peoples; peasants and workers; all minorities including religious, sexual, linguistic, cultural and ethnic; persons with disabilities; single women, senior citizens, people at risks, 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 -inclusive of peasants’, workers’, feminists’, Dalit, ethnic movement, democracy movement  - 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, tribal 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 2,500 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 path breaking 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, 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 and rights 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 and humane culture 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 sex -stereotypical division of labour, and human barriers that divide, peoples and minds; lands and resources; and transcend all boundaries.  

P-SAARC 2014 demands earnest attention and action from the states and governments of the South Asian countries gathered in Kathmandu for participating in the 18th SAARC Summit to “walk the talk” and act urgently with clear time bound responses to the followings:

  1. Devise and implement effective strategies with time bound, result oriented plans to eradicate poverty, hunger, all forms of discrimination including untouchability; address denial of human rights and all other forms of socio-economic anomalies;  Recognize people, not corporations, as sovereign, and ensure that policies and trade agreements including the move towards the SAFTA do not jeopardize the lives of south Asians, specially of marginalized section, including women, dalits, tribal, indigenous peoples, etc., and the lives of future generations, and hold its member states and non-state actors like corporations accountable for violations of human rights;
  2. Adopt and implement appropriate legal and administrative measures and programs   for respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of women, children, migrant and informal sector workers, youths, widows, elderly people, families, dalits, minorities, agricultural workers and fisher folks, indigenous peoples, tribal peoples, people suffering from slavery and slavery-like practices, sex workers, domestic workers, LGBTIQ, people living with HIV and AIDS, trafficking survivors, refugees, stateless, IDPs, peasants, persons with disabilities, conflict and disaster affected people and all others who are discriminated, excluded, marginalized and oppressed in different forms and manifestations; create enabling environment to exercise enjoyment of all human rights on a basis of substantive equality and non-discrimination; (HR, gender rights, social justice, exclusion);
  3. Ensure democratic, inclusive and proportionate participation through, periodic, transparent, free, fair and credible elections, to uphold peoples’ right to political participation; ensure access of all sections of society to all tiers of governance; and uphold the core democratic practices of transparency, accountability and human rights sensitivity in the parliaments of south Asia to ensure good governance across the region;  
  4. Uphold all human rights of all based on the principle of universality, interdependence and indivisibility with equal respect and promotion of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights; and ensure that the human rights agenda is not relegated under merely relegated to the welfare agenda or agenda pertaining to trafficking and other survivors from various violence and discrimination;
  5. Ensure food sovereignty, right to food and food security of south Asian people; ensure small scale family farmers to save, use and breed seeds by conserving local, resilient and quality varieties; and ensure representation of farmers in the SAARC seed bank and SAARC seed forum; 
  6. Uphold environmental conservation and climate justice, stop plundering of natural resources such as lands, forests, water, mines, minerals and fisheries, among others;
  7. Protect and promote indigenous as well as traditional knowledge systems ensuring  community control over natural resources especially for women, including socially excluded communities;
  8. Reject monolithic neo-liberal development models based merely on capital accumulation, which is designed by corporations and operated through markets that favour unjust profiteering over people’s sustainable development; promote peoples' collective rights to commons; and ensure that post 2015 development agenda are contextualized to ensure social and economic justice, gender justice, redistributive justice and do not prejudice existing human rights standards of individuals and communities anywhere; 
  9. Recognize, promote and implement people-centred South-South cooperation at all levels including people to people dialogue and inter linkages between feminists, trade unions, indigenous, dalits, disabled, women, etc. across the south Asia region to resolve issues and problems of the South; including promotion of unified South Asian Voice in international Climate, Trade and Post 2015/Sustainable Development Goals negotiations; ensure there is parliamentary/legislative oversight and pre-negotiations disclosure and consensus on positions to be taken by the negotiators for all multilateral negotiations; 
  10. Recognize and ensure participation of civil society as one of the key actors in the official SAARC process; ensure meaningful engagement of civil society organizations in policy formulation, implementation and oversight process, gender responsively and inclusively by building enabling environment, expanding space and access to resources; and guarantee freedom of association, assembly, and expression as fundamental democratic rights by establishing  SAARC forums  on indigenous peoples; tribal; women; children; elderly people; peasants; workers; persons with disabilities; dalits and others minorities;
  11. Stop losses and damages caused by unsustainable development models dependent on fossil fuels and imposed technologies; and, frame and implement policies and functional mechanisms to provide just reparation measures for the losses and damages with due consideration of the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) in global climate negotiations;
  12. Explore and adopt durable solutions for asylum seekers, refugees, stateless, Internally Displaced Persons, labour and forced migrants through appropriate legal, institutional and policy measures in conformity with international frameworks;
  13. Adopt standard contract and reference wage to ensure rights of migrant and informal sector workers; and create support mechanisms for stranded migrants and migrants in need;
  14. Establish  survivors centred, rights-based transitional justice mechanism to effectively address past violations of human rights including sexual violence and humanitarian law, and end  the culture of impunity in conformity with international standards and practices;
  15. Find comprehensive pro-people solutions through engagement with people and communities on use of energy,  multiple use of water, forest, mines/minerals and land; 
  16. Formulate and enforce human rights friendly legal mechanisms to end all forms of violence, including child marriage, child labour, sexual abuse, corporal punishment, trafficking, dowry system, caste- and ethnicity-based discrimination and other traditional harmful practices; and enact appropriate additional measures to ensure zero tolerance and raise awareness on detrimental effects of child marriage; Put children at the centre of post 2015 agenda.
  17. Embark on formulation of South Asian Water Convention taking into account equity, justice, sustainability and livelihood concerns based on international regulations and conventions while sharing water of Trans-boundary multi-national rivers; 
  18. Ban the production, use and transfer of landmines, cluster munitions and Improvised Explosive Devices; destroy all stockpiles; clear the affected land of explosive remnants of war; and  support and rehabilitate the survivors and families;
  19. Develop a regional  human rights charter and effective and participatory human rights mechanism as an apex body to promote, protect and fulfil all rights of all people of the region in conformity with international human rights law;
  20. Take immediate steps to amend the ‘SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution’ to broaden its mandate and scope; 
  21. Ensure Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for all people of the region in accordance with the Program of Action (PoA) of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action(BPFA)  and the outcome documents of their review conferences reaffirming the commitment made towards the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW);
  22. Stop continuous militarisation and take adequate steps to restore peace and prosperity in the region.  Acknowledge decision making role of women in peace building and post-conflict rebuilding and recognize women's contributions to all independence/democratic movements in South Asia; 
  23. Put in place comprehensive, legal policy, budgetary and programmatic measures in each country in order to safeguard the social, economic and cultural and civil and political rights of millions of dalits to fully enjoy their citizenship rights at par with other citizens with special recognition of the rights and entitlement of Dalit women;
  24. Eliminate all forms of manual scavenging and ensure dignity and equality for sanitation workers; ensure disposal management of human waste in strict conformity to the principles of human rights, health and environmental sustainability;
  25. Ensure constitutional and legal recognition of indigenous peoples as a distinct group with ratification and effective implementation of ILO Convention 169 and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as agreed in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples' outcome document; and adopted by the General Assembly on 15 September 2014;
  26. Review the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) which are perpetuating unfair rules in agricultural trade and allowing multi-national corporations (MNCs) to sue our governments in secret international arbitration cases as well as freezing policy regulations even for development across South Asia; 
  27. Transform existing patriarchal structure of governance policies and programmes at all levels; make a comprehensive social security/protection policies for all women; and   recognise, reduce and redistribute women's engagement in unpaid care work; 
  28. Immediately include Labour in the SAARC Areas of Cooperation; andrecognize the work and labour rights of informal workers, particularly sex workers, domestic workers, construction labourers, brick-kiln workers, garment workers, amongst others;
  29. Take immediate steps towards progressive taxation policies as well as legal mechanisms to end tax evasion in order to ensure tax and fiscal justice;
  30. Amend all the discriminatory laws related to legal identities including citizenship in conformity with international human rights standards and conventions and enforce effectively to guarantee the citizenship/nationality to all including stateless persons; 
  31. Ensure that the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals would stimulate profound and transformational change to the structures and systems that govern the lives of women and men to ensure gender-equitable sustainable development for equality, peace, prosperity and justice; and finally-
  32. P-SAARC demands implementation of all charters, declarations and conventions adopted by SAARC in the previous summits, with adequate revisions as suggested; and being partners of global civilisation all SAARC member states should immediately ratify and enforce all core international human rights instruments. 

On behalf of People's SAARC 2014, 

Sharmila Karki


P-SAARC National Organizing Committee

Dr. Sarba Raj Khadka


Declaration Drafting and Lobbying Committee

24 November 2014

Kathmandu, Nepal