New Delhi: A conclave of parliamentarians, writers, women’s rights activists and civil society organizations from across South Asia took part in ‘People’s SAARC’ to share their vision for the region just ahead of the official SAARC. This initiative has been taken in the wake of the SAARC summit to be held in Delhi on 3rd and 4th April, 2007.
The Peoples’ Saarc, as the name was chosen for the conclave, was held in Kathmandu in the last week of March where more than 10,000 people gathered to voice their concerns over the official Saarc process where common peoples’ interests are totally ignored.
“It provided a platform for South Asian trade unions, women’s movement, Civil Rights organizations, peasants organizations and landless labourers’ forums to promote democracy, peace, justice and greater harmony among people in the region” said Zakia Jowhar from Indian Muslim Women’s Movement .
According to representatives, “Saarc was established to promote welfare of those in South Asia and to improve their quality of life, accelerate economic growth and provide opportunity to live a life of dignity but it has failed to fulfill aspirations of the common people.
It largely remains an interaction among governments thereby aggravating the process of exclusion, denial of rights and democratic freedom”, said Dr. Arjun Karki , Coordinator, South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) and one of the organizers of People’s SAARC.
People’s SAARC is an attempt to create a vision of an alternative political, socio-economic and cultural system free from the baggage of history and to create a collective and a union beyond the artificial boundaries that can create a better South Asia.
“The first step towards creating this momentum is the demand for South Asian Parliamentary Forum with a clear aim to connect institutional democracies across the region with members of parliament from the seven SAARC countries”, said Ananda Pokharel, Member of Parliament, Nepal who belongs to ruling party in Nepal – CPN, United Marxist and Leninist.
“There is an urgent need to address the issues of ethnic conflicts across South Asia on a common platform”, said Mohammad Mahuruf, member of Sri Lanka organizing committee of People’s SAARC.
“Concerns of violence against women within the patriarchal structures is also necessary if one has to create a larger connect across women’s movement in South Asia”, said Dr. Renu Adhikari, women’s rights activist in Nepal.
”None of these can be achieved unless gender justice is ensured ”. The demand for people across the region to come together echoes loud and clear in the creation of People’s SAARC.