South Asia is home to above 1.766 billion people that comprise about 24% of world’s 7.442 billion populations. South Asia region has a wide diversity of cultures, languages, religions and social structures, which are severely affected by poverty. Despite several decades of planned development efforts targeted towards poverty reduction, almost all countries of South Asia have been experiencing poverty, exclusion and denial since long. Even the conventional poverty estimates show that, compared to almost one-quarter of the world population living in South Asia, half of the poor reside in this region. Out of eight countries, four (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal) are in the category of least developed countries (LDCs) in South Asia. Conflicts in different forms and manifestations —mainly rooted in denial, discrimination, exclusion, deprivation and marginalisation— are frequently faced by South Asian societies. The region has also been characterised by the unjust distribution of productive resources, resulting in deep-rooted inequality, conflict, destitution and systematic marginalisation. This unequal distribution of resources is encountered by various communities within the region.
Against the backdrop of rising poverty and escalating human rights abuses, various civil society actors from across the region, together with representatives of civil society organisations from Europe convened a consultation in 2000 AD in Manesar, India to discuss the problems facing the region and to come up with possible solutions. About 200 participants, comprising journalists, academics, trade unionists, human rights activists, NGOs and other civil society actors agreed to form an alliance to fight against poverty and injustice in South Asia. This led to the creation of the SAAPE. It was formalised later at the South Asia Civil Society Network meeting on poverty eradication in Kathmandu in December 2001.
SAAPE’s main focus is poverty eradication through policy research, advocacy, lobbying and campaign work on five key themes, which are priority concerns for civil society in all countries of the region. Since SAAPE’s inception, it is continuously working in five major thematic areas, which are:
- Food sovereignty, livelihoods, climate change and employment,
- Peace, justice and demilitarization,
- Gender justice,
- Labour rights and economic/financial crisis,
- Democracy and just governance.
From 2012, SAAPE members are focusing on food sovereignty, gender justice and demilitarization, democratisation and social justice issues in South Asia.
SAAPE envisions just societies that enjoy all human rights and freedoms, giving dignity to individuals.
SAAPE's mission is to intervene on the issues of poverty and exclusion thereby contributing for eradicating poverty and injustices, rejecting the neo-liberal development models and striving for sustainable alternatives that are pro-poor people of South Asia.
- Expanding membership constituency of SAAPE, building capacity and confidence of civil society aimed at improved access of poor, excluded, and vulnerable people in South Asia to political, social and economic governance structures of all levels and fighting against poverty and anti-people policies at national as well as regional levels;
- Analysing the situations and problems for raising awareness, developing issue-based advocacy, lobby and campaign;
- Building solidarity and shared civil society vision for the region. Bringing together civil society groups across South Asia in a platform to jointly discuss strategies and take action to contribute towards poverty eradication;
- Enabling groups of poor and excluded to identify their own sustainable solutions locally and bringing alternatives to the regional level;
- Working as a pressure group on governments, SAARC, the European Union and other multilateral bodies active in the region with lobby and campaign activities, advocating for pro-poor policies and programmes from a regional perspective; and
- Developing and promoting alternative policies that are conducive to the elimination of poverty and promotion of sustainable livelihoods.
SAAPE’s two-pronged approach
- Develop research to support advocacy and lobbying activities aimed at regional and national level decision-makers of the South highlighting the concerns and perspectives of marginalized groups and advocate pro-poor policies. And consolidate their struggles and experiences to influence the international players, particularly of the North.
- Build capacity and understanding amongst members’ constituencies to empower them to participate in development processes on their own term and implement their own solutions.
SAAPE is the only network focusing on poverty eradication in a holistic way in the region. It brings together existing like-minded networks to strengthen and build on their work; to make explicit the links between different issues that impact on poverty, and to link and bring a regional understanding to national level campaigns.