By Yuba Nath Lamsal

KATHMANDU (Nepal), March 26 (Bernama) -- Prominent civil society leaders from across eight countries of South Asia have assembled here to discuss the role of civil society in promoting peace in the region and making the forthcoming 18th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) fruitful and successful in realising its goals.

The SAARC Peace Conference, which started Wednesday, has attracted eminent scholars, peace activists and civil society leaders from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The two-day conference, organised by South Asian Alliance for Poverty Alleviation, will have comprehensive discussion on the ways for spearheading campaign at the people's level on disarmament, denuclearisation, democratisation and institutionalisation of social justice in the South Asia, said Dr Netra Timilsina of the Human Rights Alliance ( HRA) of Nepal, the local host.

The 18th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation will be held in Nepal later this year.

In today's session, coordinator of the Least Developed Countries' Watch Group Dr Arjun Karki, Chairman of HRA Nepal Ganesh BK, Nepal's former ambassador to Japan Dr Bishnu Hari Nepal, former parliament of Nepal Birendra Pokhrel and Pakistan's civil society leader Karamat Ali emphasised the need for advancing people's movement for institutional development of democracy, social justice, peace, harmony and cooperation in South Asia.


Dr Karki was particularly concerned at the present state of poverty and backwardness in South Asia and said that South Asian countries have not been able to achieve desired economic development at par with countries in other regions especially its nearest Asean region, in the absence of institutional development and social justice.


Dr Karki also called upon the civil society leaders to play the role of vanguard for democracy, people's well-being, peace and justice in the region.


Pakistan's Karamat Ali said that democracy without social justice is meaningless and called for strong civil society movement in South Asia to make the governments of the region more accountable to the people.

The conference will conclude on Thursday.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was formed in 1985 in the model of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to promote cooperation among the member countries in South Asia.

Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan and the Maldives are the members of the SAARC whereas China, Japan, Myanmar, South Korea, US, Australia, European Union, Iran and Mauritius are its observers.

South Asia is the region that houses the largest number of poor people and one of the goals of the SAARC is to free South Asian population from the state of abject poverty, reduce tensions among the member countries and establish lasting peace in the region.


Source: (27 March 2014)