The People's SAARC regional meeting on Changing Political Landscape of South Asia and role of People’s SAARC was organised on 13-14 September, 2017 by NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN) and South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) in Kathmandu. Besides the changing political landscape and the role of People's SAARC in South Asia the meeting also highlighted that in the region people are being more and more politically alienated, denied fundamental rights as well as access to instruments necessary for realising their rights, therefore, there is a need for civil society and peoples’ movements in the region is to come up with and assert an alternative vision of regional integration or new regionalism based on peoples’ needs and aspirations. The SAARC needs to be strengthened in order to make an effective effort for regional cooperation, regional integrity and peace and SAARC should not be in a limbo irrespective of the bilateral issues between member countries.

The keynote speaker for the meet was Bekh Bahadur Thapa, former minister, former ambassador of Nepal and a member of the drafting committee of SAARC Charter. The participants consisted of Gopal Lamsal, President of NGO Federation Nepal; Rakhi Sehgal, People's SAARC India Secretariat; Wali Haider, Joint Director of Roots for Equity in Pakistan; Rashid-E-Mahbub, PSAARC Bangladesh; Nalini Ratnarajah, SAAPE core committee member Sri Lanka; Meera Sehgal, South Asian Specialist, India; Wazedul Islam Khan, Member, People’s SAARC, Bangladesh; Munaza Hasmi, Executive Director of Encourage the Human Development in Pakistan; Jyotsna Mohan, Regional Coordinator of Asia Development Alliance, India; Vishyut Agrawal, South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy (SADED), India; Padma Khatiwada, SAAPE core committee member, Nepal; Akram Bhatti, Advocate Programme Director of Encourage the Human Development (EHD) in Pakistan and Abhiram Roy, Program Director WOREC Nepal.

The participants from various South Asian countries, civil society leaders, activists urged the SAARC nations to immediately start the process of organizing the 19th SAARC Summit in Pakistan. The various sessions of the meeting was moderated by Netra Timsina, Regional Secretariat of People’s SAARC, Kedar Khadka, President of GoGo Foundation, Nastasia Paul Gera, Programme Coordinator SANGAT, India, Khalid Mahmood, Executive Director of the Labour Education Foundation (LEF), Pakistan, Sharmila Karki, Regional Steering Committee Member of People’s SAARC, Shanta Lall Mulmi, Executive Director of Resource Centre for Primary Health Care, Nepal and Deekshya Illangasinghe, Executive Director of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) Sri lanka. Panel discussions on issues such as geopolitics, democracy, human rights, rights to mobility, rising politics of fundamentalism, etc were discussed. The need to strengthen People’s SAARC as a common platform of the people of South Asia (grassroots resistance), challenges and opportunities, strategic direction of People’s SAARC and identification of action points at both country and regional level were discussed as well. The two days meeting concluded with 9 points declaration.

Read statement here