Adopted by South Asian Civil Society Conference 

27-29 September 2000, Manesar,  Haryana, India

The Hivos India Regional Office had taken the lead in the organisation of a Eurostep South Asia Consultation on Poverty Eradication and Quality of Aid held in Manesar, Hariyana, India from September 27 to 29, 2000. Of the 57 participants, 45 were selected representatives of civil societies in the South – NGO representatives, activists and lobbying organisations from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. Twelve representatives from the European Commission and Delegation were also present. The Eurostep South Asian Consultation recommendations noted the need to focus on South Asia’s population living below the poverty line, the need for independent NGOs and social movements to play a lead role in pressurising governments and donors to give serious attention to countering poverty, and the need for further alliance building and networking between Asian and European NGOs to raise impact at various levels.

During a meeting in Haryana, India, representatives comprising journalists, academics, NGOs and other Civil Society actors from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and India, together with representatives from European NGOs within Eurostep drew the following conclusions and recommendations.

  • The process of development is inherently political and if it is inequitable and non-participatory, it can actually create poverty. The objective of eradicating poverty can only be achieved through struggle in which people living in poverty are empowered to take control of their own lives and resources. People living in poverty, the majority of whom are women, are best able to identify the structural obstacles that perpetuate and accentuate poverty. In consequence, they are also best placed to set the agenda, to address these obstacles and to define solutions that can eradicate poverty.
  • The definition and framework of the Poverty Reduction Strategy as defined by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cannot eradicate poverty. On the contrary, the policies and practices of the Breton Woods institutions as they are currently modelled, accentuate poverty.
  • Current forms of globalisation based on unfettered liberalisation accentuate global inequalities both between countries and within countries. On the other hand, global alliances can actually contribute to the eradication of poverty.
  • It is clear that a ‘rights based approach’ to social development, which recognises the multi-faceted nature of poverty, is central to its eradication. The rights-based approach can also ensure that the dignity of people living in poverty is recognised.
  • The struggle to eradicate poverty calls for partnerships and alliances based on shared values and principles, together with mutuality of concerns.
  • Past development policy and practice, which emphasised technocratic approaches, have disempowered people living in poverty by de-politicising their struggles.

Therefore the participants from South Asia and Europe will work together towards:

  • Promoting a multi-dimensional, democratic and comprehensive dialogue.
  • Work towards linking constituencies in the North and South to develop common strategies, particularly with regard to the adverse affects of structural adjustment.
  • Promoting viable development alternatives based on people's own knowledge and innovations.
  • Defending people's livelihoods, including the guarding and nurturing of biodiversity, community resources and their own knowledge systems.
  • Promoting the development and strengthening the capacities of civil society organisations to create political and economic democracy.
  • Working towards identifying common strategies that address food security concerns including reforms of current policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Agreement on Agriculture of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
  • Raising awareness of human rights violations and promoting the evolution of civil societies in countries where civil society is non-existent.

We call upon the European Union to:

  • Develop new pro-poor development strategies, independent of IMF/World Bank models, in consultation with representatives of civil society and peoples' organisations.
  • Develop its country strategy papers in proper consultation with organisations of civil society, ensuring that the voices of people living in poverty are heard and reflected in the formulation of the strategies and agendas of poverty alleviation/eradication programs. In addition, a regional strategy for South Asia should be established.
  • Develop suitable mechanisms for consultative processes, including a right to information that takes onto account traditional forms of civil society. In this context, the use of new information technology, the media (inclusive of community and alternative forms) and public hearing in project impact areas should be incorporated.
  • Give increased emphasis to providing relevant support to peoples' initiatives for poverty eradication.
  • Ensure that in its budget allocations there is an increased reflection of the proportion of people living in poverty within South Asia. In addition, emphasis should be given to financing important social sectors. Scarce Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) resources should not be diverted to the private sector.
  • Establish mechanisms for a social audit in all projects that it supports, and to make a commitment to adequately address any negative consequences that are identified.
  • Work to ensure that global trade and investment regulations allow national governments to regulate and control their economics in ways that protect the rights of its entire people.
  • Use its political and economic influence to make structures of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (more) democratic.
  • Mobilise its member states to agree not to sell military arms to countries of South Asia.
  • The European Union should explicitly mainstream gender in the development co-operation agreements that it negotiates with South Asian and other countries.
  • Strive towards the promotion and preservation of a multi-polar world in which there is a respect for democratic principles and space.

We call upon the state and governments in South Asia to:

  • Enhance and strengthen their commitments to social sectors and in particular to ensure that the basic needs of all people are met.
  • Ensure that the rights of citizens to life, liberty, human dignity and livelihoods are protected and promoted, particularly those of the marginalised and minorities.
  • Ensure that the policies and practices of the state and its institutions are carried out in a transparent, effective and accountable way, free of corruption. South Asian governments in collaboration with the EU countries should take initiatives to stop market driven corruption.
  • Reject structural adjustment models defined by the World Bank and the IMF. In addition, the governments in South Asia should not bind themselves to the WTO's agreement on agriculture.
  • Reduce expenditures on defence to provide further resources for health, education, agriculture and other programs that address the needs of people living in poverty.
  • Actively work together and support networks and alliances on crosscutting areas of concern such as trafficking of women, water, refugees, citizenship, violence, ecology and disasters.
  • Ensure that their plans emerge from a consultative process that specifically involves the marginalised. Gender concerns should be emphasised in all such development plans.

We call on Eurostep and its members to:

  • Work towards the establishment of mechanisms of dialogue between civil societies constituencies in Europe and South Asia and between South Asian civil society and EU institutions.
  • Promote alternative development models drawn from people's experiences and knowledge with a view to their mainstreaming within EU development policies and practices.
  • Support South Asian networks and alliances on crosscutting areas of concern such as trafficking of women, water, refugees, citizenship, violence, ecology and disasters.
  • Work towards deepening and broadening global alliances that can effectively project the concerns and voices of people living in poverty and promote pro-poor solutions.
  • Work together in partnership to build capacity and support for effective policy interventions at the local, national and global level based on a pro-poor agenda.
  • Help promote and establish a global alliance to establish a permanent, independent, social audit commission on the policy and practices of the WTO.
  • Provide information and analysis of the development policy and practices of the European Union.

We call on Civil Society in South Asia to:

  • Work towards setting up regional alliances and supporting existing ones, to work on strategies to effectively change and combat the harmful economic policies of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation which cause increasing poverty in the region.
  • Develop strategies, which create space for people's initiatives and support their struggles, recognising the specific and different contexts of marginalised groups.
  • Develop common strategies that make governments, states and local authorities accountable and responsive to people's needs.
  • Establish dialogue collectively and individually with EU representatives.
  • Set up a "People for Peace" structure in the region, to influence governments to reduce defence expenditure and work towards peace in the region.
  • Work for the establishment of a social audit in all projects supported by the EU and to press for the EU to adequately address any negative consequences that are identified.

Secretariat is based in Kathmandu at Rural Reconstruction Nepal.