June 8, 2009, at 5:38 am

Kathmandu Declaration, 2009

Adopted by 3rd General Assembly (2009) of SAAPE

We the citizens of South Asia, representatives of civil societies from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, met in the Third General Assembly of the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication in Kathmandu from 8 to 9 August 2009. This Declaration represents the collective will of the members present to work against neo-liberalism. We embrace sustainable development for the definitive eradication of poverty and the betterment of the lives of all people in the region, particularly those living in poverty and without rights, those suffering injustice and the effects of conflict and discrimination. 

We call on all governments of the region, and the international community as a whole to unreservedly ensure the universal right of all to life, shelter, social security and livelihood. All the hard won rights must be preserved and built upon. We demand that all governments of the region recognize the global failure of the neo-liberal model to bring equitable development to all. The global economic crisis is symptomatic of the broader failures of commoditisation of the world’s resources and exploitation of nature. 

While we recognise the threat of climate change the solution does not lie in either displacing people from the forest and land, or in international carbon trade. The International Financial Institutions have accentuated land grab and displacement of forest and rural communities, loss of traditional livelihoods and a sharp increase in hunger and farmer suicides. We demand a reversal of neo-liberal economic policies and the restoration of public management and ownership. The restructuring of South Asian economies has led to the loss of millions of jobs and rampant poverty and intensification of poverty in both urban and rural communities. Elitist growth-led economic strategies have reduced possibilities for overall livelihood concerns in economic policy. 

Neo-liberal policies have led to an attack on democratic struggles including the use of anti-terror laws against people’s movements. The states cannot claim impunity since these are in violation of international human rights law. In view of the crushing debt burden there must be cancellation of debt by the IFIs and Northern lenders. South Asian governments must not borrow any more funds from the IFIs. 

Therefore, we commit here to redoubling our efforts as a united South Asian community to act in solidarity with people’s movements in the region- Dalits, indigenous peoples, labour (including migrant workers), fisherfolk, women, peasants, refugees, minorities, displaced peoples, and all other excluded peoples. The access of youth to secure futures must be ensured. Travel within South Asia should be visa free. Our solidarity extends to people and movements worldwide.

We demand governments to recognise and support the emerging diverse development alternatives initiated by communities that have successfully incorporated principles of gender justice, ecological sustainability and participatory democracy. Adequate resources must be allocated to implement these alternatives on a national and regional scale. The state must respect, protect and fulfil the basic legal, social and economic rights of all citizens, including food sovereignty.  This will require increased prioritisation of financial resources to this end.

The people of South Asia are witness to the increased militarism and militarisation in the region, and the heightened arms race and trade, while poverty and destitution, civilian deaths, and insecurity are on the rise. There is a need for a collective action by South Asian states to combat extremism and to significantly reduce military expenditures.  South Asia should be declared a nuclear-weapons free zone. Security in the region can only be achieved by just and sustainable social and economic development. All disputes between South Asian countries should be resolved by transparent negotiations. The people of South Asia deserve clean and people-friendly governments.

We resolve to struggle against all forces that create poverty, conflict and violence. Our governments must fulfil their constitutional obligations to secure peace and social justice.

9 August 2009

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