June 1, 2022, at 8:42 am

Kathmandu Declaration 2022

A South Asian Peoples’ Declaration for Peace, Equality, Human Dignity.

May 27, 2022

SAAPE Sixth General Assembly, 26-27 May 2022

WE, the members of the Sixth General Assembly of South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) and Peoples’ SAARC, having met at Kathmandu, Nepal from 26-27 May 2022 on the occasion of the Sixth General Assembly of SAAPE

WE have taken note of the worsening socio-economic, political situation and conflicts and tensions in our respective countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka). We recognize that South Asia is at the lowest ebb in terms of cooperation among South Asian countries in trade and overall social development. The two major waves of the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in lockdowns and the consequent economic losses, rise of unemployment and hunger, have dovetailed simultaneously with the rise of religious fundamentalism, political extremism, loss of freedom of association, rise in complete political destabilisation in Afghanistan, and greater dependence of many countries on privatisation models for achieving financial stability.

WE are mindful of the existence of common problems in the region and convinced of the need to strengthen regional solidarity and cooperation in the process of recovering from COVID-19, and the strengthening people’s access to public health in the long term.

WE are in pain and alarmed about the increasing deprivations and inequalities in the human, cultural, economic, social and political spheres of our people and the declining values of social, political democracy and human rights in the region,

WE Recall SAAPE’s mission to intervene on the issues of poverty and exclusion, and we affirm the commitment to reviving Peoples’ SAARC to build solidarities among social movements and the need to take new initiatives and actions which will ameliorate the present situation.,

Hereby, adopt the following declaration:

  1. We recognize the commitment to build alternative political and social justice to strengthen peoples’ movements for a more equitable and dignified life.
  2. The neo-liberal agenda imposed by the US Empire has remained as the fundamentalists’ weapon in Afghanistan. It has brought its people, particularly women and children to their worst forms of existence. The experience of Afghanistan clearly suggests that outsiders, with full mindsets of fundamental extremisms, cannot inject democracy and human rights. Democracy can only come through peoples’ movements for human rights and good governance.
  3. There is an unprecedented increase in the levels of different kinds of violence, human rights violations, and exclusionary measures with less or nothing being reported about such cases. We believe all the stakeholders and actors whether internal or external must do what is necessary to reduce and stop these atrocities in Afghanistan.
  4. The political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka reinforces our belief that war and neoliberalism will not work in South Asia. 
  5. We note that in the midst of growing hardships of steeply rising living costs, food and fuel shortages and, loss of livelihood, the people of Sri Lanka have launched a struggle that is peaceful, united and determined. We support their struggle to overcome the challenges of an authoritarian, corrupt government, and an anti-people constitution that perpetuates repression and ruthless exploitation of people, their resources and the environment.
  6. The People’s SAARC fully endorses the call from most sections of Sri Lankan citizenry for a complete renewal of Sri Lanka’s constitutional framework, especially the abolition of the executive presidential system, which has enabled the extreme concentration of power in individuals.
  7. SAAPE is committed to helping coordinate, and strengthen the peoples’ organisations in the region.
  8. We condemn religious fundamentalism and violence against minorities, consequently, the spread of terrorism by both state and non-state actors. We unequivocally denounce the use of terror against civilian populations in all forms and circumstances. 
  9. Feudalism still prevails in our region. This extends to social relations within the family, within governments, resulting in dynastic rule within government and also within the corporate structures. Feudal power is an obstruction to democratic governance and accountability.
  10. We need agrarian reforms and we need to focus on the issues of food sovereignty.
  11. We are alarmed by the increasing warmongering and spawning of trans-border hostilities by South Asian states to suit their sectarian political interests.
  12. We demand that the states of South Asia de-link from terrorists, religious fundamentalists, and extremist groups and organizations that attack unarmed civilians to further their political gains. 
  13. State and religion must be separated. We reaffirm our commitment to a progressive, democratic and secular state. 
  14. The stories of hunger, unemployment, disease, illiteracy, homelessness, increasing child labour, gender inequality, discrimination, casteism, and racism, especially against the fishers and other excluded social groups such as the Dalits, Adivasi, LGBTQIA, of our region is prevalent in every corner of South Asia. We demand adequate public resources to address these issues.
  15. The economic restructuring of South economies has resulted in all the South Asian countries adopting the Washington Consensus model of stabilisation packages, which actually has resulted in further destabilizing the people’s ownership of their resources, the commons, and their policies of State services since 1991. The present acute privatisation of public goods, the collapse of the public health services during the recent pandemic, and the failed models of development are all a result of the long-term addiction of south governments to the models of development, which the West has forced on our governments. Privatisation and deregulation have led to increasing corporatisation of State resources, tax freebies, and policies favouring the wealthy.
  16. Inequalities are consequently at an all-time high. The vulnerability of the health system, the lack of food pricing to protect people from the volatility of inflationary pressures, and the monopoly of a few food companies have reversed the gains that were achieved soon after independence. The climate crisis is a result of the overconsumption of some at the cost of hunger for the many. The pandemic only highlighted the underbelly of capitalist adventures that the stabilisation measures brought about. Unequal value chains are evident in most production lines where the firms outsource the production to other south countries where the risks reside. The new international economic order brings in more stringent privatisation measures, more flexibilities in labour standards at the production end, and foreign direct investment, which has stringent forms of labour extraction attached to them. In the long run and already in the medium-term indebtedness occurs, and self-reliance is lost. It is critical to protect the sovereignty of national ideas of the people, their idea and their vision of development. The illegitimacy of public debt must be exposed, confronted and governmental actions must come under public scrutiny. 
  17. The climate crisis is closely linked to the models of development. Communities for decades practised sustainable development and governments need to promote and scale-up community successes. The climate crisis is a result of the corporatisation of agriculture, uncontrolled use of energy, etc. It is important that governments scale up successful models rather than import ways of food production, which destroy the resilience of the people. 
  18. Land and natural resource grab in South Asia is a serious issue that has led to the alienation of people from their rights to life and rights to livelihoods. Land grabbing must be stopped urgently. We demand rational utilization of natural resources and democratic control of communities over them to eradicate poverty. A democratic and ecological regional planning for water and other resources must be ensured as a priority. 
  19. The dilemmas of resistance for civil society organisations have also become a critical factor in how movements may build up their work in alleviating people’s distress. Registration is needed for receiving funds. However, such compliance brings with it other problems of surveillance and loss of freedom of association. The crisis is acute and there is no easy answer to this issue. The valuation of freedom in our societies is a sword of Damocles that thwarts our roads ahead for the freedom of association.
  20. We demand the release of all fishermen jailed in India, Pakistan Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, and go for an agreement to announce a Non-arrest Policy. 
  21. We see the need for a people-friendly Rule of Law based political order that is mandated through a constitutional arrangement where sovereignty rests entirely with the people. Citizens should have the right to recall corrupt officials along with the machinery that can put such usurpers of power behind bars, after due process of law.
  22. We urge the governments of the region to individually, and collectively, prioritize post COVID economic recovery through regional collaboration and cooperation. All individual member countries must come together to address the issues of vaccine inequality, vaccine accountability, and economic recovery in the region. 
  23. We also demand that Sri Lankan refugees wanting to stay back in India are given citizenship. The Sri Lanka government must provide security and assistance to those wanting to return to their homeland. 
  24. SAAPE stands committed to helping appraise the situation of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal and the Rohingya community who were exiled. There is a need for an effective regional and international response to this issue. 
  25. We urge the governments of South Asia to manage proper documentation of these migrant workers and their rehabilitation and reintegration with high priority for women, girls, and their children while being abroad for a longer time.     
  26. We urge states to unilaterally repudiate sovereign debts.
  27. We have realized that the marginalization and structural exclusion of women from governance, economic and political participation has reinforced the feminization of poverty, discrimination, and violence against them. Furthermore, it has hindered women’s accession and influence in politics and governance.  The exclusion of women and other sexual minorities from politics and governance is a violation of fundamental human rights as it breaches the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We recognize that women’s meaningful engagement in politics and governance is their fundamental right and their meaningful participation can contribute to reducing gaps in society while promoting peace and dignity for all. Governments should promote social democracy within families and societies through education. Governments must institutionalize zero tolerance for any forms of violence against women. 
  28. South Asia is affected by the caste system and the resulting structural discrimination which destroys inclusive social relations. As a result, the Dalit community faces multiple problems and they lie at bottom of the hierarchy in our society. South Asian governments need to take more appropriate actions for the upliftment of the Dalit communities. 
  29. We are in favour of a secular, democratic, humanist order free from discrimination of all kinds, denial of dignity, and artificial boundaries that impede our right to movement, especially at the level of general citizens. We demand visa-free movement across borders. Besides, we envision a society that guarantees us all Human rights, especially that which is contained in the International Bill of Rights. We demand that all South Asian governments ratify and implement all Human Rights conventions as our societies can only claim to be democratic when the rights of the marginalized are guaranteed. 
  30. Full social security needs to be guaranteed for all vulnerable populations in South Asian countries by national governments. We must ensure a minimum living wage and job security for all workers in the region. With the ever-rising inequalities, this is mandatory.
  31. We are acutely aware that catastrophic levels of climate change will make the poor and marginalized even more vulnerable. To combat this, we must institutionalize sustainable and resilient patterns of production and consumption.
  32. We appreciate the Sustainable Development Goals’ affirmation to reduce inequality, combat climate change, and strengthen labour rights. However, we have apprehensions that the efforts to eradicate global poverty only through economic growth, export-oriented models, trade liberalization, etc. within the existing neo-liberal paradigm would be counter-productive and perpetuate poverty as well as increase greenhouse gases. We assert that the attainment of SDGs is dependent on structurally changing the current socio-economic model and its institutions.
  33. We, the citizens of South Asia summon all our friends in Civil Society and in people-friendly political processes to wake up to the needs and aspirations of ordinary people, to strive for a new world order and, to make sustained efforts in South Asia. We must ascertain the will of the widest sections of civil society and move forward to defeat the forces of fundamentalism and elite capture while abolishing discrimination based on gender or social group affiliations. We must together end all forms of religious fundamentalisms, poverty conditions, inequalities and create a new form of world order based on humanist values and the agreed Conventions of the UN and nationally established Constitutions. 
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