P-SAARC - Memorandum Final

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Memorandum Peoples SAARC Presented at 17th Official SAARC Summit, Addu Atoll, Maldives Nov 10-11, 2011 The seventeenth official SAARC Summit is taking place at a time when South Asian states are beginning to look inwards to realise the regions‟ political, economic and diplomatic potential. This is reflected in a number of steps taken by the SAARC countries to forge closer alliances to promote these goals. The recent developments for the resolution of bilateral disputes between SAARC countries in
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  MemorandumPeoples SAARCPresented at 17 th Official SAARC Summit, Addu Atoll, Maldives Nov 10-11, 2011 The seventeenth official SAARC Summit is taking place at a time when South Asian states arebeginning to look inwards to realise the regions‟ political, economic and diplomatic potential. This isreflected in a number of steps taken by the SAARC countries to forge closer alliances to promotethese goals. The recent developments for the resolution of bilateral disputes between SAARCcountries including India-Bangladesh, India-Pakistan, Afghanistan-Pakistan, are certainlyencouraging and signal t he SAARC states‟ willingness to move beyond age old divisions to work witheach other as regional partners for the growth and progress of the individual countries.While the agenda of economic and social development might have moved up as a priority item for the SAARC countries, South Asian states, at the same time, continue to veer towards their aspirationsfor superior military might that prompts them to scale up their military budget, diverting resourcesaway from developmental goals, thereby compromising the basic living standards of a large section of  the region‟s population. A region that houses 23% of the total world population contributes less than 3 percent to the global GDP and houses 400 million of the world‟ s poor. As a region, South Asia canhardly afford to undertake projects that undermine the well being and development of its peopleWe, at the Peoples ‟ SAARC, a parallel process to the official SAARC aimed at presenting the South Asian civil society‟s collective voice on regional issues, have convened a series of country processes toevolve consensus on the future direction of the SAARC process, which we believe should be morepro-people and committed to regional progress. The successive country processes of Peoples‟ SAARC have led to the formation of a formal delegation that reconvenes here at the seventeenth officialSAARC Summit in Maldives to present the following points:    As a representative of the civil society of the South Asian states, the Peoples ‟ SAARC sees theofficial SAARC as a significant process to boost regional development. However, we dounderline the need for SAARC to expand its ambit to cover all areas of political, economicand social spheres of the South Asian region. SAARC must also strengthen its structures todeliver on the aspirations for growth and progress of the people of South Asia.    South Asia has recently registered substantial progress in democratic development. All eightSAARC countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives andBhutan have elected representatives today. This is a positive development for a region that has come to assume an important position in the world‟s efforts for global peace and development.    We are encouraged to see the recent spate of developments in the bilateral relations of anumber of South Asian states. These include the commitment for an extended bilateral  cooperation along with improved trade ties between India and Bangladesh; the facilitation of overland transit to Nepal from Bangladesh; the restoration of the dialogue process betweenPakistan and India –   emphasised by the official machinery as serious and “ uninterruptible ” ,the recent announcement by the two countries to work towards improved trade links,enhanced diplomatic support on a bilateral level at global forums; the execution of theAfghan Transit Trade along with improved political links between Pakistan and Afghanistan;the end of civil war in Sri Lanka; and the continuation and expansion of opened borders withBhutan and Nepal.    We also welcome the decision by the Government of Pakistan on granting the status of theMost Favoured Nation to India. The decision has wide ranging benefits that cover botheconomic and social realms. Apart from the much desired normalisation of trade relationsbetween the two countries, the GoP‟s move shall also pave the way for  facilitating greater people-to-people contact which shall contribute in bringing the two nations a few stepscloser to the resolution of their outstanding disputes.    The withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan – a process that is underway - marks themove towards closing of a foreign imposed war in the region. The war against terror broughtendless miseries to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and also altered the dynamics of engagement between South Asian states, pushing the region unnecessarily to adopt a securityposture that fuelled regional tensions and conflicts.    We welcome the establishment and functioning of the SAARC University andemphasize that it must specialize on social issues relevant to the quality of life of themajority of our people such as: human rights, basic entitlements, sustainabledevelopment, secularism, fair trade, environmental justice and the like. While there are positive developments, the region is also bogged down by a series of actions,especially those taken by the states, and events, that bear negatively on fundamental human rights,including right to life, right to equality and access to basic services. These actions and events seek tohurdle the realisation of the massive potential of the region as a democratic, progressive,economically developed, peaceful and stable society. We express our concern at these developmentsand point these out to urge the SAARC governments to address them on a priority basis: Increased Defence Spending: From 1998- 2007, South Asia‟s military expenditure has grown by 57%. The region spends 2.5% of itsGDP and over 15% of government expenditure on defence. In terms of military expenditure as apercentage of GDP, Pakistan spends the highest at 3.2% of GDP; Sri Lanka, 2.9%; India, 2.7%; Nepal,1.7%; Afghanistan, 1.5%; and Bangladesh, 1%. In a region where 260 million people lack access torudimentary health facilities, 337 million lack safe drinking water, over 400 million people go hungry every day, and the average public health expenditure stands at 1.7% of the region‟s GDP, an  astronomical allocation to defence expenditure that stands around $40bn is highly atrocious andunjust. Increased Nuclearisation: The nuclear arms race between Pakistan and India are taking a toll on the two nations‟ development expenditure for public. According to estimates, Pakistan‟s nuclear  arsenal comprises about a hundredwarheads, while the country has already produced sufficient fissile material to manufacture another hundred. India had assembled 60 to 80 warheads and produced enough fissile material for 60-105nuclear warheads. While both countries insist that they are maintaining arms for deterrence (Indiaagainst China and Pakistan against India), their reluctance to pursue meaningful peace process toresolve bilateral disputes is an indication of their non seriousness towards the threat of thenuclearisation of the region. Food Insecurity:  South Asia is home to 40% of the world's poor; those who survive on less than a dollar a day. Theregion also has the world's highest proportion of malnourished children, with India topping at 46%followed by Nepal with 45%, Pakistan with 38%, Bangladesh with 37% and Sri Lanka at 29%.According to World Bank experts, more than one-third of all child deaths in the region are due tomalnutrition. The average consumption of food stands at around 2,340 Kcal/person/day (2003-05),much below the world average of 2,770 Kcal/person/day. With consistent rise in food pricesfollowing the 2008 global food crisis, the South Asian population that already spends 40 percent of their household spending on food, is likely to undergo a tough situation in the face of high incomeinequality reflected in a per capita income of just over US$590 for the region. Climate Change and Environmental Concerns: South Asia, as a region, remains extremely vulnerable to climate change and environmental threats.Bangladesh with frequent cyclone and Pakistan with the recent spate of floods and water scarcity areamong those countries most threatened by climate change. According to experts, O3 concentrationsare increasing rapidly in South Asia causing crop yields to decline by between 5 and 35%. Reducedriver flows and rising sea levels also raise the risk of saltwater intrusion into freshwater habitats.With global warming, low-lying coastal countries such as Bangladesh remain especially vulnerable totropical storms and storm surges. The threats to natural habitat, agricultural production, foodsecurity, population demography and the resultant socio-economic impact on the population are toogreat to be ignored by individual SAARC countries as well as the region on the whole. Compromised Human Development Over the years, despite progress on economic and political fronts, the South Asian countries haveshown very little progress on human development. There are more children out of school in South  Asia than in the rest of the world, and two-thirds of this wasted generation is female. Half thechildren in South Asia are underweight, compared to 30 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. South Asia isthe only region to run against the global biological norm, with only 94 women for every 100 men(the world ratio is 106 women to 100 men); so 74 million women are simply „missing‟. The combinedpopulation of these five countries is expected to rise from the current 1.5 billion to 2.2 billion by2050, with the biggest increases occurring in rural areas where the poorest people live. Internal Conflicts: South Asia as a region suffers from a spate of internal conflicts that not only continue to put a strain on the SAARC countries‟ developmental resources, their impact on regional stability and progressive relations between the SAARC nations remain negative. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepalcontinue to be mired by internal conflicts with rates much higher than expected for their stage of developmentThe handling of the ongoing conflict in Pakistan (Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas[FATA], and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), India (Maoist insurgency in Bihar, Chhattisgarh,Jharkhand, and Orissa), and the post conflict phase in Sri Lanka and Nepal all have raised seriousquestions regarding fundamental human rights of the population affected by conflicts. The South Asian states‟ unwillingness to arrive at a peaceful resolu tion of the conflict leaves behind a trail of instability in the region trapping the states into another round of arms race and compromises ondevelopment goals. Growing corporatisation: The growing corporatisation of the manufacturing sector, farming, and media in the South Asianregion have had serious implications not only on the terms of employment for workers involved inthe sector, but also on the overall resource distribution order. The eagerness of the South Asian statesto accommodate corporate giants while compromising local resources and growth of local talent hasgiven way to serious violations of human rights while also raising environmental concernsthreatening the future of the region and well being of the people. Recommendations: We, the members of social movements, civil society organizations, labour unions, peasant movements, other working people‟s organizations and women‟s groups from across SouthAsia make the following demands from the heads of the state meeting in Addu Atoll inMaldives for the 17 th SAARC Summit in Nov 10-11:    We call for the South Asian states to recognize the universality of opportunity, equalrights and dignity of all people including excluded groups and minorities; including
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