South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) is a regional network with a membership base consisting of like-minded human rights activists, practitioners, experts and institutions committed to addressing human rights issues at both national and regional levels.
The South Asian region is severely affected by long term inter-state tensions and internal conflicts which have caused long lasting effects on political stability, economic development, governance and the respect for human rights in all countries of the region.
Women Human Rights Defenders associated with SAHR share a vision of South Asia as a region where attaining peace, justice, democracy and respect for human rights are the shared aspirations of the people and our governments. Our vision includes a region that promotes, protects and respects women’s human rights as equal citizens and where women’s contributions in peace building is not only recognised, but also actively facilitated.
Even though the situations of conflict have had a severe impact on the lives of women and other vulnerable and marginalised communities, they have, by and large, been denied a role in peacebuilding and are excluded from peace processes, whether related to internal conflicts or to tensions between states in the region.
In order to overcome trends that have become an impediment to internal stability of states and progress in deepening democracy and respect for human rights in the region, such as intolerance, extremism, flawed governance and the failure to halt ever deepening inequalities, injustice and discrimination, we as SAHR have undertaken an initiative to create a people’s movement for peace, development and human rights. This Initiative intends not only to give prominence to women’s contribution in building peace but also to bring women into the mainstream security discourse.
Our visit to Sri Lanka is a part of that initiative. We are here to bring the message of regional peace and solidarity amongst South Asian civil societies. During our stay here, we met with many people: The representatives of civil society in Colombo, Vavunia, Kilinochchi and Trincomalee; people affected by war in the northern and the eastern province and people affected by the construction of the coal power plant in Sampur; Chairperson and the Commissioners of the NHRCSL; officials of the Office of the National Unity & the Reconciliation; and the Senior Human Rights Adviser, OHCHR.
The first South Asian Peace Mission to Dhaka, Bangladesh was completed successfully on 5 & 6 December. The Mission met the faculty and the students of the Department of Law, State University of Bangladesh for a fruitful discussion on status of Human Rights in Bangladesh and in the region; they met with a group of Civil Society representatives; they had an opportunity to meet the acting foreign secretary and the Prime Minister’s advisor on International Relations. The South Asian Peace Mission in Dhaka received a wide media coverage especially highlighting the mission’s message about the essence of people’s solidarity across the region even at times when relations between governments are under strain.
We hope that this initiative will inspire governments to follow the desire of their people for unity, regional strength and developing common interests that will advance the interests of the people of the region.
SAHR is committed to send similar peace missions to all South Asian countries and to stimulate consultations to search practical and useful measures to achieve the objectives of this initiative.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights