A meeting of regional networks was organised by South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) to develop a regional agenda for collective advocacy on Human Rights, Peace and Democracy in South Asia and was held on 12 and 13 of January 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The consultation was attended by many regional networks, namely South Asian Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), Peoples’ SAARC, South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), The Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), Sangat , Himal Southasian, Amnesty International South Asia, FORUM-ASIA, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), Women’s Regional Network (WRN), Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Front Line Defenders, International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), Alliance for Social Dialogue (ASD) and the National Fisheries Solidarity Organisation (NAFSO). The consultation was also attended by activists and senior academics.
The participants brought in multifaceted perspectives on the present regional situation and discussed numerous avenues to respond to the challenges. It was suggested that it is essential and timely to re-imagine the concept of South Asia, de-linking it from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) while including cross-cutting and complementary definitions in order to do justice to the shared history, socio-cultural diversity and vast geography of the region. The shrinking space for civil society activities at the regional level was highlighted and the urgent need to promote greater engagement between scholars, activists, professionals and politicians across South Asia was recognised.
As the way forward all those present agreed that it is essential that a common regional voice be developed and strengthened on common issues – fisheries, migration, labour, the impact on the environment by business, xenophobia etc. Further, points such as strengthening democracies, strengthening linkages with traditional social movements and civil society at the local level, strategising to address the shrinking civic space, focusing on cross border links and commonalities, creation of a regional human rights mechanism, initiating collaborations with universities, engagement with the youth, dialogue with different constituencies, supporting human rights defenders, exploring possibilities of dispersed locations for continuing with programmes that are under pressure, and ensuring inclusiveness were also discussed.
You may access the report of the meeting here.