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Kathmandu Declaration of the South Asia Regional Policy Forum on 18th SAARC Summit

 

Kathmandu Declaration
of the
South Asia Regional Policy Forum on 18th SAARC Summit

We, the Members of Parliaments and representatives of national and regional civil society organizations (CSOs) of South Asian countries, attending South Asian Regional Policy Forum being organised on 10-11 November 2014 on the eve of the 18th SAARC Summit, are pleased to see that the overdue Summit is being held in Kathmandu where democratically elected leaders of South Asian countries will meet on 22-27 November 2014. We urge our leaders to maintain the usual interval in organizing such events for enhancing development collaboration in the least-coordinated region and make the process inclusive, ensuring active engagement of non-state actors.

We are deeply concerned with the fact that the region, accounting for nearly a fourth of the world’s population, still has 276 million of its population chronically hungry and ranks lowest in terms of per capita income or the human development index. We are also concerned with the fact that the emergence of our only regional platform, the SAARC, three decades back in 1985 could serve further and better if our leaders strived for meaningful cooperation ignoring the artificial constraints emerging from narrow political interests. We appreciate the theme SAARC has chosen for this round of discussions: Deeper Integration for Peace, Progress and Prosperity. We recognise that South Asian Countries are at different stages of development i.e. part of BASIC, Developing Country and Least Developed Country (LDC) Groups, with almost similar historical and cultural inheritance. However, they face common constrains to peace, progress and prosperity. We urge our leadership to focus on the common problems our people are facing at this moment and will have to cope with in near future.

We understand that human induced and natural disasters affect everybody irrespective of national boundaries and socioeconomic status. South Asia is the most disaster prone region; in addition to the increased intensity and frequency of rapid and slow onset events the region is facing new forms of disaster e.g. snowstorm and glacial lake outburst in the Himalayas. Realizing the nature and extent of disasters, member countries of SAARC must ratify immediately the ‘SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters’ and make ‘SAARC Comprehensive Framework on Disaster Management’ a binding commitment to protect millions of people at risk and to make them resilient. We urge our national governments to mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (DRR-CCA) in national development plans and in implementation. SAARC Members must learn from each others’ good practices for public sector development in disaster risk reduction.

We experience that anthropogenic climate change induced sea level rise and increased and intensified weather related extreme and slow-onset events are resulting in increased threat to ‘a safe operating space for humanity’. In the context of climate change, radical changes in population distribution and rapid urbanization, it is important that South Asian governments initiate agro-ecological zone (AEZ) specific adaptation measures at local, national and regional levels and negotiate towards drastic emission reduction at the global level as mitigation is considered the best form of adaptation.

We appreciate SAARC leadership for adopting the Dhaka Declaration (2008) and Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration (2010) for combating climate change. However, we are deeply concerned with the lack of progress in their implementation. We hope that South Asian leaders will consider ‘implementation’ a key priority at the 18th SAARC Summit. Moreover, we think, in the context of climate change, a low carbon development path should be an opportunity to promote inclusive and sustainable development in the region, especially cooperation around production and distribution of hydropower will be beneficial for people of all countries of the region.

We know that the majority of our population engaged in agriculture contribute a fifth of the GDP – which generates employment for about half the population ensuring food security at the national level. Small and marginal producers, especially women, are the leading actors in agriculture in the region. In addition to the SAARC Agriculture Vision 2020 and some other political commitments and institutional Kathmandu Declaration arrangements, the SAARC has reached separate agreements for establishment of food bank and seed bank respectively in 2006 and 2010. Unfortunately the progresses shown in their implementation remain insufficient.

We urge our political authorities to make the food bank and seed bank functional effectively and immediately. Community seed system should be strengthened and connected with SAARC Seed Bank for protecting farmer’s rights on seeds and indigenous knowledge in this age of intellectual property rights. We urge them to pursue the integral conditions of SAARC Food Bank where the issue of ‘emergency’ should be clearly clarified. Moreover, considering the multidimensional problems faced by the small and marginal producers e.g. farmers rights to be organised and bargain, agricultural input, finance and investment, agricultural services including extension services, access to productive resources including land and water, profitable price for agricultural products, research and technology, women in agriculture, ecology and biodiversity and policy coherence and coordination– the governments of the South Asian countries must devise and implement a Comprehensive Agricultural Reform Program (CARP) to ensure food security, employment generation and economic progress.

We are convinced that in most of the areas, particularly in those relevant to disaster, climate change and agriculture & food security, our political authorities are considerate enough in reaching a consensus; however, unfortunately, we observe that in most cases the decisions are either not translated into action or the quality of action is (in case of implementation) poor. Therefore, we urge SAARC leaders to reach consensus to conduct a comprehensive review of the decisions taken at SAARC since its emergence with a specific focus on implementation challenges and way forward.

We urge our political authorities, while conducting the comprehensive review process, to consider the following:

  •  Increase finance and investment for implementing the decisions. The already established SAARC Development Fund must open separate windows to support the implementation of decisions taken by SAARC leaders, particularly decisions made on disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and agriculture & food security. Any future initiatives on financial mechanism in SAARC should consider the same.
  •  Broaden the mandate of SAARC Secretariat and other entities already formed. Institutions formed should be strengthened. 
  • Make decisions legally binding; open and transparent report back mechanism including
    monitoring and evaluation must be an integral part of all decisions including agreements.
    
  • Make SAARC inclusive; people’s participation e.g. participation of civil and political society in political and technical process of SAARC must be allowed and encouraged.

SAARC countries are doing better in terms of economic growth within the national democratic political arrangement; however, we urge our political authorities to devise measures leading to more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth amongst the majority of their populace. Growth would not be sustainable unless it is just and equitable.

We thank Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA), Clean Energy Nepal (CEN), Community Self- Reliance Centre (CSRC), Nepalese Youth on Climate ACTION (NYCA), OXFAM and South Asia watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) for their support in organizing the Forum and the people of Nepal for their great hospitality provided during the Forum.

 

 

Adopted on 11 November 2014

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