Poverty Eradication by Strengthening Struggles for Peace, Justice and
Food Sovereignty in South Asia
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2007
29-30 July, Hotel Himalaya, Lalitpur, Nepal
The South Asian region provides abode for 23 per cent of the world’s population. It comprises 43 per cent of the world’s absolute poor and undernourished people with low life expectancy, high illiteracy and higher degree of gender inequality. The region features a rich diversity of geopolitics, societies, cultures, traditions, natural resources and human potentials. However, fundamentalism propelled violence, socio-economic exploitation and inequalities in the pretext of caste, ethnicity and gender are common characteristics. A majority of the people are marginalized, deprived of access to political decision-making, natural resource harnessing and human development leading to conflict and violence. Injustices in different forms and dimensions prevail in this part of the world. Therefore, people across South Asia are fighting against poverty and injustices that appears in the form of exclusion, marginalization, improper distribution of resources and participation in power and policy related matters. As a result, armed insurgencies in various pretexts are also common to South Asian societies, which are partly attributed to above causes. The major underlying causes of poverty are exclusion, gender discrimination and patriarchy, ineffective governance, corporate globalization, emergencies/disasters, deprivation of
entitlements that obstructs people from social, economic and political opportunities, and noneconomic aspects – powerlessness and exclusion. Some of the conflicts in South Asia began as localised movements with specific demands linked either to denial of justice or aspirations of the communities and took the shape of larger scale movements later on.
South Asia is clearly in need of multiple peace processes that inculcate just and sustainable solutions. Several such peace initiatives are deadlocked and remain concentrated in the hands of the state power players where civil society should also have been engaged. Women are sadly excluded from almost all peace processes. There are several agenda that the states have to ensure peace with justice for all communities – especially the minorities that are systematically excluded so far. States of South Asia have to accept that people’s security needs to be ensured. Thus, they have to devise the national security framework and engage more with the people’s issues, protecting and empowering those who are excluded, marginalized, and especially those who have been traumatized by violence and conflict.
Unfortunately, these processes are either yet to emerge or are in their infant stages of operation. Contrary to states, the civil society groups across South Asia have had actively engaged in mobilizing for peace based on justice and human rights. For example, in Sri Lanka, peace groups and women’s groups have a civil society framework that intervenes with the demand of a just peace. In Nepal, civil society actors came out on the streets for human rights, democracy and peace. In India and Pakistan, groups have formed collective forums for peace and democracy. It is, thus clear that civil societies in South Asia are looking for consolidated regional peace initiatives, where governments have moved much slower than the needs of the hour.
Peace is defined as a state of absence of war or violence. However, if an oppressive society lacks violence, the society is nonetheless not peaceful, because of the injustice of the oppression. Peace, in which justice is an inherent and necessary aspect; requires not only the absence of violence but also the presence of justice and respect of human rights. Thus, it should be understood that if there exists unjust system, deprivation or exclusion of certain class or group of people, and there is absence of justice, it cannot be considered as peace
but a mechanism for structural violence. Justice is a concept involving the fair, moral, and impartial treatment of all persons. The situations of hunger and food insecurity that several people are continuously experiencing in the region are the consequences of unjust distribution of productive resources. In a bid to overcome hunger and ensure food security, the people and civil societies around the world are struggling to re-establish their sovereign rights to food. Food sovereignty is the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the producers, distributors and consumers of food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the markets operated under the influence of corporate demands.
Thus, struggle for Food Sovereignty is another issue that is most relevant to South Asian context. The blanket approach of globalization under the disguise of market economy has challenged the food sovereignty of smaller countries and developing economies. The effects of globalization promoting commercialization have now affected small farmers from producing as per their necessity and will. Access to nutritious food in the home market as well has become much more difficult with the nations accessing to WTO.
In this backdrop, the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) has organised its 2007 Annual General Meeting in the theme of “Poverty Eradication by Strengthening Struggles for Peace, Justice and Food Sovereignty in South Asia”. The AGM was held in Kathmandu on 29-30 July 2007. The representatives of peasant’s organizations, women’s group, NGOs, trade unions, grassroots social movements, independent academicians and human rights activists from SAARC countries including representatives from the European network of NGOs- Eurostep as well as EEPA participated in the AGM. The objectives of this AGM were; to share the experiences of the struggles taking place in individual countries and societies focusing on their achievements and need for intensification as per the AGM theme; to discuss SAAPE’s annual performance and plan strategies for a year ahead; and to consolidate people’s struggles for peace, justice and food sovereignty contributing to poverty eradication. The two day programme was divided into inaugural session, panel discussions, thematic workshops and plenary sessions.
During the deliberations and discussion, the participants shared their experiences and analysis in and around the issues of poverty, injustice, inequality that exist in the various countries of South Asia namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
List of International Delegates:
1 Mr. Sayed Ihsanullah Dileri, Afganisthan ; 2 Freddie Christo Gamage, Srilanka ;
3 Ms. Horia Mosadiq, Afganisthan; 4 Ms. Zakia Jowher, India; 5 Dr. D. N. S. Dhakal, Bhutan;
6 Mr. Mohan Tamang, Bhutan; 7 Ms. Radha Adkikari, Bhutan; 8 Ms. Menuka Nepal Bhutan;
9 Ms. Papu Giri, Bhutan; 10 Ms.Hasne Ara Begum, Bangladesh;
11 Mr. Abul Kalam Azad, Bangladesh; 12 Dr. Dr. Abdus Samad, Bangladesh;
13 Ms. Shahida Parvin Bangladesh; 14 Ms. Rokeya Kabir, Bangladesh;
15 Mr. Mohiuddin Ahmad, Bangladesh; 16 Prof. Gitiara Nasreen, Bangladesh;
17 Dr. Sadeka Halim, Bangladesh; 18 Dr. Rashid - E- Mahbub, Bangladesh;
19 Mr. Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, Bangladesh; 20 Prof. Babu Mathew, India;
21 Dr. Ajit Muricken, India; 22 Dr. Sandeep Pendse, India; 23 Mr. J. John, India;
24 Mr. Arun Srivastava, India; 25 Ms. Naish Hasan, India; 26 Ms. Sapna Desai, India;
27 Mr. Dhruv Narayan, India; 28 Mr. Sushovan Dhar, India; 29 Mr. Swamidas, India;
30 Mr. Gilbert Rodrigo, India; 31 Mr. Nagendra Khangarot, India; 32 Riyaz Masroor, India;
33 Mr. Mohamed Zuhair, Maldives; 34 Mr. Ijazzula Abdulla Ali, Maldives;
35 Ms. Aminath Shirani Naeem, Maldives; 36 Ms. Jyoshna Tirki, India;
37 Mr. Ahmed Asfaru, Maldives; 38 Mr. Florent Sebban Belgium, Pakistan;
39 Mr. Karamat Ali, Pakistan; 40 Mr. Khadim Ali Shah, Pakistan; 41 Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Pakistan;
42 Mr. Mirza Maqsood Ahmad, Pakistan; 43 Dr. Mohammad Irfan, Pakistan;
44 Dr. Sunil Wijesiriwardhana, Sri Lanka; 45 Farooq Tariq, Pakistan; 46 Ms. Tahira Ali, Pakistan;
47 Mr. Prodip Kumar Roy, Bangladesh; 48 Mr. Saiful Huq, Bangladesh; 49 Mr. Swapon Paul, Bangladesh;
50 Mr. Anisar Rahman, Bangladesh; 51 Ms. Shalini Bhutani, India;
52 Mr. Tapan Kumar Charaborty, Bangladesh; 53 Dr Ujjaini Halim, India; 54 Ms. Kavitha Kuruganti, India;
55 Mr. Sharad Joshi, India; 56 Mr. Krishna Kumar, India; 57 Ms. P. Suria Rajani, India;
58 Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, India; 59 Ms. Aruna Rodrigues, India; 60 Ms. Kalamani Jt, India;
61 Ms. Samina Farid, Pakistan; 62 Mr. Qumar Mohyuddin, Pakistan.