SAARC/Alternative People's Regionalism

On the eve of the 16th SAARC Summit to be held in Thimpu, Bhutan on 28 – 29 April 2010, the South Asian CSO leaders are organizing Peoples’ SAARC summit in Delhi on 23 & 24 April 2010. In this context Peoples’ SAARC Bangladesh Chapter has organized several events in Dhaka, which includes- press conference on 17 April, cultural Program on 18 April and National Seminar on 19 April. From these events CSO leaders in Bangladesh called the South Asian Governments to bring out SAARC from the grip of bureaucracy and make the SAARC for the well-being of the common people of the South Asia. They also demanded Visa Free South to foster solidarity and people-to-people contact. CSO leader from Bangladesh, including representative from EquityBD, are also participating in the Peoples’ SAARC Summit in Delhi.

Besides, EquityBD has developed several policies brief on the emerging common issues of the South Asian countries; Please find the policy briefs at below

[Management_of_common_resource] [SAARC_Agriculture] [SAARC_Regional_integration] [South_Asia_peace]

Dhaka, 19 April 2010: Today in a seminar held in CIRDAP Auditorium Dhaka, People’s SAARC Bangladesh National Committee, a coalition of right groups called on the governments of the South Asian countries to bring-out SAARC from the corridor of bureaucracy and make the SAARC effective in the promotion of the welfare of South Asian common people. On the eve of the 16th SAARC Summit to be held in Bhutan on 28 and 29 April, alliance also urged the South Asian government to promote people-to-people contacts on a larger scale through developing South Asia a ‘visa-free region along with a free trade regime”. Dr. Rashid E Mahbub, Chairperson of Peoples’ SAARC Bangladesh National Committee, chaired; while Rokeya Kabir moderated the seminar.

Md Shamsuddoha of EquityBD, made the keynote presentation in the seminar, said, two and a half decade ago SAARC was launched with a common vision to promote regional co-operation that, basically, represents the hopes and aspiration of all common people of the region. However, in the declaration issued after first SAARC Summit, the SAARC leaders made this process conditional to ‘peace and security’, and the SAARC Charter deliberately excluded ‘bilateral or contentious issues’ from the discussion. This has to be revised, SAARC Charter to include bi-lateral contentious issues for immediate resolution. Dr. Syed Anwar Hossain, Professor, University of Dhaka and the Chief Guest of the seminar said that to the common people SAARC is not an association meant for economic cooperation alone. People of this region visualize it as an embodiment of South Asian identity. Shawkat Momen Sajahan MP, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture Ministry said that, visa free South Asia in fact will pave the free movement of labour and workers of these region, who in fact has the rights on South Asian common natural resources.

Editor Syamol Dutta said the regional bloc neither paved ways of economic growth, what the similar other organizations did in Europe and East Asia, nor accelerated regional peace, harmony and welfare of the common people. Since the inception of SAARC in 1985 major differences among the member States over the objectives and functioning of SAARC has been observed. Mistrust and bi-lateral disputes are the major blockade.Mr. M.A Mannan, former state Minster of the Government of Bangladesh and BNP lawmaker said among the South Asian countries, India and Pakistan are the main concern to the international geo-political scenario. India’s effort to gain recognition as a major international (super) power, and Pakistan’s search for security vis-à-vis India, strongly influence South Asia’s strategic environment.

KM Jahnagir, former state Minster of the Government of Bangladesh and Awami League lawmaker said since the establishment of SAARC, governments in India and Pakistan, making national security as pretext, spend more on their armed forces and purchase of military hardware, arms and ammunition than to protect their citizens against disease, poverty, unemployment, poverty and hunger. Minar Pimple, of UN Millennium Campaign said that South Asian leaders have developed SAARC Development Goals (SDGs) but these are not implementing due to resource constraints. He urged government to operatioanlize SAARC Development Fund to achieve MDGs. Rokeya Kabir the moderator of the session concluded with a demand that like other regional intergovernmental and UN bodies SAARC must create space for civil society participation in their official process. The members of the coalition includes ACD, BNPS, EquityBD, IED, INCIDIN Bangladesh, SAAPE, SUPRO, Jubilee South-APMDD, SANGAT and Unnayan Anneshan. The seminar were also spoken and attended by Noman Ahmed Khan, Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, Mustafizur Rahman, Omar Tarek Chowdhury, Mustafa Kamal Akhanda and Atiqul Islam Chowdhury.

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