South Asian Network for Food, Ecology and Culture (SANFEC)
Resistance Network against Trafficking in Women and Children
UBINIG - Policy Research for Development Alternative
In collaboration with
'Ridoypur' (UBINIG Tangail Center), Bishnupur, Delduar, Tangail, Bangladesh
Wednesday - Friday: 28 - 30 September 2005
We the participants (87) in the Fourth SAARC Peoples' Forum meeting in Ridoypur Tangail from countries of Pakistan (10), Nepal (6), India (6), Malaysia (1), UK (1) and Bangladesh (63), representing grass root organizations, academia, consumer activists, development organizations, media, farmers, fishers, women activists, lawyers and others adopted the following declaration on 30 September 2005 after a three day meetings in Ridoypur, Tangail, Bangladesh, to consolidate our collective position and articulate our collective voice on various issues that affect our lives in South Asia. We will undertake programmes, campaigns and activities in light of this declarations both individually and collectively, This position will be the basis to prepare the Memorandum on behalf of the Fourth SAARC Peoples Forum to the Head of the State in the coming 13th SAARC Summit to be held in Dhaka and our advocacy and campaign in the coming Hong Kong WTO Ministerial.
1. We are concerned that global trade in agricultural commodities is controlled mainly by
a few transnational corporations and there is an increasing trend in the concentration and monopoly over the global food chain by which they are making the people of the world insecure in food and nutrition. Such trade could only promote industrial food production and destroy agriculture and therefore detrimental to the livelihood and interest of the farming communities majority of whom live in southern countries as well as the 'family farms' in the North. the Agreement on Agriculture in its present form essentially protects this structure, and forces developing and least countries to open their borders for the dumping of subsidized agricultural commodities from industrial North. This is a major reason why rural agrarian economy is destroyed, poverty is escalating and farmers are being displaced in developing and least developing countries. The brutality of the situation is manifested in the form of farmers being driven to commit suicide on account of poverty and high levels of indebtedness.
2. We are concerned that the developed countries have failed to keep their promise of reducing subsidies. On the contrary, they have increased such subsidies through the box system in the Agreement of Agriculture. At the same time international financial institutions are pushing developing countries to reduce subsidies and liberalize their agriculture market.
3. We therefore demand that trade-distorting subsidies in the OECD countries are immediately eliminated and a time period assigned for the same. The next Ministerial after Hong Kong should be the cut-off date. Without the firm willingness to address the unequal global structure of food production and the need and necessity to conserve and protect agriculture from destruction, which benefits us all in the world, there should be no negotiation on agriculture in WTO.
4. We would like to assert again that biodiversity based ecological agriculture could feed the world and not GMOs, and unsafe and unhealthy food and junks. It is now a well know fact that biodiversity-based ecological farming are also more efficient in terms of the use of energy in food production. Presently, majority of the farmer in SAARC countries even now produce at least 3 unit of energy in the form of food by spending not more than only 1 unit of energy, while industrial food production spends more than 10-11 unit of energy to produce only one unit of energy as food. It proves that the industrial food production is ecologically and environmentally destructive and the toll is paid by all of us around the world, particularly people of the South. Farming communities in the SAARC countries conserve, maintain and regenerate bio-diversity and ensure both in situ and ex situ conservation of valuable genetic resources.
5. We would like to reassert the fact that 70-90 % of the population in the South depends on agriculture for their livelihood, in the North the figure is between 3-5%; in some countries there exist no farmer, as we understand farming. In this context Northern countries has no right to destroy our agriculture through unequal negotiation of AOA.
6. We also recognise that given the size of the nations, their economies and natural resource base, inequalities exist among the SAARC members. Due to these inequalities, imbalances also exist in the agriculture sector. The SAARC forum is a viable platform to strike a just balance.
7. Developing and least developing countries should include all crops which are important for the livelihood of people in the Special Products categories. For instance, a large number of Bangladeshi, Nepali and Indian farmers rely on jute for their livelihood. Rice is a staple product for all SAARC members and should also be classed as a Special Product.
8. In order to protect the interest of the farmers, we would like our governments to ensure that;
(a)Food sovereignty needs to be recognized as a basic human right and essential for our survival as communities and should be the basis of negotiation on AOA.
(b)The July framework needs to be opened again to place the peoples agenda firmly and clearly.
(c)Multilateral Agreement to eradicate hunger must be introduced to contain the structural inequity of the global economy.
(d)All stakeholders, including farmers, should be consulted and decision should be taken by the parliaments before WTO Ministerial Meetings. The governments should share their finalized positions through national media before the negotiations.
(e)WTO negotiations must be transparent and democratic.
9. South Asian countries are rich in natural resources namely: forests, rivers and land. Unsustainable development is affecting peoples' access to these resources. Unequal land distribution and privatization of water and other natural resources is further aggravating peoples' livelihood and culture and reinforcing the inequities of the existing land tenure systems. We believe that appropriate land reform eliminating existing power structure is essential in order to ensure land in the possession of the producers; it is key to the elimination of poverty and hunger and could deliver food sovereignty. Local power structures reflecting the existing land tenure systems repress the poor and the disadvantaged as well as the indigenous communities. We reiterate that making natural and biological resource belonging to local communities with control, command and legal rights could only be a basis of progressive economic transition of SAARC countries.
10. We demand that our governments in SAARC countries immediately address the land and agrarian reforms. We demand that the governments should recognize the traditional and customary rights of indigenous peoples' including that to common lands and put appropriate constitution, legal and administrative reform in place to prevent privatization of community resources. We condemn appropriation of indigenous land in the name of eco-parks and the policy of our governments to promote 'eco-tourism' violating the dignity and the rights of indigenous communities.
11. Rivers in South Asia have shaped for centuries the ecologies, cultures and livelihoods of communities, and accordingly rivers have a sacred place either in religions or our cultures. Technological interventions in the form of dams that impound their flow, or policy and plans to divert 'surplus' water from river basins to water 'deficit' areas is contrary to our values and wisdom and disrupt geological, hydrological, environmental and hydrological balance. In fact the notion of 'surplus water' in river is a peculiar and absurd engineering construct to justify intervention in the river systems and a tool to privatise so called 'surplus' water. It is the flow of the rivers that is directly connected to ecology, ecosystems, biodiversity, agriculture and livelihood, and not the quantity of water. We reject the notion of 'surplus water' promoted by technocrats and the corporate sector. Ecology, biodiversity and livelihood of the riparian communities are directed linked with the flow of water and the hydrological cycle.
12. We demand that the Indian government should immediately stop the river linking project; Pakistan's experience with river linking post the Indus water treaty which caused an ecological disaster should be taken as a case for learning.
13. We would like remind our governments that It is the states' responsibility to provide basic services such as health, education, drinking water and shelter; therefore we oppose the privatisation of these services and demand a freeze on all negotiations on GATS.
14. We reiterate our position against patenting of life forms and will raise our voice and intensify our struggles against privatisation of life and resources in any form Migration and Trafficking.
15. We reaffirm our principal to defend and promote 'security of movement and security of livelihood' as adopted in the formation period of the SAARC Peoples Forum since 1998. We demand that our government also acknowledge and accept this principle as human right in order to build peace and stability in the region. We urge our governments to guard migrants from harassment, detention and forced eviction.
16. We demand that there should be clear legal mechanisms for migration and processes of absorbing migrants into the host countries as full citizens since migration is a right. We condemn the policy of our governments to render migrants as 'stateless' persons denying them constitutional and fundamental rights forcing them to suffer inhuman conditions.
17. There should be well-defined state policies of migration and trafficking. The two 'terms' are closely inter-related, but while migration is the right of people, human trafficking is a criminal offence and violation of human rights.
18. The definition of the Trafficking as accepted in SAARC Peoples' Forum organised by SANFEC & Resistance Network is the following:
'Trafficking" in women consists of all acts involved in the procurement, transportation, forced movement, and/or selling and buying of women within and/or across borders by fraudulent means, deception, coercion, direct and/or indirect threats, abuse of authority, for the purpose of placing a woman against her will without her consent in exploitative and abusive situations such as forced prostitution, forced marriage, bonded and forced
labour, begging, organ trade, etc.' 'Trafficking in children consists of all acts involved in the procurement, transportation, forced movement, and/or selling and buying of children
within and/or across borders by fraudulent means, deception, coercion, direct and/or indirect threats, abuse of authority, for the purpose of placing children against their will with or without her consent in exploitative and abusive situations such as commercial sexual abuse, bonded and forced labour, begging, sports such as camel jockeying, organ trade, etc.'
These definitions should be included in the 'SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution' to broaden the scope of the Convention beyond prostitution. We urge our governments to amend the Convention so that it can address the trafficking for all purposes.
19. We urge upon the SAARC governments to implement the SAARC convention
to help the victims of trafficking and to punish the criminals. We are against bilateral agreements between countries of South Asia, as this will weaken the implementation of the SAARC Convention and will result in complications of mutual bilateral issues rather than SAARC as a region. We believe trafficking is not a trade which happens between two countries alone. It is linked to international flesh trade and therefore South Asia must take it up as a regional issue.
20. Trafficking in women is encouraged by the sex trade, particularly prostitution, pornography, abuse of women in media and in general commoditisation of human being particularly women. We must act to stop activities which create demand for trafficking in persons.
21. We reject the Trafficking in Persons Report by US Department of State in which countries are ranked as Tier 1 to Tier 3 on the basis of the government's effort to combat trafficking. Countries ranked in Tier 3 are black listed and therefore are subjected to economic sanctions by USA, particularly cut-offs in non-humanitarian and non-trade related US aid. This report unduly blames the source countries of trafficking but there are no actions against the user and receiving countries.
22. A regional tribunal to dispose of cases must be stationed at a suitable centre, which can rotate as per requirement to stop the criminal trade link nationally & internationally. Policy of decriminalisation for the trafficked person must be adopted.
23. We are concerned that trafficking is also happening in the guise of cultural exchange programmes with the support of the government agencies. These should be stopped.
24. Unjust policy regimes have created conditions where the capacity of individuals and communities to produce food has been eroded and damaged. As a result, poverty and hunger is on the increase. We demand food sovereignty at the local level and people should have the right to produce food in their own community consistent with their culture and ecology. We urge our governments, aid agencies, bilateral and multilateral institutions to promote biodiversity-based ecological production systems and associated knowledge that main, regenerate and enhance our biological, genetic and natural world.
25. We call upon all grass root peoples movements and organisations to resist dumping and encourage local food production; in food importing countries, food imports should be preceded by consultations with stakeholders including the local community. International Aid Agencies should stop importing food and instead procure it locally from within the region.
26. It is urgent that local and indigenous knowledge and skills is recognized. We are determined to resist introduction of any technology that affects the local culture, knowledge and skills. We urge our governments not introduce any modern technology that destroys our cultures, knowledge and skills.
27. We endorse the struggle and the call of the sisters in South Asia well known by now as saying ' Sisters, Keep Seed in Your Hands.' We support the resistance against intellectual property in seed, genetic resources and knowledge. We are glad to see that SANFEC members are celebrating the wisdom of farmer women on 8th March and integrating farmer women into the global women's movement.
28. We endorse the position paper prepared by SANFEC on 'food sovereignty and propose that this should be the basis of our campaign in the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting.
29. Keeping the above in mind the forum recommends a massive mobilization
for a campaign to support food sovereignty. The campaign will include publications
and workshops at the local level, consultations and media campaigns at the national
level, and network with similar efforts at the international level.
Technology and Population
30. We respect science and technology that is based on historical (traditional) knowledge and wisdom of communities and guided by both rational and creative faculties proper to scientific experiments and practice, aiming to promote the joy of life and well being of people and their environment. However, we are against the so called science & technology that is promoted by the corporate sector for profit and controlled by the few in order to colonize biological and natural world, creating hunger, injustice, militarization, violence and war.
31. In the case of food production, technology was promoted with the promise of feeding people. But it has been seen that (a) there is ample evidence that there is surplus food at local, national, regional as well as global level but (b) a large number of people still go hungry despite surplus food production and. The problem lies with the distribution of food and cannot be solved by trade but only through political will to eradicate hunger. Availability of food is not a technological issue, but economic in nature. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are unlikely to help feed the hungry in our region.
32. We condemn the notion of viewing human beings simply as 'numbers' and thus denying them dignity and right to determine the size of their own families. People are reduced as number in order to justify population control and termination policies.
33. We are concerned how modern contraceptives have caused infertility among women and sterility among men. Likewise, pesticides have also caused similar impacts such as infertility/sterility among women and men, and miscarriages among pregnant women.
34. Modern agricultural practices focus only on "some crops" as food instead of the traditional system of treating diverse resources and uncultivated spaces as food source. Similarly, technology has also been targeted at particular groups of people, specifically the poor and marginalized groups in the community.
35. Technology that has been discarded in the Northern countries, and proved to be harmful to human and environmental health, has been repeatedly dumped on developing countries. We condemn this practice.
36. The propaganda that corporate technology in food and agriculture is meant to feed people is also a fallacy and a lie. The corporate sector is rarely seen in sectors that are not profitable. Likewise, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are unlikely to help feed the hungry in our region.
37. Reports of adverse health implications due to GMOs have been viewed with consternation by the Forum. The adverse implications on the ecology and biological diversity are too serious, as is being done by some SAARC governments under pressure from the corporate sector dealing with GMOs.
38. GMOs failed to prove any value to agriculture or could be better or are desirable than the existing species and varieties in all the areas of application across the world. They are culturally of an invasive nature especially in the case of South Asia and it is integral to the patenting of life forms that we reject.
39. We are very concerned to see that United States States department is promoting GMOs and without being a signatory to Convention on Biological Diversity and Bio safety protocol are promoting GMOs commercially in the absence of bio safety regulations and teckical arrangements to adrees the 'precautionary principle' enshrined in CBD and Cartegen Protocol. We condemn this role of USA and concerned that USA is persuing a policy to deliberately pollute our environment and the biological world.
40. The Cartegna Protocol on Bio-safety provides seven guiding principles regarding GMOs, that has been severely undermined by the active promotion of GMOs particularly by the USA. We demand that SAARC members' who are also signatories to the Protocol, should invoke the precautionary principle and ban the cultivation, import and promotion of GMOs in the region.
41. Information is the key for resistance against harmful technologies. Therefore, there is an urgent need to disseminate information among the people and dispel myths of genetic engineering. Farmers need to be empowered to assess technologies beyond their apparent glamour and advanced nature of local and indigenous knowledge and technology are fully appreciated and further developed.
42. We will resist micro-credits and other credit programmers that force farmers to accept proprietary technologies that are detrimental to farming & harm human and environmental health. It is an irony that the promotion of corporate proprietary technology is promoted the name of 'poverty' programmes.
43. We support the struggles for right to self-determination.
44. United Nations Charter adheres respect and recognition to territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states. Currently we have been observing military intervention on 'humanitarian' grounds. The notion of 'failed' and 'dysfunctional' state is also coined as a tool to intervene by powerful countries violating the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity, upon which the UN was founded. These interventions are led by a coterie of powerful countries.
45. We want that the SAARC agenda of the 'Security of the Small States' is adequately addressed as a necessary pre-condition for the peace and stability in South Asia.
46. People of the SAARC region have full respect of all members, their rights and their sovereign authority over their state. As SAARC family members we extend moral support for people to enjoy civil liberties to the fullest extent so that they can decide their future. This could be defined as a democratic movement of South Asia.
47. We respect and recognise the diversities in South Asian communities that makes us strong. In essence, diversity of culture brings security to our life and progress. This needs to be nurtured.
48. Political interests, and perceived threats have created security problems in the region. Peoples' unity, collaboration and understanding could be the best tools to support respective states to build better understanding with the other members. Fanaticism and other conservatism can be neutralized through people-to-people relationship. Expansion of SAARC to all south Asian countries could be a common and strong avenue.
49. People of South Asia have a strong pride of being South Asian. This is because we have many interlinking commonalities. We therefore recommend that SAARC be expanded as a common platform of discussion on all issues of common concern. As in other Unions and also the UN forum, South Asian civil society should be provided with accreditation and treated as a parallel forum within SAARC.
50. SAARC should promote and coordinate implementation of all Human Rights' Laws ratified by member states to formulate and implement a regional plan-of-action.
51. We are extremely concerned about the race towards nuclear South Asia and the emerging security arrangements between certain countries that are perceived as a threat by others. These factors may seriously jeopardize the peace and stability of our region. This fact also highlights why SAARC agenda on the Security of the Small States is a crucial and critical area where we all must work to come to a common consensus.
52. Given these realities we are forming a group from among us to investigate and undertake research and look into these issues more systematically. To develop our understanding and deepening our analysis the group will undertake workshops and seminars and will contact organizations and experts on demilitarization, security and human rights' issues in South Asia. The coordinator of the group will be Dr. Buddhadeb Choudhury (CARID, India), and will include Subodh Pyakurel (INSEC, Nepal), Dr.Shahid Zia (Lok Sanjh, Pakistan), Adilur Rahman Khan (Odhikar, Bangladesh), Farhad Mazhar (UBINIG, Bangladesh). The group will co-ordinate activities in the run-up to, and submit a detailed report at, the Fifth SAARC Peoples Forum.
53. We are concerned about the systematic violation of human rights in the SAARC regions by both state and non-state actors and urge the human rights defenders to remain united on the principle of human rights; as human rights defenders we must stand by all victims irrespective of their social and economic status, political or ideological belief and accusations brought against them by the State or others. Every person has the right for a fair trial and justice without prejudice.
54. We are aware that 'human rights' could be abused as a means to intervene by powerful states to weak formations. While we must remain guard against such abuse we can not but strongly adhere to the principle of human rights as an universal principle to create a truly global community of citizens.
55. To continue our work in the area of human rights from the platform of SAARC Peoples Forum we are endorsing the formation of the network on torture and impunity known as South Asia Network against Torture and Impunity. Until the next SAARC Peoples Forum, the network will have a committee to take all efforts and initiative to consolidate and strengthen the network. The coordinator of the group will be Dr. Buddhadeb Choudhury (CARID, India), and will include Subodh Pyakurel (INSEC, Nepal), Dr.Shahid Zia (Lok Sanjh, Pakistan), Adilur Rahman Khan (Odhikar, Bangladesh), Farhad Mazhar (UBINIG, Bangladesh). The group will co-ordinate activities in the run-up to, and submit a detailed report of their activities at the Fifth SAARC Peoples Forum.
56. We are also endorsing the proposal that South Asia Network on Torture and Impunity (SANTI) will join as one of the organisers in the coming SAAC Peoples Forum in our efforts to expand the forum.