UN Women – South Asia SASRO ‘Experts Group’ on Women Peace & Security organized a regional Conference on “The Changing Dynamics of Peace building in South Asia: Recasting Women’s Agency and Transformative Strategies” in Kathmandu February 15th -17th, 2013. About 60 women from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka discussed the changing and complex character of conflicts and peace building in South Asia and the challenges women faced in ensuring women‘s human rights and promoting women’s participation in building a transformative, just and equal peace.
The Conference supported by UN Women and IDRC was the first initiative of the ‘Experts Group’ constituted to carry forward UN Women South Asia Regional Office’s program of taking forward the Women count for Peace Agenda. It reflects the symbiotic relationship between women’s movements (national, regional and global) and the emergence of UN Women and the WPS agenda. The ‘Experts Group’ comprises leading members of women’s movement, gender equality activists and feminist scholars from the region. The thematic focus of the Conference was on Militarization & Security, Promoting Women’s Participation: Overcoming Inhibiting Factors and Access to Justice; Audits of Accountability Mechanisms. The Conference also examined the gap between the commitments of our governments, the actualization of the WPS Agenda and the creative strategies adopted to advance women’s human rights and transformative agency in conflict and post conflict situations.
The Opening session of the Conference included, Anne F. Stenhammer (UN Women Representative for Bhutan, Maldives , India and Sri Lanka), Special Guest Speaker, Syeda Hameed (Member Planning Commission, India), and Key Note Speaker Hina Jillani (Advocate Pakistan, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders). Nepal Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha also made a strong presentation supporting women’s human rights. In addition, from Indonesia there was, Kamla Chandrakirana, the Chair of the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women.
The Conference Adopted the Kathmandu Declaration and an Action Plan, given below.
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We, women and men at the regional conference on “The Changing Dynamics of Peace building in South Asia: Recasting Women’s Agency and Transformative Strategies”, share the vision of South Asia as a region strengthened by peace, justice, democracy and respect for human rights.
We believe in transforming the current reality through citizens’ engagement and the inclusion of women’s perspectives.
Our concerns are the changing and complex character of conflict, the multiple actors – state and non-state, internal, regional and global- who play a major role in destabilizing the region.
We are concerned with the escalation of violence and increasing militarization of the response to peoples’ political economic and social struggles.
We note with anxiety the military’s expanding role, its incursions into civilian spaces and the resultant undermining of democratic forces and institutions.
We observe with concern the weaknesses of institutions of governance and their inability to respond to people’s needs and aspirations particularly to their social and economic rights, their lack of control over local resources and the denial of political voice and participation in decision making. This is contributing to peoples’ sense that they do not have a stake in the system.
Geo-strategic global interests are exacerbating tensions and producing conditions whereby the interests of the people of the region have become subservient to external interests and forces. This has provided a space to extremists to misuse ethnic, religious and linguistic differences to create division and conflict.
We emphasize that South Asia has a diverse and plural society which needs to be celebrated and any imposition of homogeneity will lead to more conflict. Deepening inequalities, discrimination and lack of respect for dignity, autonomy and people’s right to self-determination has created instability and conflicts.
We recognize that globalization and its accompanying development paradigm have contributed to the marginalization of peoples, dispossessing them of their lands and livelihood, displacing them from their homes and increasing structural inequality.
People have been denied the right to determine their national security imperative and the ways of achieving justice, human rights and sustainable security, keeping in view the vision of a peaceful and stable South Asia.
We note with regret that even some of the peace processes in the South Asian region have become a continuation of militarization by other means and have resulted in the further marginalization and oppression of women and vulnerable communities.
Denial and exclusion of women from democratic processes and peace building has resulted in derogation of democracy, inequality and injustice in the region.
We are resolved to open spaces for women’s participation at every level and aspect of peace building. The assembly emphasized that women have an equal stake in building peace and stability, in constructing dialogue and discourses for peace. Women shall take the initiative to politically transform peace processes to ensure equality in all power relations especially the relations between women and men.
Women are resolved to play a role in re- building post war and post conflict societies where justice, equal citizenship, non-discrimination become values to be respected and observed.
This conference resolves to take forward the process of building a regional consensus and an advocacy strategy for more inclusive and transparent peace building.
Points of Action
(Adopted by South Asian women at the regional conference on “The Changing Dynamics of Peace building in South Asia: Recasting Women’s Agency and Transformative Strategies”)
a) Kathmandu Declaration
b) Consolidation of a South Asian Shelter Network. Existing shelter networks in the region will first be built upon. EG member, Bandana Rana will circulate information on the existing Asian network of Shelter homes, guidelines and standards, and contacts of network members. She will enable organizations outside the present network to join and work together.
c) A Resource mapping of available shelter homes for each country will be done with support from Expert Group members and the information will be made available to delegates but care will be taken to keep it out of the public domain for security reasons.
d) All delegates will submit a 3-4 page narrative of their experiences in working in the area of conflict and peace building in their own region, highlighting the complex challenges and strategies adopted. These should be sent to the Experts Group’ within a month of the conference. These narratives could be brought out as a resource book of comparative South Asian strategies.
e) A Ready Reference (perhaps ‘e’) Booklet for Human Rights defenders should be prepared and circulated amongst the delegates (but will be kept strictly confidential protected by a security password). This will have details/ information on modalities, funds/sources of assistance for human rights defenders who feel threatened or need to flee their country/region. ‘Experts Group’ to pursue actualizing this.
f) A sustained regional campaign will be carried out on ensuring accountability for actions taken by police and sub-militias.
g) A sustained regional campaign to ensure that all instances of VAW/ human rights violations by the armed forces are tried by civil courts under civil laws will be carried out.
h) Details about the South Asian Women’s Alliance for Peace and Security will be circulated among all delegates
UN Women SASRO ‘Experts Group’ will take collective responsibility following up on all the proposed actions.
Kathmandu Feb 17, 2013