After being postponed in 2013 due to political instability in Nepal and Maldives, the government of Nepal will finally host the 18th SAARC Summit on November 22-27, 2014.  Leaders from its 8 member states will gather in Kathmandu to discuss development issues in the region around the theme “Deeper Integration for Peace, Progress and Prosperity.”

What is SAARC?

SAARC is the acronym for South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation. It is an economic and geopolitical grouping in South Asia that was established when the Heads of States of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka adopted its Charter in December 8, 1985. Afghanistan was inducted as a full member in April 2007 at the 14th SAARC Summit hosted in New Delhi, India.

Aside from members, SAARC accepted nine (8) countries as observers, namely, Australia, China, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea, and United States. The European Union (EU) also has observer status to the SAARC.

According to the SAARC Charter, the objectives of SAARC is to build and enhance regional cooperation among the 8 members to promote the welfare and improve quality of life of South Asia peoples, accelerate economic growth and cultural development, strengthen collective self-reliance, mutual trust, active collaboration and mutual assistance. SAARC also aims to act as a regional bloc through strengthening cooperation between member states in international fora on matters of common interest, as well as improve cooperation with developing countries and also international and regional organizations with similar aims.

What are the key agreements of SAARC?

Some of the key agreements of SAARC include the South Asia Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) and the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). SAPTA and SAFTA aim to promote mutual economic cooperation and integration  in the region through exchange of economic concessions and trade liberalization.

Other areas of cooperation include: agriculture and rural development, biotechnology, culture, education, energy, environment, finance, information, communication and media, people to people contacts, poverty alleviation, science and technology, security, social development, and tourism.

Despite being in existing for almost three decades, SAARC have not achieved much. Poverty and hunger rates in South Asia are the highest in Asia Pacific. The region is also characterized by inequality in economic development between member-states, as well as rather high inequality within member-states in terms of gender, income, education, and access to land.

The region is also beset with problems of slow economic growth, and low intraregional trade despite signing the SAPTA and SAFTA. Moreover, regional security environment is deteriorating with the continued border disputes especially between India and Pakistan and the emergence of terrorist groups. Today, India is the South-Asia’s military power and the world’s largest importer of military weapons and equipment.

What is the People’s SAARC?

As the SAARC’s government leaders gather, civil society from the region will also gather in Kathmandu to organize the People’s SAARC on November 22-24. The PSAARC that will run in parallel to the official summit carries the theme “People’s movement uniting South Asia for deepening democracy, social justice and peace”. Various NGOs and peoples movements will organize activities to discuss and address the issues most important to South Asia peoples, which include:

•    Alternative Regionalism
•    Food, Food Security, Food Sovereignty and Trade
•    Migration, Freedom of Movement, Human Trafficking
•    Attack on Labour, Expanding Labour Rights regionally
•    Climate Change, Ecological Justice, Economic Cooperation, Livelihoods
•    Gender Rights, Women’s Rights, Women and Armed Conflicts
•    Human Rights, Social Justice, Exclusions, Caste Discriminations, Politics of Hatred (Protection of Minority Rights and strengthening ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural pluralism and diversity)
•    Refugees and Indigenous People’s Rights
•    Sustainable Development
•    Peace, Democracy, Rule of Law, De-Militarisation (expanding spaces for civil society and social movements)
•    Tax Justice, Fiscal Responsibility, and Corporate Accountability
•    Community control over natural resources, resource commons, water commons
•    Energy security for people

For more information on the People’s SAARC, please visit the website:

APRN Member’s Activities at the People’s SAARC

APRN members will organize/co-organize activities on various themes at the People’s SAARC. Please refer to the list below and corresponding contact details to participate and know more about their activities.

Asia Pacific Women Law and Development (APWLD)
Contact Person: Sunnee Singh |  [email protected]

Development Justice: Redefining a Development Paradigm for a New SAARC
Alternative Regionalism
November 23, 2014  |  10.00-12.30
LDTA Small Hall C

Asserting Development Agenda from South Asian Women
Women and Gender Justice
November 24, 2014  | 11.15-13.15
Small Hall E Staff College

Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON)
Contact Persons:
Ajay Jha  |  [email protected]
Sharad Joshi  | [email protected]

Dealing with Disasters, and Loss and Damage
(co-organized with Beyond Copenhagen, BJVJ, PAIRVI & SADED)
Ecology, Climate Change, Environment and Natural Resource
November 23, 2014  |  1.30-16.00
T 2 Staff college Ground

Envisioning Energy Transition in South Asia
(co-organized with Beyond Copenhagen, BJVJ, SADED, PAIRVI & NTUI)
Development Rights
November 24, 2014  |  8.30-11.00
LDTA Big Hall

Locating Agriculture and Food Sovereignty in Climate Change and Sustainable Development Debate in South Asia
(co-organized with Beyond Copenhagen, BJVJ, PAIRVI & SADED)
Poverty and Livelihood
November 24, 2014  |  11.15-13.15
T 3 Staff college ground
[email protected]

Equity BD and VOICE
Contact Person: Rezaul Karim Chowdhury   |  [email protected]

Tax and Fiscal Justice in South Asia: Addressing Inequality and Rights Over Public Services
(co-organized with ANWA, ANPFA, EquityBD, RRN, CBA, PFF, SUPRO, AAWAZ Pakistan, CBGA India, Integrity Afghanistan, VOICE Bangladesh)
November 24, 2014  |  11.15-13.15
Tax and Fiscal Justice
LDTA Big Hall

SAARC Climate Declaration Review with People’s Right Perspective: Fate of Climate Forced Migrants in the Region
(co-organized with ANPFA, SAAPE, LDC Watch, BIPNetCCBD, BAPA, CCDF, CSRL, CLEAN, COAST, Beyond Copenhagen, CECOEDECON)
Ecology, Climate Change, Environment and Natural Resource
November 23, 2014   |  10.00-12.30
WDTA Janaki Hall

In addition to these activities, Equity BD is also disseminating policy briefs analyzing issues on the upcoming SAARC:


Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)
Contact person: Shujauddin Qureshi  | [email protected]

South Asia’s Strengthened Integration in Global Trade: Implications for Labour Rights
(co-organized with ), South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) and  General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT))
Labour rights, migration and trafficking
November 23, 2014  |  10.00-12.30
T2 Staff College