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Calling for a Regional Human Rights Mechanism in South Asia

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(12 June 2014, Islamabad) – The Regional Initiative for a South Asia Human Rights Mechanism along with fifty civil society organisations and human rights defenders called on Pakistan and other South Asian States to work collaboratively towards the establishment of a robust South Asia Human Rights Mechanism.

The Regional Initiative in collaboration with the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Bytes4All organised a National Workshop on Building Consensus for a South Asia Human Rights Mechanism in Lahore on 9-10 June 2014. The participants at the workshop unanimously adopted the Lahore Declaration on 10 June 2014 which called on the government of Pakistan to establish a National Human Rights Commission without further delay. The Declaration also called on the South Asian States to include discussions relating to the establishment of a regional mechanism in the official agenda of the upcoming SAARC Summit which is scheduled to be held on 14 November 2014 in Kathmandu.

Given the common human rights challenges faced by all South Asian States, there is an urging need for establishing a South Asia Human Rights Mechanism. The Regional Initiative, a platform of concerned citizens of South Asia has long been advocating for such a body. A Task Force comprising of individuals from South Asia guides the Regional Initiative, of which Ms. Hina Jilani is the member from Pakistan.

The national workshop thus explored challenges faced by the region, models of other regional mechanisms and avenues for engagement with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). This workshop has been crucial for building consensus among national groups and shape the way forward for the Regional Initiative and to strengthen the call for the establishment of a South Asia Human Rights Mechanism. A delegation comprising of Mr. I A Rehman, Mr. Afrasiab Khattak, Dr. Mizanur Rehman (Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh), Mr. Subodh Raj Pyakurel (Nepal) and Ms. Gayatri Khandhadai (FORUM-ASIA) also engaged with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ambassadors of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

The delegation was thoroughly encouraged by the support and response of the civil society and officials. There is a pressing need for the South Asian region of democracies to host a regional mechanism towards effectively promoting and protecting universally guaranteed human rights. Discussions among the SAARC states must thus extend to cooperation on human rights issues in addition to trade and development.

About the Regional Initiative:

The Regional Initiative for South Asian Human Rights Mechanism is a civil society forum that was created subsequent to the sub-regional consultations held in Kathmandu in 2010 and 2011. This forum is a collaborative platform of civil society and individuals from the region committed to the cause of furthering human rights and peace. The mission of the forum is to advocate for, and help create an environment conducive for the establishment of a South Asia Human Rights Mechanism.

With the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights organisation as its secretariat, the Regional Initiative has been striving for greater cooperation and support for the establishment of a South Asia Human Rights Mechanism.