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Human rights defenders meet in India to address future challenges

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sa_hrdforum_2008.jpgAround 35 human rights defenders from FORUM-ASIA's member and partner organisations from Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka gathered in Trivandrum, India, for the 3rd Annual South Asian Human Rights Forum (SAHRF) from 18-20 September.

The forum serves as an opportunity for the FORUM-ASIA secretariat to touch base with its members and for members themselves to touch base with each other, as well as for human rights defenders in South Asia to take stock of what has been achieved in the past year and lay the foundation for upcoming challenges to be tackled.

The forum also serves as an initial phase for the 3rd Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum, which will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 30 November to 01 December 2008.

This year, participants focused on a sub-regional action plan to ensure the human right to adequate food, especially for the most vulnerable groups. During this sub-regional gathering, human rights defenders shared learnings from national experiences, which could in turn be shared with representatives from other countries.

Particularly, there was a discussion on the success and limitations of the Right to Information Act which has been an effective tool for human rights NGOs in India but is yet to be fully developed in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

As most countries had existing national networks working on food rights and security, it was decided that members would work closely with them and that another sub-regional meeting of such networks would be effective.

In addition, the upcoming Durban Review Conference in 2009 would serve as an effective platform at which to address the issue of food rights and discrimination.

Moreover, during the forum, country representatives from South Asia were able to present the challenges facing human rights defenders in their countries, particular when addressing economic, social and cultural rights.

These reports will provide the foundation for discussion at the regional forum in November.