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SAPA: New strategies to embrace arising human rights challenges in Asia

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Civil society organisations developed common action plans based on common understanding, while responding to emerging human rights challenges in the region, during the meeting of Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy (SAPA). In this two-day meeting, the group also evaluated its activities and developed new strategies for future challenges.
(Bangkok) “Developing common action plans based on common understanding of emerging human rights challenges” was the common aim of the Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocay (SAPA) 2nd General Forum, held in Bangkok from 2 to 3 February.

Attended by about 70 members and partners, the forum was convened by SAPA Regional Steering Committee (RSC). SAPA had its first general forum, also in Bangkok in February 2007, following one-year preparation. This year’s meeting included a session for the network to evaluate its activities, in terms of civil society responses to them.

The seven regional civil society organisations in the RSC include Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asian Partnership for Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHHRA), Focus on the Global South (FOCUS), Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Peace Boat, South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA) and Third World Network (TWN).

Responding to emerging human rights issues in the region, the meeting focused on thematic issues such as the challenge of China and India (Chindia) – known as the two emerging  “regional superpowers” in Asia – and civil society response to regional integration and people-centered alternative regionalism.

Other discussions covered topics like civil society’s role in three inter-governmental processes: Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF), South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and ASEAN. At the meetings, participants concurred that engaging AEPF was crucial as it served as an advocacy mechanism related to trade agreements between ASEAN and Europe. They conceded that civil society engagement with SAARC should be emphasised as well.

The outcome of the two-day meetings included the new Working Group on Rural Development, which will focus initially on the Southeast Asia sub-region. This working group will be co-convened by AsiaDHHRA, FOCUS and TWN. This is SAPA’s fourth working group, after the three working groups on ASEAN, UN Human Rights and Migration and Labour. These three groups had their meetings as the representatives met for this general forum.

The next SAPA general forum is scheduled for 2009 in South Asia. More information on SAPA can be found at its official website .