Human rights activists in South Asian countries have for a long time supported the concept of evolving collective mechanisms on many issues of common concern, particularly in view of the fact that many human rights issues demand bilateral and regional solutions.
Recognizing this need a five-member committee comprising Mr. I.K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Kamal Hossain from Bangladesh, Dr. Devendra Raj Panday from Nepal, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy from Sri Lanka and Mrs. Asma Jahangir from Pakistan organised a convention to discuss the possibility of a South Asian regional human rights organization. Delegates were drawn from recognized human rights organizations and included jurists, academics, public figures, trade unionists and media persons. The convention was held at the Neemrana Fort, Rajasthan, India on July 21-22, 2000. After extensive discussions the convention adopted the Neemrana Declaration and decided to set up an organization called South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR).
Adopted 22 July 2000
We, the people of South Asia – human rights activists, groups, networks and initiatives – belong to civil society in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka met at Neemrana, Rajasthan, India on 21-22 July 2000.
- Affirming our belief in the inalienable human rights and dignity of every individual in our region.
- Recognising the grave human rights situation in South Asia, with its terrible legacy of persistent poverty, deprivation, illiteracy, inequality, caste and social hierarchy, discrimination against women and exploitation of children, itself further aggravated by authoritarian, militarist and sectarian tendencies amidst violence and state repression;
- Concerned at the encroachment on human rights through unequal globalisation and pursuit of elitist domestic policies which harm the interests of the working people and their right to survival, security and a life with dignity;
- Acknowledging that human rights violations in one country often spill over into the other countries in the region and potentially generate bilateral/regional tensions and hostility, thus threatening peace.
- Recognising the existence in South Asia of diverse communities, linguistic and ethnic groups, indigenous peoples (Adivasis and tribals), and socially and economically disadvantaged sections of society; and widespread discrimination against numerous classes;
- Accepting that human rights are indispensable to balanced social and economic development, and affirming civil society’s role in guiding and assisting the state in all matters, including human rights, governance and creating a culture of peace, tolerance, secularism and pluralism;
- Conscious of the similarities of the human rights deprivation faced by South Asian peoples as well as their common culture, resources and legacies, and shared experiences and aspirations;
- Inspired by the substantial achievements of the numerous existing human rights movements in South Asia, and realising the need for more effective participation and networking;
- And affirming concepts enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our constitutional documents, and various international covenants such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, CEDAW, CRC, treaties for the protection of working people, minorities, migrants and refugees, and against torture and genocide.