Identifying Challenges, Assessing Progress, Moving Forward:
Addressing Impunity and Realizing Human Rights in South Asia

Background

Despite of the active work of human rights defenders and the energetic participation of human rights institutions across South Asia, achieving human rights objectives, particularly in the post-conflict setting remains a daunting task. Almost all the countries in the South Asian region - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka face common challenges of impunity, endemic violence, and institutionalized discrimination in realizing their human rights goals. These challenges are further aggravated by the high prevalence of poverty, imbalanced development, political instabilities, slow economic growth rates, low literacy, widespread malnutrition, and rampant cases of gender - based violence along with discrimination in education, nutrition, health and employment.

The issues of impunity, endemic violence, forced migration and lack of accountability mechanism have been raised in different regional forums and conferences. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has itself raised the issues of human rights in achieving peace and development in the region. In 2002, SAARC member states signed the Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution. The SAARC Social Charter of 2004 further affirmed the Association’s purported belief in the importance of human dignity and human rights through the creation of environment that enables the development and protection of all individuals, particularly the most vulnerable. Various International conferences held in this region has catered to develop a shared platform as regional dialogues on human rights promotion and protection was previously held in New Delhi (August, 2014) and Dhaka (November, 2014) among others. The conferences focused on the development of regional mechanism by recognizing the importance of cross-border collaboration and community-level exchange for the implementation of human rights norms.

Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commissions (NHRCs) have also been playing an important role in advocating for human rights protection and promotion. The National Human Rights Commissions of India and Pakistan have been watchful to matters of Civil and Political Rights as well as Economic and Social Rights. The Maldives Human Rights Commission has also been continually advocating for the rights of detainees despite of the plight of financial crunch and defunding. Unforgettably, the attention given by these National Commissions underscores their commitment to human rights at every level.

Apprehending the same condition, an international conference "Identifying Challenges, Assessing Progress, Moving Forward: Addressing Impunity and Realizing Human Rights in South Asia" is anticipated to facilitate a regional dialogue on the issues of human rights violations, culture of impunity, and the limitedness of national human rights institutions, along with the challenges around the ratification, enforcement, and monitoring of international treaty agreements in domestic law and political processes.