FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
SAARC and the case for regional human rights
Posted:Jul 24, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Jamil Junejo
 
Regional human rights mechanisms have internationally established their need and legitimacy. Their role in the promotion and protection of human rights is now widely recognised given their proximity and accessibility to the people and their synchronisation with regional human rights considerations in addition to their adherence to universal human rights norms. Realising such significance of regional human rights systems, all the worlds’ regional organisations except South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have established regional human rights mechanisms.
 
Since the existing regional human rights mechanisms are formed into different political, geographical and historical contexts and have different conditions to operate within. They possess different profiles regarding promotion and protection of human rights in their respective regions. European human rights system can be called well-established and relatively more efficient. The Inter-African and ASEAN human rights systems are into their formative phases. Whereas, Arab Human rights system is a newly created body with no significant credit into its account so far.
 
What worries is that, South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the only regional organisation which does not have regional human rights system. This is despite the fact that human rights violations manifested into diverse gruesome forms such as torture, arbitrary detention, extra judicial killings, forced labour, child marriages are widespread in the region and the national level redressal mechanisms have either proved insufficient or have failed to provide remedies to the human rights victims. Thus, we need to have regional human rights at SAARC level which could protect human rights in the region.
 
Many writers are sceptical about the possible establishment of regional human rights system at SAARC level mainly because of three factors: conflict ridden Indo-Pak relations, nonexistence of human rights agenda in the SAARC Charter and Charter’s provision of non interference in the internal issues of the member states. However, based on the study of existing regional human rights mechanism, all such factors cannot be considered insurmountable obstacles behind the establishment of regional human rights system at the SAARC level. Similar to SAARC Charter, the African Union Charter carried principle of non-interference; however, the union successfully developed African regional human rights system. Association of Southeast Asian Nations which established ASEAN Regional Human Rights System have no human rights agenda in its founding ASEAN declaration. Likewise, Arab League which created Arab Human Rights System doesn’t even mention human rights in its founding charter. Despite this, these regional organisations have successfully formed the regional human rights systems. Further, the evolutionary process of the existing regional human rights systems also shows that regional human rights mechanisms could be developed within the political and diplomatic context marred with interstate conflicts such as between and India.
 
What actually is required is the political will at SAARC level which could be cultivated through the dynamic civic activism of South Asian civil society and support and exertion of the United Nations’ pressure on the South Asian states.
 
Visibly, civil society has also played significant role in the creation of all existing regional human rights systems. Contrary to this, civil society as a whole in South Asia has not taken serious and concrete efforts for the creation of the regional human rights system in the region.
 
Historically, United Nations have played a significant role in the creation of Arab, ASEAN and African human rights systems. However, such kind of support from United Nations with respect to the aspired regional human rights system at SAARC level is missing. Reality is that being a major global governance institution, it can wield its immense influence potentially making persuasive efforts in this regard. Given the importance of regional human rights systems and its role and responsibility in overall promotion and protection of human rights, UN should revisit its strategy and help in technical and diplomatic terms in the creation of regional human rights system at SAARC level.
 
SAARC should also realise that regional human rights system would be very useful to complement its human rights oriented treaties and charters which includes SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution adopted in 2002, SAARC Convention on Regional Arrangements for the Promotion of Child Welfare in South Asia adopted in 2002, SAARC Social Charter signed in 2005.
 
 
To conclude, given the weak governance of human rights in SAARC regions and wide spread human rights violations, the region needs a regional human rights mechanism which could protect human rights and provide redressal mechanism to the victims failing to achieve justice from their national mechanism. Further, creating regional human rights system at the SAARC level is a possible dream which can be realised mainly by the strong and persistent efforts of civil society actors and United Nations resulting in the formation of political will within the SAARC countries
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assumed office again in Bangladesh in 2009, bilateral relations between New Delhi and Dhaka have been on a steady upward trajectory.
 
read-more
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that military dictatorship always halted progress in the country. The Prime Minister, who was in Karachi on a day-long visit, was speaking during the inauguration ceremony of the Pakistan International Bulk Terminal at Port Qasim.
 
read-more
Ruskin Bond’s first novel ‘Room on the Roof’ describes in vivid detail how life in the hills around Dehradun used to be. Bond, who is based in Landour, Mussoorie, since 1963, captured the imagination of countless readers as he painted a picture of an era gone by.
 
read-more
India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attained a level of maturity which allows it to assert itself in an effective manner. This is aimed at protecting the country’s national interests in a sustained way.
 
read-more
Braid-chopping incidents have added to the already piled up anxieties of Kashmiris. Once again they are out on the streets, to give vent to their anger. A few persons, believed to be braid-choppers were caught hold by irate mobs at various places. They were beaten to pulp.
 
read-more
China has witnessed great historic changes in the past five years from the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to the upcoming 19th CPC National Congress.
 
read-more
In a move lauded worldwide, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud recently issued a royal decree allowing women to obtain driving licences.
 
read-more
Recently, United States President Donald Trump kicked the onus of the US backing out of the Iran nuclear deal to the US Congress. The question is how we interpret this technically, in terms of domestic politics and in terms of geopolitics.
 
read-more
It is a privilege to be invited to this most prestigious of law schools in the country, more so for someone not formally lettered in the discipline of law. I thank the Director and the faculty for this honour.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive