“Today’s world must respect human rights. No country can feel safe without respecting human rights and democracy” said Dr Mizanur Rahman, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh while inaugurating the fifth General Forum of the Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy (Sapa).
Sapa is a network of civil society organizations born out of common concerns about how to enhance the effectiveness and impact of civil society advocacy by improving communication, cooperation and coordination among non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating regionally, in the face of rapidly increasing and multiplying inter-governmental processes and meetings in Asia. The Sapa network held its fifth General Forum on 18-21 February 2011 at the Brac Centre, Khagan, Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Delegates from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, The Netherlands attended the two-day General Forum. Mizanur further said that the world has become a global village and can see Egypt’s domino effect in Yemen, Bahrain and other countries. People are aspiring for democracy and human rights.
He emphasised that human rights are not only civil and political rights. “One has to take into consideration the economic, social and cultural rights of the millions of starving people. Equality, social justice and human dignity need to be the base of modern state” visualised Mizanur.
He also emphasised the need for close linkages among the various countries’ human rights commissions as they can rise above sectarian nationalism. He elaborated this by citing an incidence of killing of Felani, a 15-year-old girl, by Border Security Force (BSF) of India at the Indo-Bangla Border. He stressed that it is necessary for the NHRIS of South Asia including the Bangladesh NHRC to work together to address common issues of human rights through effective coordination and collaboration . A common approach to regional issues is the need of the hour, he added.
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The NHRC of Bangladesh will soon launch a nationwide campaign on human rights with the help of law students and faculty. He also requested human rights defenders and NGOs working on the issue to cooperate with the NHRC and work with it. “We all have to work together. With your expertise and knowledge, we can make a difference.”
The SAPA General Forum was scheduled to discuss three major topics: Impunity, Peace and Security and Food Sovereignty. The speakers for the panel on Impunity were Dr. Gopal Krisna Siwakoti of INHURED International and Deputy Chair of Asia Pacific Network on Refugees Rights (APRRN) and Chalida Tajaroensuk of People’s Empowerment. The speakers for Peace and Security were Mary Ann Joyce of Peaceboat, Gus Miclat of the Initiatives for International Dialogue and Feroz Ahmmead of Lead Trust. The speaker for food sovereignty was Jahangir Alam Jony of Ubinig.
On 21 February, the participants were scheduled to visit the Central Shahed Minar, Dhaka in memory of the martyrs of the language movement on International Mother Language Day.
The fifth Sapa General Forum was hosted by Odhikar and the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) Bangladesh (WARBE Development Foundation, Association for Community Development, Ain O Salish Kendra and the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit).