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Hope For Cross-Border Initiatives: South Asia Policy Workshop

December 4th, 2014 by Posted in Resilience

Ashish Kumar Bakshi and Tanvir Mahmud

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On the eve of 18th SAARC Summit, Oxfam and its partners in South Asia organized a “Regional Policy Forum on Disasters, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security” on 10 November, in Kathmandu, Nepal. The participants from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka called upon the leaders gathering at the Summit to reaffirm their commitments and pledges for a coordinated regional response to meet the interdependent challenges of climate change, disasters and food insecurity.

Kathmandu has been the hub of some major events and activities regarding the overall development of the South Asian region for almost the entire month of November. The reason is pretty obvious; it was also hosting the 18th SAARC Summit, which took place in the later quarter of the month. The two-day workshop had the presence of some illustrious names, including parliamentarians, government officials, civil society leaders and academia from participating SAARC countries.

 “There are enough treaties and agreements in place in South Asia– it is now time to implement commitments”, thinks the Oxfam Deputy Regional Director, Lillian Mercado. This remark also reflects the rising concerns regarding the frequent risks of disasters, continued climate change and ever-mounting uncertainty for food in this region. Executive Director of Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), Dr. Atiq Rahman, in his speech, mentioned climate change as one of the greatest threats to human rights and termed it as an issue of “climate justice.”

Honourable Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament, Advocate Md. Fazle Rabbi Miah, MP, and Honourable Chair of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal, Mr. Subhash Chandra Nembang attended this policy discussion as Special and Chief Guest, respectively. Deputy Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament made a number of recommendations including the effective operation of Food and Seed Bank. He also made a commitment to raise awareness amongst fellow parliamentarians and other government officials to prioritize regional cooperation on these issues.

To develop clear policy direction and guidance for regional cooperation, recommendations on the theme of Climate Change include the Inter-Governmental Expert Group on Climate Change established under the Thimphu Statement must be revived, according to the participants. They also think that SAARC must prioritize the development of its hydropower potential and reduce its carbon-fuel dependency for energy generation. Besides these, they think SAARC should jointly push rich countries for increasing their contribution to the Green Climate Fund so that South Asia can benefit to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The participants’ recommendations on the theme of Agriculture and Food Security included SAARC Food and Seed Bank fictionalization to be made a priority by simplifying triggers and procedures for proper access. Also, by removing barriers to their use, the capacity of the SAARC Agriculture Center must be enhanced to support regional agricultural collaboration and research, as well as development and mechanisms should be institutionalized to include the concerns of small-holder farmers particularly women farmers in the fictionalization of the SAARC Seed and Food Banks.

The interesting part is that a number of recommendations of Policy forum reflected in the speech of Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the 18th SAARC summit. For example, she urged for efficient operation of SAARC food and seed bank. The premier mentioned, Cooperation in increasing productivity of key cereals, inland fisheries and livestock and improving water efficiency in agriculture are crucial for attaining nutritional security of our people and eradicating poverty. In this context, effective operation of SAARC Food Bank and Seed Bank is important”. Referring the importance of proper and quick implementation of the agreement to address the challenges of climate change related risks effectively and comprehensively, she added, “… at SAARC level, we need to secure result-oriented implementation of the regional Agreements and Plans through cross-border initiatives”. It also elevated the hopes when several recommendations from the workshop were incorporated in the “Kathmandu Declaration” of the 18th SAARC Summit.

Untitled2After the policy forum workshop, Oxfam facilitated a number of initiatives to take into considerations the recommendations and declaration statement of the policy workshop by the concerned authority. As a part of the initiatives, Oxfam Bangladesh and Bangladesh Parliament jointly organized a Press Briefing at Media Center of Bangladesh Parliament in Dhaka on November 13, 2014, where Honourable Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament and representatives of Oxfam in Bangladesh briefed and shared the key outcomes and suggestions from Policy forum workshop.

 

 

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Ashish Kumar Bakshi is the Program Officer- Oxfam and Tanvir Mahmud is Advocacy Coordinator- Oxfam and can be reached respectively at: abakshi@oxfam.org.uk and tmahmud@oxfam.org.uk

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