SOUTH ASIAN ASSOCIATION FOR REGIONAL COOPERATION
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established when its Charter was formally adopted on December 8, 1985 by the Heads of State or Government of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
SAARC provides a platform for the peoples of South Asia to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding. It aims to accelerate the process of economic and social development in Member States.
AREAS OF COOPERATION
At the inception of the Association, the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) consisting of a number of Technical Committees (TCs) was identified as the core areas of cooperation. Over the period of years, the number of TCs were changed as per the requirement. The current areas of cooperation under the reconstituted Regional Integrated Programme of Action which is pursued through the Technical Committees cover:
- Agriculture and Rural Development;
- Health and Population Activities;
- Women, Youth and Children;
- Environment and Forestry;
- Science and Technology and Meteorology;
- Human Resources Development; and
Recently, high level Working Groups have also been established to strengthen cooperation in the areas of Information and Communications Technology, Biotechnology, Intellectual Property Rights, Tourism, and Energy.
Given the emphasis laid down at successive Summits on the need to expand the areas of cooperation and strengthen the regional cooperation, a number of other areas have been included in the SAARC agenda. Several Ministerial level meetings have taken place to give due emphasis in various fields. The details of work programme under each agreed areas of cooperation can be viewed by clicking the respective links.
The SAARC Secretariat
The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987. Its role is to coordinate and monitor the implementation of SAARC activities, service the meetings of the Association and serve as the channel of communication between SAARC and other international organisations. The Secretariat has also been increasingly utilised as the venue for SAARC meetings.
The Secretariat comprises the Secretary General, seven Directors and the General Services Staff. The details of its officials and working divisions responsible for areas of work can be viewed under respective links.
SAARC has instituted several awards to encourage individuals and organizations in furthering theobjectives of SAARC.
The Twelfth Summit (Islamabad, January 2004) approved the institution of the SAARC Award to honour and encourage outstanding individuals and organizations within the region.
The main objectives of the SAARC Award shall be to encourage individuals and organizations based in South Asia to undertake programmes and activities complementing the efforts of SAARC; to encourage individuals and organizations in South Asia contributing to the improvement of the conditions of women and children; to honour outstanding contributions and achievements of individuals and organizations within the region in the fields of peace, development, poverty alleviation, environment protection and regional cooperation making the SAARC Award the most valuable prize in the region; and to honour any other outstanding contributions and achievements, not covered above, of individuals and organizations in the region.
The SAARC Award comprises of a gold medal, a letter of citation and carries a purse of US $ 25,000.
SAARC Youth Awards Scheme
The SAARC Youth Awards Scheme was instituted in 1996 to provide recognition to extraordinary young talents and encourage the overall development of the youth in the region. The Scheme is also aimed at encouraging the South Asian youth to excel in various fields and to realize their full potential.
The SAARC Youth Awards Scheme is open to nationals of SAARC Member Countries, who are within the age group of 20-35 years at the time of nomination. The Award consists of a citation in English; a Gold Medal; and a cash prize of US$ 1500.00.
The SAARC Youth Awards have so far been presented on the following themes :
1997 : First Award for “Outstanding Social Service in Community Welfare”
1998 : Second Award for “New Inventions and Discoveries”
2001 : Third Award for “Creative Photography : South Asian Diversity”
2002 : Fourth Award for “Outstanding contribution to protect the Environment”
2003 : Fifth Award for “Invention in the Field of Traditional Medicine”
The theme for the year 2004 was decided as “Dedicated Community Services in the Field of TB and/or HIV/AIDS”.
SAARC Regional Centres:
The SAARC Secretariat is supported by following Regional Centres established in Member States to promote regional cooperation. These Centres are managed by Governing Boards comprising representatives from Member States, SAARC Secretary-General and the Ministry of Foreign/External Affairs of the Host Government. The Director of the Centre acts as Member Secretary to the Governing Board which reports to the Standing Committee.
- SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC), Dhaka
- SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), Dhaka
- SAARC Tuberculosis Centre (STC), Kathmandu
- SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi
- SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC), Islamabad
- SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre, Maldives
- SAARC Information Centre, Nepal
- SAARC Energy Centre, Pakistan
- SAARC Disaster Management Centre, India
- SAARC Cultural Centre, Sri Lanka
- SAARC Forestry Centre, Bhutan
DESIGNATED SAARC YEARS
SAARC Year of Combating Drug Abuse and Drug Trafficking
SAARC Year of Girl Child
SAARC Year of Shelter
SAARC Year of Environment
SAARC Year of Disabled Persons
SAARC Year of the Youth
SAARC Year of Poverty Eradication
SAARC Year of Literacy
SAARC Year of Participatory Governance
SAARC Year of Biodiversity
SAARC Year of Contribution of Youth to Environment
SAARC Awareness Year for TB and HIV/AIDS
South Asia Tourism Year
SAARC Decade of the Girl Child
SAARC Decade of the Rights of the Child
The SAARC Secretariat has printed a number of publications in the following categories:
SAARCNEWS is a regular publication which reports on the on-going activities of the Association and is free for distribution.
Brochures and booklets are printed on general information about SAARC as well on thematic issues. The publications are distributed free of cost on demand.
Priced Publications contain compilation of documents approved by various SAARC bodies. The publications can be bought by sending an email to the SAARC Secretariat. The price will include cost of the publications and the postage charges.
SDF Fifth Meeting in Kabul
1-2 September 2009
SDF Fifth Meeting in Kabul
The SAARC Development Fund (SDF) Board met at its Fifth Meeting in Kabul on 1-2 September 2009. The Meeting was inaugurated by the Deputy Minister for Finance of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Mustafa Mastoor, when he welcomed the Board Member as this was the first high-level SAARC Meeting taking place in Kabul since Afghanistan joined SAARC.
The Afghan senior officials informed that they were expecting to complete the ratification of the SDF Charter by 2009 end, together with other important Agreements [SAARC Food Bank, SAARC Convention on Mutual on Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Protocol of Accession of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), Establishment of South Asian Regional Standards (SARSO)].
The SAARC Development Fund (SDF) was established by the SAARC Heads of State or Government in November 2005 as a comprehensive regional funding mechanism to undertake projects on regional or sub-regional basis. It has been established with three Windows - Social, Economic and Infrastructure.
In the run up to operationalization of the Secretariat in Thimphu, the Board approved some of its major operational modalities. The Board initiated the process of selecting the Fund's first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) from the region; finalized SDF Secretariat's Personnel Structure, related Administrative provisions and the Guidelines related to Procurement and Fund Disbursement. The recipient organizations/entities are to follow those Guidelines in ensuring due implementation of the SDF-financed projects. As SDF is currently engaged on implementing the Social Window related projects, the Board further finalized the formats related to development of projects as well as tools to ensure smooth implementation of the ongoing and future projects.
The two projects currently under implementation related to Women Empowerment and Maternal and Child Health Care were also reviewed by the Board. Both the Projects are under implementation in seven SAARC Member States, excluding India, financed under US$ 100 million voluntary contribution received from India in SDF.
With SDF's actual project implementation taking off since July 2007, in different SAARC processes SAARC Member States are increasingly focused on developing sub-regional/regional projects to address pressing challenges in areas like energy, agriculture, education, etc. Once the projects are shaped up with inputs from the Member States, SDF Board would consider those for eventual financing.
The Board also discussed the question of operationalizing the third Window of SDF i.e. Infrastructure Window. The Transport Minister's Meeting in Colombo in July 2009 requested the SDF Board to consider it. The Board agreed to discuss the related issues at its Sixth Meeting.
With the SDF Secretariat likely to be in place by April 2010, the Board agreed that all Member States should forward their respective assessed contributions towards the Initial Paid-up Capital, totaling US$ 300 million.
The Sixth Meeting of the Board will take place in Thimphu in November 2009.
Workshop on CDMs, New Delhi, India, 1 September 2009
A Workshop on Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs) was hosted by the Government of India in New Delhi on 1 September 2009 to share its expertise and experience with Project Developers, CDM Consultants and Industry Associations from Member States of SAARC. The Government of India had offered to host the Workshop during the Expert Group Meeting on Climate Change (Dhaka, 1-2 July 2008) preceding the Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change (Dhaka, 3 July 2008). The Dhaka Declaration and SAARC Action Plan on Climate Change adopted by the Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change (Dhaka, 3 July 2008), among others, underlined the importance of the Clean Development Mechanism, particularly with respect to capacity building and development of CDM projects.
All Member States participated in the Workshop which was inaugurated by H.E. Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Government of India. The Workshop was also addressed by H.E. Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma, Secretary General of SAARC; Mr. Vijai Sharma, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India; Mr. T. S. Tirumurti, Joint Secretary (BSM), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
The key objectives of the Workshop were to facilitate capacity building for identification and development of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects in SAARC Member States; to enable access to carbon market service providers and experts; and to identify opportunities to use CDM as a tool to promote investments in clean technologies.
The Workshop had five sessions on various topics related to CDMs as follows: (i) Climate Change, CDM and Carbon Market: An Overview; (ii) CDM – Process and Project Development; (iii) CDM – Project Type and Opportunities; (iv) Potential CDM Project Opportunities in SAARC Countries; and (v) Understanding Carbon Markets.
CDM experts and resource persons made detailed presentations at the various sessions. Representatives of Member States also made presentations on their respective National Action Plans on Climate Change, Current CDM Projects, and Potential CDM Project Opportunities.
Chair of the Standing Committee visits the SAARC Secretariat
While on a visit to Nepal, H. E. Dr. Palitha T. B. Kohona, Foreign Secretary of Sri Lanka, and Chairman of the SAARC Standing Committee, paid a visit to the SAARC Secretariat today and met H. E. Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma, Secretary-General of SAARC, and the Directors.
He was briefed about the ongoing activities of SAARC, particularly on the follow-up on the decisions of the Fifteenth SAARC Summit held in Colombo in August 2008 and its preceding meetings. Dr. Kohona was also informed of important decisions of various Ministerial Meetings that had taken place since the last Session of the Council of Ministers, as also about SAARC’s continuing focus on developing and implementing sub-regional and regional projects.
27 July 2009
Notification on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA)
The Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was signed at Islamabad during the Twelfth SAARC Summit on 6 January 2004. As required under the SAFTA Agreement, the SAARC Secretariat has to issue a formal Notification regarding its entry into force by certifying that all formalities including ratification have been completed by the Member States. All the Member States have since completed the formalities including depositing of their Instruments of Ratification with the Secretariat. Accordingly, a Notification has been issued by the SAARC Secretariat on 22 March 2006 formally announcing the entry into force of SAFTA Agreement with effect from 1 January 2006.
The entry into force of the Agreement thus launches the South Asian Free Trade Area which would be completed by 1st January 2016. The first round of customs duty reduction would take place, as agreed by the Member States, in July/August 2006.
It may be recalled that the Twelfth Meeting of the Committee of Experts (COE) on SAFTA held at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu on 29 November – 1 December 2005 successfully concluded the negotiations on the following issues which now form an integral part of the Agreement:
- Sensitive Lists – of products that would be temporarily exempt from reduction in customs tariffs to be applied across the board for all other products;
- Rules of Origin – specifying the conditions that would have to be met by products to qualify for application of reduced customs tariffs on export to another SAARC Member State;
- Mechanism for Compensation of Revenue Loss for LDC Member States (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal) in the event of revenue loss resulting from lowering of customs tariffs in terms of the Agreement; and
- Technical Assistance to the LDC Member States.
Under Article 7 - Trade Liberalisation Programme (TLP) – in the first phase, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will bring down their customs tariff to 20% by 1st January 2008. As far as the LDC Member States i.e. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal are concerned, they would reduce their customs tariff to 30% . It has also been agreed by the COE that the first tariff reduction would be effected on 1st July 2006 by all Member States with the exception of Nepal which would do so on 1st August 2006.
It may also be noted that India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka would bring their customs tariff down to the level of 0-5% for the export products of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal by 1st January 2009. However, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal are required to do so by 1st January 2016.
With the coming into force of the Agreement, the SAFTA Ministerial Council (SMC) and the SAFTA Committee of Experts (COE) have also been established under Article 10 of the Agreement. The SMC is the highest decision-making body and is responsible for implementation of the Agreement. It consists of Commerce/Trade Ministers of the Member States and is required to meet at least once annually or more often as and when considered necessary. The COE, consisting of one nominee from each Member State at the level of senior economic official, is to support the SMC and monitor, review and facilitate implementation of the Agreement. The COE is to meet once every six months or more often as necessary.
The First Meeting of the SMC is scheduled to be held in Dhaka on 20 April 2006 preceded by the First Meeting of the SAFTA COE on 18-19 April 2006.
22 March 2006
On Occasion of Signing of Revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the SAARC Japan Special Fund
A Revised Memorandum for the SAARC Japan Special Fund (SJSF) was signed on Monday, 6th February by H.E. Mr. Chenkyab Dorji, Secretary General of SAARC and H.E. Mr. Tsutomu Hiraoka, the Ambassador of Japan in Nepal on behalf of the Japanese government. The revised MoU will replace the earlier MoU for the SJSF which was signed in 1993.
The SJSF supports a number of cooperation activities of the Association and the promotion of intellectual exchanges between Japan and the member countries of the SAARC. The two sides expressed the confidence that the signing of the revised MoU, along with Japan becoming an observer to SAARC would contribute to further strengthening the friendly and cooperative relations between SAARC and Japan.
6 February 2006
Heads of Regional Organisations discuss strengthening of collaboration
The Tenth Consultative Meeting of the Executive Heads of Subregional Organisations and ESCAP, hosted by the SAARC Secretariat, was held in Kathmandu on 5 September 2005. Mr.Ramesh Nath Pandey, Foreign Minister of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal inaugurated the Meeting. The members of the Diplomatic Corps and the representatives of the regional and intergovernmental organisations were also present at the inaugural session.
Foreign Minister Pandey in his address mentioned that there remained huge potentials for strengthening cooperation among sub-regional organisations of ESCAP. He underscored that in this era of intense globalisation the question of effective regional collaboration has assumed further significance. He felt that the meeting offered a unique opportunity to understand each other’s priorities and interests, and to exchange ideas on possible collective responses to the challenges, the region is faced with, such as poverty, natural disasters, exploiting natural resources, terrorism etc.
SAARC Secretary General Chenkyab Dorji and Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su co-chaired the Meeting. ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng Yong and Secretary General of Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO).Askhat Orazbay were the other two attending Heads. Representatives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) also attended the meeting as observer.
The Executive Heads shared their views on how to widen and deepen the existing level of interactions among their Organisations and to forge an effective coalition to improve the quality of life of the common man. They reaffirmed commitment of their respective organisations to remain steadfast in the course for poverty alleviation, economic development and social progress. Underscoring the strength of synergy, they deliberated on identification of complementarities and how to create a common front against the common challenges, faced by the region.
During the meeting, the Heads deliberated on the achievement in attaining the Millennium Development Goals challenges, interregional trade and investment promotion, regional cooperation for and mitigation of natural disasters, energy cooperation and connectivity. They also discussed possible framework for effective networking among Sub-regional Organisations and ESCAP. The Heads decided to form two Working Groups on Energy and Disaster Management.
Kathmandu, 5 September 2005
SAARC considers a new financial mechanism
A Meeting of Financial Experts, held on 01-02 September 2005 at the SAARC Secretariat, recommended reconstitution of the existing the South Asian development Fund (SADF) and creation of the SAARC Development Fund, an umbrella organization for all SAARC development funding. The Meeting deliberated on some crucial questions related to existing and proposed funds for SAARC programmes and projects. Experts from all SAARC Member States and representatives from the SAARC as well as the South Asian Development Fund (SADF) Secretariat attended.
While addressing the Financial Experts at the inaugural session, SAARC Secretary General Chenkyab Dorji, touched upon the background and significance of holding the Meeting. Underscoring the Member States’ emphasis on project collaboration, he called upon theExperts to consider the creation of one financing entity with several windows.
The Meeting underlined the need for mobilising funds from within and beyond the region. It examined the proposals for creation of Poverty Alleviation Fund and Infrastructure Fund as well as prospects of creating a Development Bank.
The proposed SAARC Development Fund would have three windows. The Social Window, with an initial corpus of US$300 million, is planned to fund, among others, poverty alleviation programmes and projects. Through the Infrastructure Window, funds would be mobilized, from within and beyond the region, to finance infrastructure projects. TheEconomic Window would fund other non-infrastructure commercial projects. The Fund would be professionally managed and would have a permanent secretariat. The meeting also discussed the prospects of creating a South Asian Development Bank in future.
The recommendations of the Financial Experts would be consider by the next meeting of the SAARC Finance/Planning Secretaries and Finance/Planning Ministers.
Kathmandu, 2 September 2005
FIFTH MEETING OF SAARC INFORMATION MINISTERS CONCLUDES
At the invitation of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, the Information Ministers of SAARC Countries met in Kathmandu on 29-30 August 2005 for their Fifth Meeting. The Fourth such Meeting was held in Islamabad in December 2004.
2. The Meeting was inaugurated by His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev of Nepal. His Majesty granted a group audience to all Information Ministers and Leaders of the delegation from the SAARC Member States after the inaugural session of the Fifth Meeting of the Information Ministers.
3. Mr. Tanka Dhakal, Minister of Information and Communications of Nepal, while welcoming the delegates, stated that in view of the rampant poverty in South Asia, sharing of information on various aspects of development activities in the region could be instrumental in harnessing the potentials of our region. He further added that this meeting should focus on facilitating the use of information as a catalyst in addressing the issues of poverty alleviation
4. Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji, SAARC Secretary General, in his address at the inaugural session, highlighted that ICT are vital tools in the process of socio-economic development. The digital revolution holds great promise for economic growth, development and poverty eradication and has brought about extraordinary benefits in many countries
5. The Information Ministers and leaders of the delegations made brief statements highlighting the information and media policies being followed in their respective countries. All of them recognised the vital role that information and media could play in the promotion of peace, progress and harmony in South Asia. Therefore, emphasized on strengthening the cooperation in this vital sector.
6. The Meeting reviewed the status of implementation of SAARC News Programmes for TV and Radio and updated schedules of TV and Radio broadcasting schedules as well as the list of focal points responsible for exchange of information among Member States.
7. The Ministers welcomed the initiatives of the SAVE Committee to organize SAARC Radio Quiz as first event through teleconferencing on 7 October. The Meeting advised the Heads of TV and Radio Organisatons that details for holding of SAARC Feature Film Festivals on National Channels of Television be worked out at the earliest.
8. The Ministers were informed that the Fifth SAARC Radio Quiz” is being scheduled on 7 October 2005 through teleconferencing. The delegations from all Member States confirmed that they are ready to go for teleconferencing.
9. The Ministers deliberated on a number of issues including, proposal on the establishment of a SAARC Media Development Fund. They reviewed the status of production of video documentary on “SAARC in the New Millennium” and advised that the documentary be previewed in October 2005 before it is screened at the Thirteenth SAARC Summit in Dhaka.
10. The Ministers adopted the SAARC common position on information and media matters and decided for presentation at the WSIS Phase-II to be held in Tunis in November 2005. The Ministers requested Pakistan – being the current Chairperson of SAARC – to present the common position at the WSIS.
11. On the proposal made by Information Minister of Pakistan to establish SAARC Television Channel, the Meeting requested PTV to submit a concept paper for consideration at the next meeting of Heads of TV, Radio and News Agencies.
12. The Ministers decided to hold their next Meeting in India in 2006.
31 August 2005
SAARC Agreement on Tax Cooperation Finalised
The Third Meeting of SAARC Sub-Group on Avoidance of Double Taxation was held at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu on 30th August 2005. The Sub-Group had earlier considered the text of the Draft SAARC Limited Multilateral Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters at its first and second meetings (SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu, 26-28 October 2004 and Islamabad, 6-7 December 2004 respectively).
The Third Meeting, attended by the representatives of all SAARC Member States, was chaired by Mr. A.S. Jahir Muhammad, Member (Income Tax Policy), National Board of Revenue, Government of Bangladesh. The Meeting discussed the outstanding issues and reached consensus on the text of the Draft Agreement. The Draft Agreement will now be considered by appropriate higher SAARC bodies for approval and signature at the forthcoming Thirteenth SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in Dhaka on 12-13 November 2005.
30 August 2005
At the invitation of the Government of Pakistan, the Health Ministers of SAARC Countries met in Islamabad on 16 July 2005 for their Second Conference. The First such Conference was held in New Delhi in November 2003.
2. The Conference was inaugurated by His Excellency Mr. Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In his inaugural address, the Prime Minister, called for concerted efforts by all Member States to work unitedly to wipe out the deadly diseases from the region and to improve the health facilities accessible to a common man of our countries. He emphasized on the need to initiate practical measures to strengthen the cooperation in health care among Member States. He further stated that we should take advantage of available modern technologies, including telemedicine facilities, to combat the deadly menace from our region.
3. His Excellency Mr. Mohammad Nasir Khan, Minister of Health, Government of Pakistan, welcomed the delegates to the Conference. He stated that there was a need to devise regional strategies for the effective implementation of earlier decisions taken on health and population issues by all Member States within the given timeframe.
4. The inaugural session was also addressed by H.E. Mr. Chenkyab Dorji, SAARC Secretary General. He highlighted the key elements in the agenda for the Second Conference of Health Ministers and hoped that the Conference would hold in-depth deliberations to advance regional cooperation for improving health sector for the people of our region. The Secretary General informed the gathering on various initiatives taken under SAARC umbrella to control communicable diseases and stated that there was an urgent need to do much more in this regard. The Secretary General appreciated the Government of Pakistan for hosting this important Conference and stated that the Conference had provided a useful opportunity to strengthen the ongoing efforts of Member States aimed at the promotion of good health of people in the region.
5. His Excellency, Dr. Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, MP, Minister of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh delivered the Vote of Thanks at the Inaugural Session, on behalf of the visiting delegations. He thanked the Government of Pakistan for holding this important Conference. He offered to host the Third Conference of the SAARC Health Ministers in Bangladesh during the first quarter of 2006.
6. The Conference, among others, agreed to:
- cooperate in reducing the impact of natural disasters such as tsunami. In this context, the Member States agreed to develop medical emergency kits for expediting response to large scale natural disaster.
- Establish a proper mechanism to follow-up on the earlier decisions for reporting at the next Conferences of the Health Ministers.
- Exchange data on health indicators among SAARC Member States.
- Share Human Resource priorities, collaborate in capacity building and accreditation among Member States.
7. The Health Ministers issued the “Islamabad Declaration on Health and Population” on the conclusion of the Conference. The Declaration calls for the Member States to:
a. Foster a collaborative environment and develop a mechanism for enhanced regional cooperation in Health and Population
b. Commit to the setting up of a regional institutional mechanism and establishment of national focal points within Ministries of Health and Population, to facilitate effective implementation of decisions agreed in the present declaration
c. Facilitate sharing of experiences, technical expertise and successes in the region in priority health and population areas within research, policy, programmes and health systems
d. Reiterate the decision of the First Conference of SAARC Health Ministers held in New Delhi, to enhance inter-country cooperation for emergency preparedness and regional disease surveillance and the establishment of a SAARC Disease Surveillance Center and Rapid Deployment Health Response System
e. Commit to working towards developing regional policies and programmes as well as effective partnerships in order to check illegal trade in drugs and medicines and regional / inter-regional movement of spurious, sub-standards drugs, food as well as narcotics and psychotropic substances
f. Recommend protection, promotion and mainstreaming of the traditional system of medicine in the healthcare delivery systems of member countries
g. Agree to establish an Expert Group on Population issues under the mandate of Technical Committee on Health and Population, to strengthen cooperation, exchange of experiences and policy dialogues in area of family planning and reproductive health to achieve common agenda of ICPD and Millennium Development Goals
h. Call upon all stakeholders including development partners to complement the region’s efforts in achieving Millennium Development Goals and addressing other priority health and population issues.
i. Allocate a larger percentage of GDP for health, nutrition, population and related research
j. Support networking of National Research Institutions in conducting collaborative research projects to address regional health priorities and need to establish a regional research fund
k. Agree to explore the options of designating a Regional Public Health Institute
l. Strengthen regional mechanisms for exchange of faculty and students in disciplines of Medical Sciences and Public Health Education
8. The Ministers welcomed the offer made by His Excellency, Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, MP, Minister of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh, to host the Third SAARC Health Ministers Conference in first quarter of 2006.
9. The full text of the Joint Statement issued by the Health is attached.
16 July 2005
A Special Session of the SAARC Environment Ministers in the Aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami was convened in Malé on 25th June 2005 at the initiative of the Government of Maldives.
2. During his inaugural address, H.E. Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the President of the Republic of the Maldives expressed his confidence that the meeting would identify important steps to help in national recovery in the affected countries and determine the role of SAARC in setting up early warning measures as soon as possible. The President noted that an early warning system was one part of a response to natural disasters and that all the countries in the region needed to carry out numerous conservation and disaster mitigation measures to strengthen environmental resilience and to protect life.
3. The SAARC Secretary General H.E. Mr. Chenkyab Dorji applauded the initiative taken by the Government of Maldives to convene the first ever Special Session of the of the SAARC Ministerial Meeting on Environment to address the problems caused by the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 26 December 2005. The Secretary General stated that due to its importance, the subject was on the SAARC agenda for a long time. He also stated that the unprecedented loss of life, property and incalculable damage to the marine ecosystem by the Tsunami underscored the need for SAARC to revitalize and review its existing activities in the field of environment.
4. During the one day deliberation, which was chaired by the Hon’ble Acting Minister for Environment and Construction of the Maldives, the Ministers provided an assessment of the of the extent of damage and loss caused by the Tsunami in their countries and highlighted the various relief and rehabilitation measures that were taken up. They also discussed the ways and means by which regional cooperation to mitigate the problems caused by large natural disasters such as the recent Tsunami could be undertaken. In this regard, the importance and urgency in devising a regional mechanism for early warning, preparedness and management of natural disasters for the region was extensively discussed.
5. At the end of their one day meeting, the Ministers adopted the Malé declaration on a collective response to large scale disasters. The Declaration calls for the Member States to:
- identify national focal points who would meet at the proposed Expert Group Meeting in Dhaka later in the year to formulate a Comprehensive Framework on Early Warning, Disaster Management and Disaster Prevention, prior to the Seventh Ministerial Meeting on Environment in Bangladesh.
- exchange information about existing early warning capabilities in the Member States,
- develop a strategy to integrate disaster recovery and reconstruction activities into r national sustainable development strategies,
- further enhance the capacity of the existing SAARC Meteorological Research Centre in Dhaka and the Coastal Zone Management Centre in Malé to carry out their mandated tasks,
- calls upon the international community to fulfill their commitment in providing pledged aid for early recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation programme for Tsunami affected Member States requiring assistance, and,
- cooperate in the promotion of tourism sector as a way of reviving the economies of the Member States that were severely affected by the Tsunami.
The full text of the Male Declaration of the Special Session of the SAARC Environment Ministers Meeting is attached.
25 June 2005
Environment in the Aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Disaster,
Malé, 25 June 2005
We, the Ministers of the Environment of the Member Countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) gathered in Malé, Maldives on 25 June 2005, for the Special Session of SAARC Environment Ministers in the Aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Disaster of 26 December 2004, which had caused unprecedented loss of life and property in the South Asian region,
Recognizing that the earthquake and the tsunami caused irreversible damage to the environment and the eco-systems;
Recognizing that the Member States have demonstrated the collective spirit of regional cooperation in providing relief assistance in the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami disaster;
Expressing our deep appreciation for the prompt and generous assistance and contributions by some of the Member States, other countries and the international community and agencies;
Appreciating the work carried out by international community and agencies in undertaking rapid environmental assessment of the tsunami impacted countries;
Realizing also the need for further rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas where damage to social, economic and environmental infrastructure has been extensive;
Recalling the decisions of SAARC Heads of the States or Governments to intensify regional cooperation with a view to strengthening disaster management capabilities in the region, and the urgent need to devise a regional mechanism in South Asia for early warning, preparedness and management of natural disasters;
1. Express our deep sense of sorrow and profound sympathy to the people of the affected countries in the region for the loss of many lives and extensive devastation, which rendered thousands of people homeless;
2. Express our deep sense of sorrow and profound sympathy also for the people of other countries who have lost many of their nationals in the disaster;
3. Express full solidarity with the Governments and the peoples of the affected countries in their efforts to provide immediate relief to the victims of the disaster, and towards long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts;
4. Encourage the international community to ensure assistance in continuing efforts of Member States requiring assistance towards rehabilitation and reconstruction.
5. Recognize that the tragic impact of the tsunami further reiterates the urgent need for effective disaster risk reduction, disaster management, provision of emergency relief and rehabilitation and reconstruction;
6. Reinforce the capabilities within the Member States to tackle similar disasters in the South Asian region, which is quite prone to natural disasters;
7. Reaffirm to come together in the event of such disasters to alleviate the suffering of the people in the affected areas in the region;
8. Decide to undertake the following:
(a) communicate their existing early warning capabilities through the SAARC Secretariat, which can be used as an early warning system for natural disasters in the region in the interim period before a regional system is developed in the region;
(b) develop a strategy to integrate the disaster recovery and reconstruction activities into the national sustainable development strategies of the Tsunami-impacted SAARC countries;
(c) identify their national focal points for early warning, disaster preparedness and management, who should attend the proposed Expert Group Meeting in Dhaka to formulate a Comprehensive Framework on Early Warning, Disaster Management and Disaster Prevention, prior to the Seventh Ministerial Meeting on Environment in Bangladesh.
(d) further enhance the capacity of the existing SAARC institutions, namely, the SAARC Meteorological Research Centre in Dhaka and the SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre in Malé to carry out their mandated tasks;
(e) call upon the international donor community to fulfill their commitment in providing pledged aid for the early recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation programme for Tsunami affected Member Countries requiring assistance;
(f) cooperate in the promotion of the tourism sector as a way of reviving the economies of the Member Countries that are severely affected by the Tsunami; and
(g) develop SAARC regional programmes/projects for early warning, preparedness and management of Tsunami and other natural disasters.
Committee on Experts on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) Eighth Meeting held in Nepal ( 25-27 April 2005)
The Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was signed at the Twelfth SAARC Summit (6 January 2004) and is to enter into force on 1 January 2006. The Committee of Experts (COE) was entrusted with the task of completing negotiations on the following four outstanding issues:
(i) Sensitive Lists – of products that would be temporarily exempt from reduction in customs tariffs to be applied across the board for all other products;
(ii) Rules of Origin – specifying the conditions that would have to be met by products to qualify for application of reduced customs tariffs on export to another SAARC Member State;
(iii) Revenue Loss Compensation Mechanism for LDC Member States (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal) in the event of revenue loss resulting from lowering of customs tariffs in terms of the Agreement; and
(iv) Technical Assistance to the LDC Member States.
Once negotiations are finalised on the above issues the details would be contained in four Annexes which would form, as mentioned in the Agreement itself, an integral part of it.
2. In 2004 the COE met on six occasions for negotiations on the four issues listed in the foregoing paragraph. In 2005 the COE held its first meeting (seventh in the series since 2004) on 22-24 March in the Maldives. The Eighth Meeting of the COE was hosted by His Majesty’s Government of Nepal and was held in Kathmandu on 25-27 April 2005. The Hon’ble Minister for Finance Mr. Madhukar Shumsher J. B. Rana, His Majesty’s Government of Nepal inaugurated the Meeting. In his inaugural address he drew attention to the fact that SAFTA would be one of the largest Free Trade Areas representing one-fifth of humanity. H.E. Mr. Bharat Bahadur Thapa, Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, His Majesty’s Government of Nepal also addressed the Meeting.
3. At the Eighth Meeting of the COE extensive discussions were held on the Sensitive Lists and substantial progress was achieved in the bilateral negotiations on finalising the Lists. In view of this the COE agreed that it would seek to complete bilateral negotiations at its next meeting and finalise the Sensitive Lists.
4. On the issue of Rules of Origin the COE expressed satisfaction with the state of progress registered in the negotiations to finalise the Rules of Origin.
5. The COE held further discussions on the Mechanism for Compensation of Revenue Loss and detailed negotiations would continue at its next meeting.
6. The COE, having finalised the list of areas in which technical assistance would be extended to the LDC Member States at its Sixth Meeting (New Delhi, 2-4 December 2004), held detailed discussions on the operational modalities for providing technical assistance.
7. The COE agreed to hold its next meeting at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu on 29 June-1 July 2005.
28 April 2005
Committee on Experts on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) meets in the Maldives
The Seventh Meeting of the Committee of Experts (COE) on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was held in the Maldives on 22-24 March 2005 under the chairmanship of Mr. Ahmed Naseem, Assistant Executive Director, Investments, Foreign Investment Services Bureau, Ministry of Trade and Industries, Government of the Maldives. The delegations from all Member States attended the Meeting.
Bilateral negotiations were held on the indicative Sensitive Lists, one of the four outstanding issues. Substantive discussions were held on the other issues viz Draft SAFTA Rules of Origin, Mechanism for Compensation of Revenue Loss and Technical Assistance to LDC Member States.
The Eighth Meeting of the Committee of Experts on SAFTA would be hosted by Nepal o 17-19 April 2005. The Committee also agreed to hold its Ninth Meeting at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu on 19-21 May 2005.
SAFTA Agreement is scheduled to enter into force on 1 January 2006.
28 March 2005
HELP FOR TSUNAMI AFFECTED
The officials at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu have donated their one-day’s salary to help the affected who suffered from the recent Tsunami in India, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Tens of thousands have been killed and injured, thousands are missing in the aftermath of the worst Tsunami that struck some of the Member Countries of SAARC on 26 December 2004. Countless people have been displaced from their homes. These survivors suffer from lack of food, drinking water and medicine, and are exposed to the danger of diseases. Once the immediate relief needs are met, long-term rebuilding efforts must start. For this generous outside help will be needed. The officials of the Secretariat decided to make their modest contribution as a token of expression of solidarity with the Governments of the affected countries in their efforts to meet the challenge.
3 January 2005
SIGNING OF MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU) BETWEEN SOUTH ASIAN ASSOCIATION FOR REGIONAL COOPERATION (SAARC) AND SOUTH ASIA CO-OPERATIVE ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME (SACEP)
An MOU between SAARC and SACEP was signed on 8 July 2004 by H.E. Mr. Q.A.M.A. Rahim, SAARC Secretary General and Mr. Mahboob Elahi, Director General of SACEP.
2. The MOU has been signed pursuant to the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers of SAARC and the Ministers of Environment, and the Governing Council and Consultative Committee of SACEP.
3. The MOU will constitute a framework of cooperation between SAARC and SACEP in the area of environment protection consistent with the SAARC Charter and the mandate of SACEP. It provides for the two organizations to cooperate including developing mutually supportive arrangements to implement their respective Environmental Programmes and Action Plans; exchange information on the state of the global and regional environment and emerging environmental issues; collaborating in producing studies and reports on priority concerns in the field of environment; and strengthening capacity for effectively addressing global, regional and national environmental concerns, including through participation in multilateral environmental negotiations and the environmental agreements.
4. South Asia with its increasing population and expanding economies are facing myriad problems in safeguarding its natural resource base. Therefore, this framework of cooperation between SAARC and SACEP reflects the vision of the region to face the challenge of sustainable development. It is also a realization of the importance of capitalizing on the separate strengths of the two organizations to address environmental issues.
8 July 2004
The Third Meeting of the SAARC Standing Group on Standards, Quality Control and Measurement was held in New Delhi from 18-19 May 2004. This was preceded by a two day SAARC-PTB Planning Workshop from 16-17 May 2004, which formally launched the cooperation between SAARC and the German Metrology Institute (PTB) on the basis of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in November 2003. Representatives from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and India participated in the two meetings.
2. With a view to facilitating intra-regional trade, particularly with the entry into force of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) from January 2006, the Group made important recommendations in the area of harmonization of standards, conformity assessment procedures, testing and metrology as well as accreditation. The Group also recommended bilateral agreements in the area of conformity assessment to facilitate smooth intra-SAARC trade. Further, a proposal for utilization of available facilities in the SAARC Member States for Accreditation and Certification was agreed upon.
3. There was consensus on the need for the establishment of a SAARC Regional Standards Body to prepare common regional standards. The Standing Group agreed to consider adopting regional positions on issues of common interest to be discussed in international meetings like International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Codex Alimentarius Committee (CAC). It was also decided to share the available resources amongst the Member States for metrology, testing and training.
21 May 2004
Extension of the last date for submission of applications for the SAARC Award
The last date for submission of nominations for the SAARC Award has been extended from 21st April to 5th May 2004.
21 April 2004
“SAARC in the New Millennium”: Series of Video Documentaries to be Produced by the SAVE Committee
A two-day meeting of the SAARC Audio Visual Exchange (SAVE) Committee concluded in Thimphu on 13 March 2004. The Committee recommended to hold Children’s Video Film Festival to be coordinated by Pakistan. Production of a series of documentaries entitled “SAARC in the New Millennium” in a phase manner were discussed. For this purpose, Pakistan will develop a Concept Paper for further discussion by the heads of national TV and Radio organisation scheduled to meet in April this year in Dhaka.
The Committee previewed and auditioned TV and Radio schedule programmes for the whole year. To inject new format in SAVE programmes, it decided to introduce “Debates” as a new format for SAVE in addition to current quiz programmes which are popular in the region. The first debate programme will be organised by Bangladesh Television in 2005.
Upon directives from the Third Meeting of the Information Ministers held in November 2003 in New Delhi on introducing new tools of technology for SAARC publicity, India was requested to explore the possibility of providing simultaneous/auto translation of SAVE programmes into national languages of member countries; making available the national TV channels of SAARC countries through cable TV service providers and consideration of tele-conferencing/radio-bridging as another new tool of technology for future SAVE programmes.
The Committee decided to hold SAARC TV and Radio Music Festivals in 2004 on Children to mark the SAARC Decade of the Child. The Music Festivals will be coordinated by Sri Lanka.
Regarding quiz programmes from now onwards students of high school will be participating. The SAARC TV quiz, which is eighth in the series, will be held in Sri Lanka and India to hold the Fifth Radio Quiz in September/October this year.
In addition, two joint productions on “Empowerment of Women” for Radio and “Environmental Conservation” for TV were decided to be held during the current year. The First SAARC Music Award will be presented and the Award Ceremony will coincide with the Twenty-fifth Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers to be held in July 2004 in Islamabad. Such Awards, from now onward, will be organized by the member country hosting the SAARC Summit. A live musical concert comprising artists from all member countries will be held in India with telecast/broadcast in all member countries to mark the SAARC Charter Day on 8 December 2004.
In his inaugural address to the SAVE Committee, Lyonpo Leki Dorji, Minister for Information and Communications of Bhutan stated that as a guardian of Audio-Visual media, the SAVE Committee takes the center stage in ensuring that powerful force is tapped in the interest of a public that represents one-fifth of mankind. The SAVE Committee has the important task of developing appropriate national and regional policies to respond to and take advantage of the changing electronic media technology, the Minister added.
Secretary-General of SAARC, Q.A.M.A. Rahim in his message to the Meeting read out by Mr. P.B. Shah, Director emphasised on the timely implementation of activities the SAVE Committee and hoped that this meeting would ensure smooth holding of all scheduled activities.
The meeting was attended by representatives of TV and Radio organisations from all member countries as well as from the SAARC Secretariat.
16 March 2004
First Meeting of the Committee of Experts (COE) on SAFTA (SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu)
(26-27 February 2004)
It may be recalled that the Agreement on the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was signed by the Foreign Ministers of SAARC Member States on 6 January 2004 during the 12th SAARC Summit (Islamabad 4-6 January 2004).
The Committee of Experts (COE) that drafted SAFTA was mandated to complete negotiations on four Articles of the Agreement on which consensus had been reached in principle, but details were to be finalized. These will be incorporated as integral parts of the Agreement before its entry into force on 1st January 2006. The four Articles are:
(i) Article 7 (3) (a) - Sensitive Lists;
(ii) Article 11 (d) – Possible areas of Technical Assistance to the Least Developed Contracting States;
(iii) Article 11 (e) - Mechanism for Compensation of Revenue Loss for the Least Developed Contracting States; &
(iv) Article 18 - Rules of Origin.
The Committee held its first meeting at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu on 26-27 February 2004. Representatives from all SAARC Member States participated in the meeting.
The Committee held extensive discussions on the four outstanding issues and agreed on a roadmap for future negotiations including the schedule of meetings for the rest of the year. The Second Meeting of the Committee will be held in Pakistan on 3-5 May 2004.
27 February 2004
A two-day South Asia Sub-regional Workshop on Disseminating the First Regional MDG Report for Promoting the Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific: Meeting the Challenges of Poverty Reduction, starts on 28 February at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu. This Workshop is being held in collaboration with UNESCAP and UNDP and their local partner, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Honourable Mr. Kamal Thapa, Minister for Information and Communications, and Health will launch the MDG Report. H.E. Mr. Biekh Bahadur Thapa, Ambassador at Large will deliver inaugural address. Mr. Q.A.M.A. Rahim, Secretary-General of SAARC will also address the inaugural session.
The Report entitled “Promoting the Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific: Meeting the challenges of poverty reduction” was jointly published by UNESCAP and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It reviews the progress, challenges and opportunities for attaining the MDGs in the countries of Asia and the Pacific. The UNESCAP-UNDP Report also serves as a ‘wake-up call’ to region’s governments at regional as well as national levels, many of whom will not be able to fulfill their commitment to achieve several of the MDGs targets at the current rate of progress. Over recent decades the countries of the region have achieved “one of the largest decreases in mass poverty in human history”. This is one of the conclusions of the new report.
Mr. Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary, UNESCAP and Mr. Hafiz Pasha, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, are attending this event which aims to: raise awareness about the MDGs; further develop coalitions and multi-sectoral partnerships as well as identify key roles for target groups; and stimulate target groups to accelerate and implement national action towards improving and executing MDG-centered activities.
Participants from the South-East Asia representing national coordinating agencies, policy makers, non-governmental organizations, civil society, UN agencies and others active in the field of economic and social development will also attend the Workshop.
The Millennium Declaration which led to the formulation of the MDGs was adopted by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2000. They committed themselves to reach specific targets by 2015 in the areas of poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environment and development cooperation.
Workshop on CDMs, New Delhi, India, 1 September 2009
1 September 2009
Chair of the Standing Committee visits the SAARC Secretariat
27 July 2009
Notification on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA)
22 March 2006
On Occasion of Signing of Revised Memorandum of Understn Special Fund
6 February 2006
Heads of Regional Organisations discuss strengthening of collaboration
5 September 2005
SAARC considers a new financial mechanism
2 September 2005
Fifth Meeting Of SAARC Information Ministers Concludes
31 August 2005
SAARC Agreement on Tax Cooperation Finalised
30 August 2005
Second Conference of SAARC Health Ministers, Islamabad, 16th July 2005
16 July 2005
Special Session of the SAARC Environment Ministers in the Aftami, Malé, 25th June 2005
25 June 2005
SAARC Regional Award for Young Scientists and Senior Scientists
A recommendation for instituting an Annual Regional Award for Young Scientists was made by the Working Group on Meteorology at its second meeting in New Delhi as early as December 1982. The Award includes a citation, a bronze medal and an amount equivalent to US$ 500. Up to now, 14 Young Scientists have received the Award. The purpose of the Award is to encourage young scientists of the region working in the field of Meteorology.
SAARC also instituted a separate Award for Senior Scientists in 1997. The purpose of these awards is to encourage excellence in research analysis and outstanding publications in the meteorological field.