18th SAARC Summit
The 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit was held on 26–27 November 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal. The outcome of the summit was the Kathmandu Declaration. This was the third time Nepal had organised the summit – first in 1987 and then again in 2002.
SAARC is an economic and geopolitical organisation of 8 countries that are located in South Asia. It was founded in 1985 by seven member’s state.Its Secretariat is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Its policies aim to
- Promote welfare economics.
- Collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia.
- Acceleratesocio-cultural development in the region.
Members: At present there are 8 members.Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are founder members of SAARC. In 2007, Afghanistan was granted full membership.
Observes: There are 9 states having observer status of SAARC. They areAustralia, China, the European Union (EU), Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea and the United States.
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Theme of 18th SAARC summit
The theme of the summit was “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity”.
Agenda of Recent summit
- 18th summit focused on enhancing connectivity between the member states for easier transit-transport across the region.
- Summit also reaffirmed their commitment to the principles and objectives of SAARC for ensuring the welfare and quality of life of the peoples of South Asia.
- It also focused to deepen regional integration for peace and prosperity by promoting mutual trust, amity, understanding, cooperation and partnership.
- Three pacts were onkey agenda. They were SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity), Agreements on Vehicular Traffic and Railways.
- Scrap three SAARC regional centres and merge four others into one.
- Improve agricultural productivity, food and nutritional security;enhance cooperation on trade, economy, finance, investment, energy, connectivity, health, education and agriculture.
- Accord body status to the South Asian Women’s Development Forum.
- Upgrade the SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre laboratory to a Supranational Laboratory as the agenda for the summit.
- NarendraModi- Prime Minister of India.
- SushilKoirala- Prime Minister of Nepal. (Host)
- MahindaRajapaksa- President of Sri Lankan.
- Nawaz Sharif- Prime Minister of Pakistan.
- Mohammad Ashraf Ghani- President of Afghanistan.
- Sheikh Hasina- Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
- Abdulla Yameen Abdul- President of Maldives.
- LyonchhenTsheringTobgay- Prime Minister of Bhutan.
- Observers: Australia, China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, United States , European Union (EU).
- SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity)-It aims to enable greater cooperation in the power sector among the member countries and is expected to improve power availability in the entire region and facilitate integrated operation of the regional power grid.
- Establish the SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre.
SAARC connectivity pacts- Agreements on Vehicular Traffic and Railwayswere not signed as they were blocked by Pakistan.The reason given by Pakistan in summit mentioned that they still had to conclude its “internal processes” on it.
Key facts about Kathmandu Declaration
- Regional cooperation:
- Head of Members statesexpressed their strong determination forintensifying cooperation in order to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia.
- South Asian Economic Union (SAEU):
- The Leaders renewed their commitment to achieve South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) in a phased and planned manner through Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union.
- SAFTA and Trade Facilitation:
- Directed SAFTA Ministerial Council and SAFTA Committee of Experts to accelerate free trade in goods and services in the region.
- They also directed to put into operation simplified and transparent rules of origin; implementation of trade facilitation measures a harmonization of standards relating to Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures.
- SAARC Development Fund (SDF):
- To strengthen the Social Window of the SAARC Development Fund (SDF) and operationalize its Economic Window and Infrastructure Window at the earliest for effective implementation of regional and sub-regional projects.
- Finalization of the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and SAARC Regional Railways Agreement.
- Meeting of the Transport Ministers will be held within three months in order to finalize the Agreements for approval.
- SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity)was signed.
- Directed the relevant SAARC bodies and mechanisms to identify regional and sub-regional projects in the area of power generation, transmission and power trade, including hydropower, natural gas, solar, wind and bio-fuel and implement them with high priority with a view to meeting the increasing demand for power in the region.
- Poverty Alleviation:
- Strong commitment to free South Asia from poverty.
- Directed the Ministerial and Secretary-level mechanisms on poverty alleviation to review the progress and revisit the SAARC Plan of Action and its effective implementation, also taking into account the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
- Post-2015 Development Goals:
- Recognition of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, following its adoption at the UN, and present opportunities to compliment national and regional efforts on sustainable development.
- Directed to initiate an Inter-Governmental process to appropriately contextualize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the regional level.
- Agriculture and Food Security:
- Increase investment, promote research and development, facilitate technical cooperation and apply innovative, appropriate and reliable technologies in the agriculture sector for enhancing productivity to ensure food and nutritional security in the region.
- Promotion of sustainable agriculture.
- Eliminate the threshold criteria from the SAARC Food Bank Agreement so as to enable the Member States to avail food grains, during both emergency and normal time food difficulty.
- Finalise establishment of Regional Vaccine Bank and Regional Livestock Gene Bank.
- Directed the relevant bodies for effective implementation of SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Thimphu Statement on Climate Change.
- Establish the SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre.
- Blue Economy:
- Recognition of the manifold contributions of ocean-based Blue Economy in the SAARC Region and the need for collaboration and partnership in this area.
- Recognition of the importance of achieving universal health coverage (UHC), improving health regulatory systems, preparedness for emerging and remerging diseases, and the challenges posed by anti-microbial resistance and non-communicable diseases.
- Endorsed the Male’ Resolution on Regional Health Issues adopted at the Fourth Meeting of the SAARC Health Ministers.
- Member nations urged to continue the remarkable progress by SAARC countries in the last decade in response to AIDS with the aim to end AIDS epidemic in the region by 2030.
- Complete all necessary processes for upgrading the SAARC TB Reference Laboratory at SAARC TB and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC), Kathmandu to Supra-national Reference Laboratory with necessary funding from SDF.
- Eliminate illiteracy from the region in line with the global goal of education for all and ensuring quality education in all institutions.
- Promote regional cooperation in the field of vocational education and training.
- Develop regional Strategy for Enhancing the Quality of Education in order to raise the standards of South Asian educational institutions in order to better serve the youth in the region.
- Need to adopt appropriate national policies and programmes for utilizing the youth force and their skills for economic and social development, especially through the creation of productive self-employment opportunities.
- Women and Children:
- Directed the relevant authorities to take effective measures for preventing the trafficking in women and children and their exploitation.
- Social Protection:
- Special needfor to the elderly, women, children, differently-abled persons, unemployed persons, and persons working at hazardous sites and agreed to develop and strengthen social protection for them and to share best practices in this regard.
- Agreed to collaborate and cooperate on safe, orderly and responsible management of labour migration from South Asia to ensure safety, security and wellbeing of their migrant workers in the destination countries outside the region.
- Science and Technology:
- Agreed to develop capacity of the Member States to apply space technology for socio-economic development and the welfare of the peoples through experience sharing among them.
- Collaboration and engagement among public authorities and private stakeholders in the Member States to lower telephone tariff rates for facilitating greater contacts among the people of the region and called for rationalization of the tariff structures.
- Directed relevant bodies to effectively implement SAARC Action Plan on Tourism (2006) particularly through initiating appropriate public-private collaboration.
- Effectively implement the SAARC Agenda for Culture and agreed to take measures to preserve and restitute the South Asian cultural property and create a SAARC heritage list together with the operational guidelines.
- Year 2016 will be observed as the SAARC Year of Cultural Heritage and tasked the relevant bodies to develop an action plan for its success.
- Combating Terrorism and trans-national Crimes:
- Directed respective authorities to ensure full and effective implementation of the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol, including through enacting necessary legislations at the national level to root out terrorism.
- Call for an early conclusion of a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
- Agreed to take effective measures to combat illicit trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances, arms smuggling, money laundering, counterfeit currency and other transnational crimes.
- Strong commitment to ensure good governance for sustainable development by promoting accountability, transparency, the rule of law and people’s participation at all levels of governance.
- Committed further to promote and institutionalize peace, stability, democracy and development as the common aspirations of the peoples of South Asia.
- Strengthening SAARC processes:
- Need to enhance the visibility and stature of SAARC in international fora by, forging common positions on issues of mutual interest and seeking group recognition in various multilateral institutions.
- Agreed to hold henceforth the meetings of the SAARC Summit every two years or earlier, if necessary, the Council of Ministers once a year.
- Agreed to make the Programming Committee a Charter body of SAARC.
Pakistan will host the 19th SAARC summit.