Seventeenth SAARC Summit & Addu Declaration

Recently, the Seventeenth SAARC Summit was concluded in Maldives with the release of the Addu Declaration. Here is a brief discussion:

What is SAARC?

  • South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was founded in December 1985 by Ziaur Rahman and dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasising collective self-reliance.
  • The 7 founding members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined the organization in 2007.
  • South Africa has participated in meetings.
  • Meetings of heads of state are usually scheduled annually; meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually. SAARC is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.

What are Objectives of SAARC?

  • To promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life;
  • To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potential;
  • to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;
  • to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems;
  • to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields;
  • to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;
  • to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest; and
  • to cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes

Organization Structure:

  • The SAARC Secretariat was established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987.
  • It is headed by a Secretary General
    appointed by the Council of Ministers from Member Countries in alphabetical order for a three-year term.
  • Secretary General is assisted by the Professional and the General Services Staff, and also an appropriate number of functional units called Divisions assigned to Directors on deputation from Member States. The Secretariat coordinates and monitors implementation of activities, prepares for and services meetings, and serves as a channel of communication between the Association and its Member States as well as other regional organizations.

SAARC Day:

  • SAARC Secretariat and Member States observe 8 December as the SAARC Charter Day.

Foucs Issues:

  • Focus of SAARC has been the “core issues and objectives” SAARC has generally refrained itself from interfering in the internal matters of its member states.

Agenda of the Recent Summit

  • The focus of the 17th SAARC summit was the regional cooperation and intra-trade. During the SAARC Summit, four agreements were to be signed including two aimed at evolving regional standards and to create a rapid response mechanism to deal with post-natural disaster scenario and setting up of seed banks in the region.
  • Intra trade in the SAARC was 1.3 billion dollars, more than double that existed before two years. More can be achieved by reducing the list of sensitive items and build infrastructural connectivity especially rail in the region. Such a scene could be a reality when all the countries agree upon this.
  • There was a general feel good factor this time, encouraged by Pakistan s decision to grant MFN status to India, which can transform the trading environment of the region as a whole.
  • With proper implementation of SAFTA, South Asian nations can leverage regional dynamics for economic growth through dedicated efforts to facilitate trade and economic cooperation.

Participants:

  • President of AfghanistanMr. Hamid Karzai
  • Prime Minister of t BangladeshSheikh Hasina
  • Prime Minister of BhutanLyonchhen Jigmi Yoeser Thinley
  • Prime Minister of IndiaDr. Manmohan Singh
  • President of the MaldivesMr. Mohamed Nasheed
  • Prime Minister of NepalDr. Baburam Bhattarai
  • Prime Minister of PakistanSyed Yusuf Raza Gilani
  • President of Sri LankaMr. Mahinda Rajapaksa.
  • Observers: from Australia, China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, the USA and EU.

Agreements signed:

  • SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters
  • SAARC Seed Bank Agreement
  • SAARC Agreement on Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment
  • SAARC Agreement on Implementation of Regional Standards

20 Points of Addu Declaration:

  1. To direct the SAFTA Ministerial Council to intensify efforts to fully and effectively implement SAFTA and the work on reduction in Sensitive Lists as well as early resolution of non-tariff barriers and expediting the process of harmonizing standards and customs procedures.
  2. To direct the SAARC Finance Ministers to chart a proposal that would allow for greater flow of financial capital and intra-regional long-term investment.
  3. To hold the Twelfth SAARC Trade Fair along with SAARC Travel and Tourism Fair in Kulhudhuffushi, Maldives in 2012; and to develop modalities, by involving the relevant private sector, in promoting the region globally as “Destination South Asia”.
  4. To conclude the Regional Railways Agreement and to convene the Expert Group Meeting on the Motor Vehicles Agreement before the next Session of the Council of Ministers; and to direct the early conducting of a demonstration run of a container train (Bangladesh – India – Nepal).
  5. To direct the Secretary General to ensure completion of the preparatory work on the Indian Ocean Cargo and Passenger Ferry Service, including the Feasibility Study, by the end of 2011, in order to launch the Service.
  6. To ensure timely implementation of the Thimphu Statement on Climate Change.
  7. To direct the conclusion of the Inter-governmental Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation and the Study on the Regional Power Exchange Concept as also the work related to SAARC Market for Electricity.
  8. To make available an appropriate percentage of national income towards the respective countries renewable energy investments, subject to the approval of national arrangements.
  9. To resolve the operational issues related to the SAARC Food Bank by the next Session of the Council of Ministers with a view to ensuring its effective functioning.
  10. To root out terrorism, taking into account its linkages with illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and small arms and to make coordinated and concerted efforts to combat terrorism; and call for an early conclusion of the proposed UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and completion of the ratification of the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.
  11. To initiate work towards combating maritime piracy in the region.
  12. To direct the convening of an Inter-governmental Expert Group Meeting to discuss the establishment of a regional mechanism to ensure empowerment of women and gender equality in the region, with focus on national legislations, including timely realization of the MDGs and SDGs.
  13. To direct the finalization of the work on the elaboration of the SAARC Regional Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution with a view to its adoption by the next Summit.
  14. To formulate an actionable framework to address the common challenge of sanitation and access to safe drinking water in the region.
  15. To expedite the work on mutual recognition of academic and professional degrees and harmonization of academic standards; and establishment of long-term linkages among universities, research institutions and think-tanks in the region.
  16. To direct the South Asia Forum to continue to work towards the development of the “Vision Statement” for South Asia and its future development, including on the goal and elements of a South Asian Economic Union, as may emerge from its subsequent meetings.
  17. To strengthen SAARC mechanisms, including the Secretariat and Regional Centres, through an inter-governmental process.
  18. To direct SAARC mechanisms and institutions to develop and implement regional and sub-regional projects, as appropriate, in agreed areas.
  19. To undertake a comprehensive review of all matters relating to SAARCs engagement with Observers, including the question of dialogue partnership, before the next Session of the Council of Ministers in 2012.
  20. To mark a SAARC Media Day and, in that context, decide to convene a Regional Conference on Media to consider deepening collaboration in the region.

What did India say on SAFTA in recent Summit?

  • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that in a major trade liberalisation effort, India has issued a notification to reduce the Sensitive List for the Least Developed Countries under the South Asian Free Trade Area Agreement from 480 tariff lines to 25 tariff lines.

Addu City as Venue for the SAARC Summit:

  • Addu City has the second largest concentration of population next to Male. It is quite remote from Maldivian standards, jutting beyond the equator and 478 Km south of Male. Addu City is consisting of the inhabited islands of the southernmost atoll of the archipelago.
  • The preparations for the 17th SAARC summit brought numerous developments to the city, including the building of a convention centre, development of roads and public places, renovation of Gan International Airport and the regional hospital, more job opportunities among many others.

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