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SAARC concludes with a 'Silver Jubilee Declaration'

Apr 30, 2010

The 16th SAARC Summit concluded yesterday with a 36-point Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration that would aim at making SAARC truly action-oriented. Two agreements on Environment and Trade were signed along with the introduction of a development fund that will serve as a regional funding mechanism for various projects.

The two-day SAARC Summit concluded yesterday with a 36-point 'Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration' that endorses Bangladesh's proposal for a “Charter of Democracy” for regional cooperation aimed at strengthening good governance.

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SAARC leaders appreciated that all the member states had evolved into multi-party democracies, and underlined the challenges they still face in ensuring effective, efficient, transparent and accountable government for their peoples.

Bangladesh's proposal to convene an inter-governmental meeting in Dhaka on taking forward the idea of a SAARC Charter of Democracy was noted by the leaders of the eight nations.

Meanwhile, two agreements -- SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Trade in Services -- were signed at the concluding session of the summit.

The foreign ministers of the SAARC countries signed the agreements on behalf of their respective governments.

The Convention on Cooperation on Environment aims at promoting regional cooperation in preserving the environment and mitigating the impacts of the climate change.

The agreement on Trade in Services is aimed at increasing trade cooperation and integrating the regional economy.

The 17th SAARC Summit will be held in the Maldives in 2011. SAARC leaders at the concluding session of the Thimpu summit welcomed the offer of the government of the island nation to host the next summit.

South Asian leaders, at the concluding session of the summit, recommended that a 'Conclave of SAARC Parliamentarians' in line with the SAARC Charter be convened, and directed the SAARC Secretariat to convene a Working Group comprising nominees of the member states to work out the modalities relating to the establishment of such a conclave.

In this Silver Jubilee Year of SAARC, the leaders emphasised the need to develop a “Vision Statement” and agreed to form a “South Asia Forum” for generating debate and exchange of ideas on South Asia and its future.

The forum will consist of eminent personalities from diverse backgrounds. It would provide inputs based on a holistic understanding for charting out the future course of SAARC in the medium and long-terms, and recommend requisite improvements in the existing mechanism.

Such a forum could function on a public-private partnership basis, and allow multiple sources of input from beyond governments to be taken into consideration for the future of SAARC.

The leaders resolved that the Silver Jubilee Year should be commemorated by making SAARC truly action-oriented by implementing declarations and decisions and operating instruments to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the region.

The SAARC leaders focused on people-centric development and noted Bhutan's concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH). They welcomed Bhutan's offer to host a SAARC Workshop on GNH in 2010.

On climate change, the leaders said the SAARC member states as developing countries were shouldering a major burden despite having contributed least to the problem. They called for initiating a process to formulate a common SAARC position for COP16, to be held in Mexico later this year, including on issues such as separate financing for adaptation and mitigation as well as technology transfer.

The leaders welcomed Nepal's initiative to organise a ministerial meeting of Mountainous Countries in Kathmandu later this year.

The SAARC leaders called for focus to be laid upon water management and conservation and development of cooperative projects at regional level in terms of exchange of best practices and knowledge, capacity building and transfer of eco-friendly technologies.

Expressing deep concern at the environmental degradation in the region, they reiterated the importance of development through adoption of eco-friendly technologies so that South Asia should become a world leader in low-carbon technology and renewable energies.

The leaders welcomed the signing of the SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment and called for its early ratification and implementation.

The leaders called for further negotiations and early finalisation of the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters.

On energy sector, the leaders recognised the need to enhance cooperation in the energy sector to facilitate energy trade, development of efficient conventional and renewable energy sources including hydro-power.

They emphasised the need to undertake studies to develop regional energy projects and promote regional power trade.

The leaders agreed that an Action Plan on Energy conservation would be prepared by the SAARC Energy Centre in Islamabad with inputs from member states, which would then be submitted to the inter-governmental mechanism for consideration.

SAARC leaders also called for the creation of a web portal on Energy Conservation for exchange of information, including the sharing of best practices among SAARC member states.

A proposal from India for preparing a roadmap aimed at developing a SAARC Market for Electricity on a regional basis was noted, as SAARC is considering electricity trading, supported by enabling markets in the member states.

Welcoming the SAARC Agreement on Trade for increasing trade cooperation and integration amongst the region's economies, they called for the early ratification of the deal.

The leaders stressed the need for improving trade facilitation and directed the SAARC bodies to expedite their work in these areas. They recognised the importance of the development of communication systems and transport infrastructures including transit facilities, especially for landlocked countries to promote intra-SAARC trade.

The commitment to implement SAFTA was reiterated, and a reduction of the size of the sensitive lists, acceleration of trade facilitation measures, and removal of non-tariff, para-tariff and other barriers were also called for.

On poverty alleviation, the leaders called for mainstreaming the SAARC Development Goals in the national processes and completion of the mid-term review of the SDGs as scheduled. They accepted the proposal of Nepal hosting the third ministerial meeting on poverty alleviation in 2011.

On SAARC Development Fund (SDF) for financing regional and sub-regional projects, the leaders welcomed the operations of the permanent secretariat of the SDF getting underway, including the appointment of its first Chief Executive Officer.

The leaders called for collaborative efforts to achieve greater intra-regional connectivity and endorsed the recommendation to declare 2010-2020 as the Decade of Intra-regional Connectivity in SAARC. They agreed on the need to expedite negotiations with a view to finalising the two agreements on Motor Vehicles and Railways.

The leaders appreciated the SAARC Commerce Ministers' position on WTO issues and Doha Development Agenda during the 7th WTO Ministerial Conference and directed the Commerce Ministers to continue the process.

On agriculture sector, the leaders called for early consideration of the concept of a regional seed bank, regional testing and certification of seeds and framework for transfer of plant genetic material and seeds.

In the field of education, the SAARC leaders underscored that it was imperative to recognise degrees, and where possible facilitation of credit transfer for open and distance education. They directed the expeditious finalisation of mutual recognition of academic and professional degrees, as part of the harmonisation of the educational curricula in South Asia.

About terrorism, the leaders expressed their firm resolve to root out terrorism. They emphasised that the linkages between terrorism, illegal trafficking in drugs and psychotropic substances, illegal trafficking in persons and firearms all continue to remain a matter of serious concern and reiterated their commitment to address these problems in a comprehensive manner.

SAARC development fund (SDF)

The fund has an authorised capital of SDR (special drawing rights) 1B. SDR refers to the basket of five major currencies in the world, such as the USD and the euro.

With the SDF charter signed on April 15, member countries have a month to subscribe or contribute to the initial paid up capital of SDR 200M.

India has already contributed about USD 90M and another USD 100M as voluntary contribution to the fund.

Bhutan’s assessed contribution to the fund is USD 15M, payable in five installments. Bhutan’s first installment of USD 3M has already been offered.

The SDF charter has a provision to levy interest on borrowings by members, but the interest rates are yet to be worked out.
The fund’s highest governing body will consist of the finance ministers of the member countries who will meet once a year. Below them is a board of directors, with a member from each country.

A Bhutanese, Karma, has been chosen as SDF’s first chief executive officer (CEO). He is expected to take office in June after giving up his present job as the head of the IFC office in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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