South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
Tri Devi Marg
Postal Add: P.O. Box 4222
FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS IN SAARC
INTEGRATED PROGRAMME OF ACTION (IPA)
TRADE AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
PROMOTING PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE CONTACT
SAARC REGIONAL INSTITUTIONS
COOPERATION WITH INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ORGANISATIONS
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SAARC is a manifestation of the determination of the peoples of South Asia to work together towards finding solutions to their common problems in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding and to create an order based on mutual respect, equity and shared benefits. The main goal of the Association is to accelerate the process of economic and social development in member states, through joint action in the agreed areas of cooperation.
The idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was first mooted in November 1980. After consultations, the Foreign Secretaries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo, in April 1981. This was followed, a few months later, by the meeting of the Committee of the Whole, which identified five broad areas for regional cooperation. The Foreign Ministers, at their first meeting in New Delhi, in August 1983, formally launched the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) through the adoption of the Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation (SARC).
At the First Summit held in Dhaka on 7-8 December 1985, the Charter establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was adopted.
The objectives, principles and general provisions, as mentioned in the SAARC Charter, are as follows :
- To promote the welfare of the peoples 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 realise their full potentials;
- 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 interests; and
- To cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.
- Cooperation within the framework of the Association is based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and mutual benefit.
- Such cooperation is to complement and not to substitute bilateral or multilateral cooperation.
- Such cooperation should be consistent with bilateral and multilateral obligations of the member states.
- Decisions at all levels in SAARC are taken on the basis of unanimity.
- Bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from its deliberations.
The highest authority of the Association rests with the Heads of State or Government.
Council of Ministers
Comprising the Foreign Ministers of member states is responsible for the formulation of policies; reviewing progress; deciding on new areas of cooperation; establishing additional mechanisms as deemed necessary; and deciding on other matters of general interest to the Association. The Council meets twice a year and may also meet in extraordinary session by agreement of member states.
Comprising the Foreign Secretaries of member states is entrusted with the overall monitoring and coordination of programmes and the modalities of financing; determining inter-sectoral priorities; mobilising regional and external resources; and identifying new areas of cooperation based on appropriate studies. It may meet as often as deemed necessary but in practice it meets twice a year and submits its reports to the Council of Ministers.
Comprising the senior officials meets prior to the Standing Committee sessions to scrutinize Secretariat Budget, finalise the Calendar of Activities and take up any other matter assigned to it by the Standing Committee.
Comprising representatives of member states, formulate programmes and prepare projects in their respective fields. They are responsible for monitoring the implementation of such activities and report to the Standing Committee. The chairmanship of each Technical Committee normally rotates among member countries in alphabetical order, every two years.
According to the SAARC Charter, there is a provision for Action Committees comprising member states concerned with implementation of projects involving more than two, but not all member states. At present, there are no such Action Committees.
During the first decade of SAARC, several other important meetings took place in specific contexts. A number of SAARC Ministerial Meetings have been held, to focus attention on specific areas of common concern and has become an integral part of the consultative structure.
In addition, a high level Committee on Economic Cooperation (CEC) has been established in
1991, for identifying and implementing programmes in the core area of economic and trade
A three-tier mechanism was put in place in 1995, to follow-up on the relevant SAARC decisions on Poverty Eradication. The tiers consist of Meeting of Secretaries in-Charge of Poverty Eradication, Meeting of Finance/Planning Secretaries, and Meeting of Finance/Planning Ministers.
Established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987, the SAARC Secretariat is responsible 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 organizations.
The Secretariat comprises of the Secretary-General, a Director from each member state and the General Services Staff. The Secretary-General is appointed by the Council of Ministers upon nomination by a member state, on the principle of rotation in alphabetical order, for a period of two years.
Directors are appointed by the Secretary-General, upon nomination by member states for
a period of three years which, in special circumstances, may be extended by the
Secretary-General for a period not exceeding another full term, in consultation with the
member state concerned.
FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS IN SAARC
Member states make provision in their respective national budgets, for financing activities and programmes under the SAARC framework including contributions to the Secretariat budget and that of the regional institutions. The financial provision thus made is announced annually, at the meeting of the Standing Committee.
The annual budget of the Secretariat, both for capital as well as recurrent expenditure, is shared by member states on the basis of an agreed formula. The initial cost of the main building of the Secretariat, together with all facilities and equipment, as well as that of the annex building completed in 1993 has been met by the host government.
A minimum of forty percent of the institutional cost of regional institutions is borne by the respective host government and the balance is shared by all member states, according to an agreed formula. Capital expenditure of regional institutions which includes physical infrastructure, furnishing, machines, equipment etc. are normally borne by the respective host government. Programme expenditure of regional institutions is also shared by member states, according to the agreed formula.
In the case of activities under the approved Calendar, the local expenses including hospitality, within agreed limits, are borne by the host Government, while the cost of air travel is met by the sending Government.
INTEGRATED PROGRAMME OF ACTION (IPA)
The IPA is a key component of the SAARC process and includes a number of important areas of cooperation. Technical Committees numbering eleven at present have been designated to coordinate work in the identified areas of cooperation.
In response to the emphasis given by successive Summits on the need to further consolidate and streamline IPA and to make it more result oriented, a comprehensive set of guidelines and procedures was adopted in 1992 for the rationalisation of SAARC activities. As a result of this, there is now a greater focus on activities that would bring tangible benefits to the people of South Asia.
The Secretary-General reports on the progress in the implementation of IPA to the Standing Committee, both at its inter- Summit and pre-Summit Sessions.
The Standing Committee has also taken the initiative to review the institutional mechanisms and activities of the Association, including the evaluation of the functioning of the Technical Committees, amalgamation/alteration of their mandate and also a review of the role of the Secretariat. In this context, the Independent Expert Group set up by the Secretary-General has recently undertaken an extensive review of the functioning of IPA and come up with important recommendations presently under consideration of the Member States.
Agriculture was among the original five areas identified for fostering regional cooperation. The first meeting of Technical Committee was held in 1983. Subsequently, Forestry was also included in the work of the Committee was instrumental in the setting up of SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC) at Dhaka in 1988 - the first SAARC regional institution of its kind.
Under the work of this Technical Committee, Member states have been exchanging Germplasm, Breeding Materials on Livestock and Fishery in accordance with the quarantine regulations in force in their respective countries. Prototypes of Farmtools and Equipment have been exchanged for trial and adaptation. Activities for Improved Livestock through Exchange of Animals, Frozen Semen and Vaccine have also been undertaken. The responsibility of compiling lists of institutions and disciplines capable of offering training in member countries has been entrusted to SAIC. Rice and Wheat-breeding Programmes for enhancing productivity have been conducted while Multilocation trials for various crops are being undertaken.
Regular meetings of Counterpart Scientists is an important feature of the Committee's programmes. The list of Counterpart Scientists in the twelve agreed areas of crops and disciplines have been finalised for networking. These are : Rice (Millet); Wheat; Oilseeds; Horticulture (Potato) Vegetables and Fruits; Fisheries; Forestry; Transfer of Technology; Livestock (Animal Health and Production); Farm Machinery and Implements; Post Harvest Technology; Agriculture Economics & Policies and Soils. Progress has been made towards establishing a network on Amelioration of Problem Soils.
The programme for the 1990s focuses on Genetic Engineering and Bio-Technology (for crop and livestock improvement, agricultural and horticultural development, embryo transfer technology for livestock and conservation of endangered germplasm); Homestead Vegetable Production; Food Availability and Nutritional Balance; Data Base on Technology and Training facilities in agricultural science within the SAARC countries; and meeting of the Expert Group on Crop Diseases. Two important project proposals namely (i) Promotion of the "Bio-Villages, and (ii) Reaching the Million - Training of Farmers and Farm Women by 2000 A.D. have recently been completed and future course of action on these proposals is underway.
Following its Sixteenth Meeting, the Committee initiated thematic discussion on one important agricultural topic annually. During the same meeting, the Member Countries had extensive discussion on the theme SAARC Agricultural Perspective to the year 2020. In the light of the discussion on the occasion, the Committee recommended that the Member Countries should step up efforts to strengthen regional cooperation as part of a comprehensive strategy to address the main challenges facing the agricultural sector in the SAARC region.
TC on Telecommunications and TC on Postal Services both established in 1983 were amalgamated into a single TC on Communications with effect from 1993.
With a view to bringing about an over-all improvement in the postal services in the region, the work programme in Postal sector includes training, seminars, workshops study tours etc. covering a number of areas. Training programmes were held for First and Middle Level Officers and for Trainers as well as in Philately, International Postal Services, International Mail Accounting and Routing, Postal Management Services and Post Office Savings Banks. Seminars / Workshops were organized on Postal Operation and future challenges, Mechanisation of Postal Operations, Agency functions, Financial Services, Caring for Customer, Expedited Mail Service (EMS), Circulation System of EMS and Postal Marketing.
Study tours on Agency Services, Safety and Security of Postal Articles, Postal Services in Hilly or Rural Areas and New Mail and Financial Service in Pakistan were undertaken to gain first-hand knowledge of problems and plans for improvement of postal services. SAARC Philatelic Exhibitions have been held to exchange/share knowledge and develop skills of philately.
Since 1985, Letter Writing Competitions have been held annually. Studies had been undertaken on Productivity Measurement Techniques applied in postal operations, Postal Delays in SAARC region, Integration of Postal Services with rural development and Concessional Mail Tariff and Mail Transmission. Other activities undertaken include issuance of commemorative stamps, postage stamp displays and philatelic exhibitions.
Further studies are underway in various fields such as: Electronic Tracking and Tracing for EMS; introduction of a Professional Postal Management Course leading to Diploma; setting up of a Regional R&D Centre; and revision of accounting rates among SAARC countries.
Within the overall objective of providing telecommunication services to majority of the rural population by the year 2000, the Committee has focused on efforts to promote technological and human resource development and management. There has been substantial progress in implementing the recommendations for the establishment of ISD, automatic telex, and bureaufax facilities, improvement of inter-country links, operation and maintenance of communications links, etc. Efforts are being made to further promote cooperation in improving transit facilities. An initiative has been taken to establish an Information Network among the member countries.
Short-term activities in Telecommunications include Seminars/ Workshops on Data Transmission, Digital Switching, Network Management and Operations, Software maintenance, Adoption of new technologies in rural telecommunication systems, IDR satellite technology and improvement of rural telecommunications.
While recognising, the need for better and cheaper telecom links between SAARC countries, the Council of Ministers at its Seventeenth Session (December 1996), discussed several possibilities, including a SAARC satellite; updating, expansion and harmonisation of telecom hardware in the region. A high-level Expert Group on Telecommunications has been set up by the Secretary-General to address these issues, as well as to examine the possibility of bringing telecommunications tariffs between SAARC countries as close to domestic rate as possible.
The SAARC Communication Ministers also met for the first time in Colombo in May 1998.
Culture and Sports
TC on Education (established in 1989) and TC on Sports, Arts and Culture (established in 1983) were amalgamated into a single TC on Education and Culture in January 1993. The Technical Committee was renamed Technical Committee on Education, Culture and Sports with effect from 1st January 1995.
The priority themes identified for cooperation in the field of Education are Women and Education; Universal Primary Education; Literacy, Post Literacy and Continuing Education; Educational Research; Science and Technical Education, Education for the Underserved Areas and Distance Education. The nomination of Nodal Agencies for each of the priority themes have been completed and appropriate Action Plans are being prepared.
Short-term activities in the field of Education include, Expert Group Meetings; Workshops / Seminars on the priority themes; Modernisation of Curriculum; Environmental Education including Population Education; Planning and Management of Education, Teacher Training, Higher Education and Book Production and Marketing. Publication of an Anthology of South Asian Poetry has been completed and preparation of an Anthology of short stories of SAARC countries is underway.
The Committee is also engaged in the improvement and expansion of the SAARC Chairs, Fellowships and Scholarships Scheme. In this context, emphasis is being placed on augmenting the utility and effectiveness of the Scheme; exchanging detailed information on the Scheme particularly relating to offers, facilities, eligibility requirements, disciplines etc. and reviewing and assessing the implementation of the scheme.
Nodal Points for establishing a networking arrangement for sharing information on Mass Literacy Programmes have been identified. The modalities and operational framework for this purpose are being prepared.
4. Environment and Meteorology
TC on Meteorology and TC on Environment were merged as a single TC with effect from January 1996.
Environment was identified as an area that called for the urgent attention of SAARC in 1987, during which year the Heads of State or Government decided to commission a Study on "Causes and Consequences of Natural Disasters and the Protection and Preservation of the Environment". Following this decision at the Third SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in 1987, National Studies were undertaken and subsequently consolidated into a Regional Study, which was approved by the Sixth SAARC Summit (Colombo, 1991).
The other Regional Study conducted by SAARC relates to the "Greenhouse Effect and its Impact on the Region". This Study was completed in 1992 and approved by the Seventh SAARC Summit in Dhaka in 1993.
The Heads of State or Government during their Eighth Summit (New Delhi, 1995) stressed the importance of effective and speedy implementation of the recommendations of the two Studies on Environment.
Further, at their Ninth Summit, they also gave directives that SAARC Environmental Ministers Meeting would be institutionalised to focus more directly on the environmental concerns of the region. Accordingly, the conference of the SAARC Environment Ministers was held in Male' in October 1997 which formulated an Action Plan for immediate implementation of recommendations contained in the two SAARC Studies on Environment. It also formulated a collective position on climate change which was subsequently presented to the Kyoto Conference in December 1997.
The Committee has identified measures for immediate action from among the recommendations in these two studies and decided on a number of modalities for their implementation. These include, improving climate monitoring capability through networking arrangement and through SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC); developing climate change and sea-level rise scenario through country specific studies and sharing of information data in this respect; making available to member states expertise on climate research and monitoring Greenhouse Gases emission; identification of training and research institutions and ongoing programmes; exchange of information and data; exchange of experience on strategies for developing mitigating and adaptive responses to climate change.
The work programme of the Technical Committee also covers topics such as Approaches to Environmental Legislation, Regulations and Standards in SAARC countries; Rehabilitation of Degraded Lands; Training Course on Wetlands Assessment and Management; Workshop on Alternate / Renewable Energy and Workshop of SAARC National Experts on Climate Change. The urgent need to establish a networking approach through identified nodal points/institutions has also been stressed.
A SAARC Environmental Ministers Conference was held in New Delhi in April 1992 to evolve a joint position on the issues related to the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The Environment Ministers also met second time in New Delhi in April 1997 to coordinate their position before the Special Session of the UN General Assembly to be held in June, 1997 to review Agenda 21.
In the field of Meteorology, a number of seminars / workshops have been organised in areas such as joint Inter-Comparison of Barometers, Meteorological Instruments, Agricultural Meteorology, Numerical Weather Prediction, Crop-Weather relationship and Crop- Yield Forecast, Long Range Weather Forecasting, Radar Meteorology etc. Training programmes have been conducted on Meteorological Telecommunications, Management and Establishment of National Data Centres, Monsoon Forecasting etc. State-of-the-Art Reports on Western Disturbances, Tropical Cyclones including Prediction of Recurvature, Thunder Storms, Long Range Forecasting of Monsoon Rain, Short Range Prediction of Monsoon and Norwesters, Tornadoes and Water Sprouts, have been completed. Expert panels have been convened on specialized fields such as Agro-meteorology; Climatology and Data Exchange and Instrumentation.
An Annual Regional Award is given to a young scientist or a group of scientists for a research paper on meteorological topics to encourage research in the field of Meteorology. Another Award has been introduced since 1995 for senior scientists to encourage research work in the field of Meteorology.
The Committee also addresses issues relating to the work of the SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC) established in Dhaka.
Population Activities and Child Welfare
Health and Population Activities was one of the original five areas of cooperation identified by member states. The First Meeting of the Technical Committee assigned these subjects was held in 1984 and since then fifteen meetings have been held so far.
The primary focus of the Committee has been on children, population welfare and policy, maternal and child health, primary health care, disabled and handicapped persons, control and eradication of major diseases in the region such as malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis, diarrhoea diseases, rabies, AIDS, and iodine deficiency disorder.
Important health issues have also been at the centre of SAARC's social agenda. The SAARC Member States have thus taken a number of initiatives to address several key issues relating to population control, serious problems in the area of health care and disease control. Discussions on health issues have highlighted the need for strengthening efforts to combat problems posed by the resurgence of communicable diseases such as malaria, TB, water borne diseases and the emergence of AIDS as major health hazards. Stress has been laid on greater inter-country coordination and cooperation amongst the Member States to enable them to make a frontal attack on the communicable and non-communicable diseases afflicting the region. Networking arrangements for training, research and eradication of malaria and regional approach for combating major diseases in the region have been undertaken. A Directory of training programmes in six priority areas, i.e. malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, diarrhoeal diseases, human rabies an maternal and child health have been prepared and circulated. In addition, several status papers on important subjects relating to health have been circulated among the Member States. Member States have also identified Centres such as the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi and the National Institute of Malaria Training and Research, Lahore to act as focal points on the different diseases. Likewise, the SAARC Tuberculosis Centre, established in Kathmandu in 1992, has been specifically entrusted with the main objective to work towards the prevention and control of tuberculosis in the SAARC region by coordinating the efforts of the National TB Control Programmes of the Member Countries. The Centre is also proactive in training, research and dissemination of information in the region.
The development and well-being of children is another principal area of cooperation identified by SAARC from its very inception. The objective of building a region-wise consensus on social action for achieving the rights of the child and the goals set for them within the framework of the survival, development and protection strategy was addressed during three Ministerial Conferences held in 1986, 1992 and 1996 respectively. The momentum generated during the First SAARC Ministerial Conference on Children has contributed in a major way to the convening of the World Summit on Children held in New York in September 1990. Ministerial Conferences of a thematic nature have also become a regular feature of SAARC. Among others, a Ministerial Conference on Women and Family Health was held in Kathmandu (1993) and a Ministerial Meeting on Disabled Persons in Islamabad (1993).
In accordance with a decision of the Second SAARC Summit held in Bangalore in 1986, that the survival, protection and development of Children be given the highest priority and the SAARC Leader directed that annual reviews be undertaken on the situation of children in SAARC countries. Accordingly, the reviews which began in 1993 have become a regular feature of the work in the Technical Committee on Health, Population Activities and Child Welfare. The Annual Situation Reviews on children have been an important source of ascertaining the status of the indicators relating to the well-being of children in the SAARC countries. It has also revealed areas where progress had been slow and required urgent interventions.
The Ninth Summit has given a further impetus to cooperation among the Member States in tackling the important issues relating to women and children. Among many other, they resolved to implement appropriate polices at the national level to achieve the targets and objectives set out in the Rawalpindi Resolution adopted at the end of the Third SAARC Ministerial Conference on Children of South Asia held in August 1996, including the call to eliminate the evil of child labour by the Year 2010. They also recognised that the problems faced by children were inextricably linked to the prevailing socio-economic conditions and problems of the region, and therefore, called for a holistic approach to address them. They expressed the need to formulate a Convention on Regional Arrangements on the Promotion of Child Welfare in South Asia in launching the SAARC Decade of the Rights of the Child, from the year 2001 A.D. to 2010 A.D.
In the area of child development, SAARC has been very closely cooperating with international agencies such as UNICEF with which SAARC has signed an MOU in December 1993. The SAARC- UNICEF MOU envisages cooperation in implementing the relevant SAARC decisions relating to Children through an annual agenda which include joint studies, exchange of documentation and monitoring of implementation.
Other agencies such as WHO and UNFPA have also shown interest to cooperate with SAARC in advancing the social development agenda of SAARC.
of Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse
Since its establishment in 1987, the Committee has implemented a number of programmes in law enforcement, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation as essential elements of a coordinated regional strategy in combating drug trafficking and drug abuse. It contributed significantly towards the finalisation of the SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in November 1990, which came into force in September 1993 upon its ratification by all member states.
Cooperation among Drug Law Enforcement Agencies and Officers is being developed through short-term activities such as Seminars and Training Courses. Nodal Agencies in member states have been nominated to exchange information and intelligence on drug offences. The SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk (SDOMD) has been established in Colombo to collate, analyse and disseminate information on drug offences. Efforts are afoot for further strengthening SDOMD.
In the field of demand reduction, short-term activities such as workshops/seminars held so far have focused on the role of media in drug abuse prevention, community mobilisation against drug abuse, preventive education, school curriculum development, treatment and relapse prevention and exchange of information on indigenous and innovative methods of treatment. A networking arrangement among Nodal Institutions in drug abuse prevention is being established.
Meetings of selected NGOs involved in Drug Abuse Prevention have been held. A Directory of such Organisations has been compiled in order to promote greater interaction among them. The Colombo Plan Bureau's Project Proposal and the establishment of working relations between SAARC and the Colombo Plan Bureau were approved by the Standing Committee. This will promote and encourage cooperation among NGOs in SAARC countries involved in anti-narcotics activities.
Efforts have been directed at promoting SAARC member states' accession to the relevant UN Conventions, conclusion of Regional and Drug Convention and harmonisation and consolidation of national drug laws. A Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation between SAARC and the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) has been signed.
Rural Development is one of the five original areas identified for cooperation under the IPA. The first meeting of the Committee was held in 1984. Specific activities taken up by the Technical Committee include, exchange of information and literature among member states on issues relating to rural development, preparation of research studies on selected topics, compilation of lists of experts, training institutes, and institutions involved in transfer of appropriate technology in member states, with a view to exchanging expertise and sharing training facilities within the region.
Several workshops/seminars and training courses covering practically all aspects of rural development including regional planning, poverty focused development, rural energy, design of agricultural projects, local level planning, inter-country comparisons, appropriate technology, disaster management, rural child development, rural sociology, peoples participation, rural water supply, employment generation, social forestry, rural communication and development of agricultural markets have been conducted in member states under the Committee.
The Technical Committee has identified a set of priority areas on which activities under its aegis would be carried out. These priority areas focus on income and employment generation on a sustained basis; creation of assets and enhancing availability of credit access to the same by the rural poor; human resource development in the rural areas; development and maintenance of rural infrastructure; development and introduction of appropriate technology to enhance productivity in the rural areas; rural environments; issues related to diversification of rural economies; mobilisation of resources for rural development; gender perspective of rural development: assured supply of inputs for rural production and improvement in the marketing facilities and improvement in the institutional environment for rural development.
The decision to establish a Shelter Information Network "SHELTERNET" is being followed up by the Committee which is now undertaking in-depth examination of the proposal including the operational modalities and funding.
The Committee has also been entrusted with the implementation of the SAARC Youth Volunteers Programme (SYVOP) beginning from November 1989.
Recently several concrete steps have been taken to prioritise the activities of the TC on Rural Development and during its Fifteenth Meeting in Kathmandu in November 1996 and eleven-point priority list has been drawn up to facilitate promotion of cooperation among the Member Countries on various issues germane to rural development in South Asia.
Since its establishment in 1983, Technical Committee on Science and Technology has undertaken a wide variety of programmes which include short-term activities such as Seminars/Workshops/ Meetings of Experts, Training Programmes, Joint Research Projects, preparation of State-of-the-Art Reports and compilation of Directories.
Seminars/Workshops/Meetings of Experts held so far were on: Post Harvest and Food Technology; Renewable Energy Resources; Photovoltaic; Pesticides; Instrumentation; Maintenance and Calibration, Cultivation and Processing of Medicine and Aromatic Plants; Delivery System of Improved Stoves for Rural Users; Low Cost Housing Technology Diffusion in Rural Areas; Treatment of Drinking Water in Rural and Urban Areas; Science Policy; Low Cost Scientific Educational Equipment; Bio-Fertilizer Technology; Bio-Mass Gasification; Recycling of Waste Water and Development of Technologies for Pollution Control; Technology Information and its Linkages; Biological Control of Plant Pests; Immunodiagnostics; Ore Benefication; Energy Modelling Techniques; Solar Thermal Technology; Technological Aspects of Low Cost Housing; Examination of Operational System of Rural Electrification Cooperative; Short-term Course on Technology Assessment and Technology Diffusion.
Training Programmes have also been held for Scientists and Technologists on: Tannery Waste Management; Low Cost Housing; Development of Prawn Hatcheries; Electronics and Molecular Biology. In addition, Joint Research Projects on Design and Manufacture of Food Processing Equipment and Appropriate Post Harvest Food Technology for Perishable items have been carried out.
State-of-the-Art Reports have been completed on: Bio-Gas; Mineral Resources Exploration; Producer Gas; Application of Remote Sensing Techniques; Use of Organic Fertilisers; Building Material and Housing Technologies; Selected Rural Technologies - Food Processing Technologies and Handicrafts; and Electronic Products.
Directories are being prepared on: Specialised Analytical Instrumentation Facilities and Techniques; Process Engineering/ Pilot Plant Facilities in Agro Food Processing. Networking Arrangements are being established in the fields of: (a) Bio-technology and Genetic Engineering; (b) Energy Modelling Techniques; (c) Technology Information; and (d) Low Cost Housing and Building Technologies. The Technical Committee also recommended the establishment of a SAARC Bio-technology Council. So far the Technical Committee has held fifteen Meetings.
The Committee was established in 1991 to promote cooperation in the field of tourism in the region. At its first meeting held in Colombo in October 1991, the Committee decided on an Action Plan on Tourism to promote cooperation in the areas such as training programmes, exchange of information, joint promotion, joint-venture investment, intra-regional tourism etc. The Committee is also charged with the responsibility of reviewing the progress on the SAARC Scheme for Promotion of Organized Tourism. These topics have formed an integral part of the agenda of the meetings of the Committee which have been held so far.
Among others, activities of the Committee include training facilities by the member states in the field of tourism and hotel management; production of SAARC Travel Guide and SAARC tourism promotional film on the theme "A Unique Holiday with Diversity : From Top of the World to the Sunny beaches". Efforts are also being made by the Committee for early launching of the SAARC Scheme for Promotion of Organised Tourism.
On the recommendation of the Committee, Tourism Ministers of SAARC Countries met in Colombo in September 1997. The activities relating to the constitution of a Group of Experts on Tourism to prepare a comprehensive strategic plan for the overall development of tourism for the next five-year period is in progress.
The Technical Committee on Transport, established in 1983, covers three major segments of transport, i.e. land transport, divided into roadways and railways; sea transport sub-divided into inland waterways and shipping; and air transport.
The activities of the Committee cover exchange of data and information, preparation of status papers, compilation of data-base and directories of consultancy centres for transport sector. Seminars and Workshops have covered areas such as Material and Cost of Road Construction, Maintenance of Roads, Rural Roads, Road transportation and safety; Containerisation for Railways, Urban transportation, Inland Water Transport, Maritime Transport etc.
Training Courses have included Corporate Planning for Railway sector, Highway and Bridge Engineering. A Compendia of Information on Roads in the SAARC region has been completed and similarly data on Railway Transport has been compiled. Two important Directories - one on Centres of Excellence and the other on Consultants and Experts in the field of transport are being prepared. An important Study on "In-depth examination of Transport Infrastructure and Transit Facilities so as to come up with viable proposals for Improvement" has been completed. The activities held under the Transport Sector have helped in fostering better cooperation among member countries and resulted in the dissemination and exchange of data, expertise, information and experiences.
The work programme for the 1990s includes a number of activities related to rail, sea and air transportation. Recently, four new specific areas of cooperation in the Transport Sector namely Transport Safety, Rural Transport, Environmental Aspects, and Energy Conservation have been identified by the Committee. Two proposals : "Establishing Joint Venture Operations to provide Container Liner Shipping Services for Long Haul Trade Routes" and "Consultancy/Contracting Joint Ventures in the Transport Sector in the SAARC Region" are also being considered by the Technical Committee. Introducing a SAARC driving licence Scheme is being prepared.
Transport has been recognised a vital area in providing access to products and markets and opening up new areas of productivity, particularly with the operationalisation of SAPTA.
Women in Development was included as an area of cooperation under the IPA in 1986 and since then twelve meetings have been held so far. Specific issues taken up by the Committee include, preparation of a Regional Plan of Action for Women, effective dissemination of technical information relating to women in development generated by Member States. So far four SAARC Solidarity Journals have been published with the Fifth issue on the theme "Violence Against Women" to be published by Sri Lanka in time for the Tenth SAARC Summit. It may be noted that the previous issues have covered the subjects - Rural Development for Women; The Girl Child; and Women in the Informal Sector. One of the most important features of the work of the Technical Committee was designating 1990 as the SAARC Year of the Girl Child and 1991-2000 as the SAARC Decade of the Girl Child. A Plan of Action was also drawn up to observe the Decade. A mid-decade review on the implementation of the Plan of Action for the SAARC Decade of the Girl Child was conducted in October 1996 in India which took into consideration priority concerns under Health and Nutrition, Education and Literacy and Marriage and Motherhood.
Taking note of the mid-decade review of the SAARC Plan of Action on the Girl-Child, the Heads of State or Government expressed their determination to accelerate efforts at reduction of malnutrition and mortality rates, raising education and literacy rates, reduction of the proportion of early marriage among girls, and the postponement of the age of first pregnancy, thereby contributing to the increased welfare of the girl-child and reduction of population growth rates. An appraisal of the situation of Girl Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances (GCEDC) was also carried out in December 1996 where key common issues and concerns of SAARC Member States were identified and categorised into two groups, i.e. directly affecting GCEDC and indirectly affecting GCEDC. Recommendations were also made both on policy and programme issues.
At the Ninth SAARC Summit, the Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to take urgent action to alleviate the situation of Girl Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances (GCEDC), including those orphaned, disabled and/or exploited. In this context, they endorsed the recommendations made by the Council of Ministers, aimed at the creation of a socio-economic environment in the SAARC region which would provide equal opportunities to children from all economic sections.
Another important area which has received priority attention in the recent years has been the issues relating to trafficking in women and children within and between countries. During their Ninth Summit, the SAARC Leaders expressed their grave concern at the trafficking of women and children within and between countries and pledged to coordinate their efforts and take effective measures to address this problem. They also directed the Member Countries to examine the possibility of formulating a Regional Convention on Combating the Crime of Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution. Member States have underscored the need to work out such a Convention before the Tenth Summit.
SAARC has also been at the forefront of these issues with their commitment to issues of gender equality and to bring women into the mainstream of development. Two Ministerial Conferences have been held one in 1986 in India and the other in Pakistan during 1990. A Regional Plan of Action has been drawn which has identified areas of concern and goals set for them. The Technical Committee on Women in Development is mandated with the task of reviewing progress every year on the implementation of the Plan of Action on Women.
Several short-term activities like seminars, workshops and training courses have been held in the areas of women in law, women and environment, women's education and training, women's employment, women in agriculture and extension etc. Several activities related to different aspects of the Girl-Child have been held under the Committee. Exhibitions on Handicrafts and Design by Women have also been organised by Member States.
A SAARC collective position on issues before the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September 1995 had been formulated at the "SAARC Ministerial Meeting on Women : Towards the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing" held in Dhaka, during July 1995.
The Sixth SAARC Summit (Colombo, 1991) accorded the highest priority to the alleviation of poverty in South Asia and decided to establish an Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation (ISACPA) consisting of eminent persons from member states to conduct an in-depth study of the diverse experiences of member states and report their recommendations on the alleviation of poverty to the Seventh Summit.
A consensus on poverty eradication was adopted at the Seventh SAARC Summit (Dhaka, 1993). The Summit welcomed the ISACPA report and expressed its commitment to eradicate poverty from South Asia preferably by the Year 2002 through an agenda of action which would, inter-alia, include a strategy of social mobilization, policy of decentralised agricultural development and small-scale labour-intensive industrialisation and human development. The Summit also stressed that within the conceptual approach of "Dhal-Bhaat", the right to work and primary education should receive priority. It also underscored the critical links between the success of national efforts at poverty alleviation and relevant external factors. The Summit urged major actors in the world economic scene to create an enabling atmosphere supportive of poverty alleviation programmes and expressed the need for a new dialogue with donors for this purpose. The call for a new dialogue with donors has led to important initiatives in this respect, among which was the SAARC/World Bank Informal Workshop on Poverty Reduction in South Asia (Annapolis, USA, October 1993). UNDP and ESCAP are formulating proposals for cooperation with SAARC in Poverty Reduction.
The Eighth SAARC Summit (New Delhi, May 1995) endorsed the recommendations of the Finance/Planning Ministers (Dhaka, July 1994) to establish a three-tier mechanism for exchanging information on poverty eradication. India hosted the meetings of the first and the second tier in New Delhi (September 1995). The meeting of the first tier
Group of Secretaries dealing with Poverty Eradication and Social Development in Member Countries during their meeting in New Delhi to address Poverty Eradication issues in the region. which constituted the Group of Secretaries to the Governments in the Ministries / Departments concerned with poverty eradication and social development in SAARC countries, underscored the need to give a distinct status and top priority to pro-poor plans in member countries ensuring specific commitment of adequate resource and organisational support. It also stressed the necessity to involve the poor in the formulation and implementation of plans meant for them through participatory institutions and process at grass root levels. The member states were also urged to evolve mechanisms to evaluate the efficacy of pro-poor plans and develop appropriate socio-economic indicators relevant for the purpose. On specific issues germane to poverty eradication, the meeting emphasised the need to pursue an integrated approach taking into account the critical linkages among various sectors.
The Meeting of the second-tier, i.e. Finance and Planning Secretaries, endorsed the recommendation of the first-tier and emphasised that poverty eradication should be viewed in the overall context of accelerating economic growth resulting in resulting in employment generation in an environment of macro-economic stability with emphasis on overall human resource development. The meeting also put special emphasis on the need to improving the implementation of poverty eradication programmes through devolution of power and decentralisation. A special mention was also made in the meeting on the need to ensure the sustainability of these programmes, especially through ensuring their recurring cost.
The Meeting of the third-tier Finance and Planning Ministers, is proposed to he held in India on 3-4 January 1996 which will consider the second-tier Report. Its recommendations will be submitted to the Ninth SAARC Summit through the Council of Ministers.
TRADE AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
SAARC has taken important steps to expand cooperation among member countries in the core economic areas. The completion of the Regional Study on Trade, Manufactures and Services (TMS) in 1991, was the first significant step which paved the way for SAARC to move forward in strengthening cooperation in this important field. The Study outlined a number of recommendations for promoting regional cooperation in the core economic areas.
A high-level Committee on Economic Cooperation (CEC) comprising the Commerce Secretaries of Member States, was established in July 1991 to act as the forum to address economic and trade issues. The Committee is charged with the responsibility of, inter-alia, monitoring the progress in the implementation of decisions relating to expansion of trade and economic cooperation under the framework of SAARC. It considers the reports of Inter-Governmental Group (IGG) on trade liberalisation, Inter- Governmental Expert Group (IGEG) on transition to South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), and Committee of Participants (COP), and other expert groups on customs, investments, and standardisation. It also reviews progress in the implementation of decisions of meetings of SAARC Commerce Ministers.
At the Colombo Summit in December 1991, the Heads of State or Government approved the establishment of (IGG) to seek agreement on an institutional framework under which specific measures for trade liberalisation among SAARC member states could be furthered. The IGG evolved a draft Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA), which was subsequently signed by the Council of Ministers in Dhaka on 11 April 1993 during the Seventh SAARC Summit, upon the recommendation of CEC.
After completion of procedural formalities by all SAARC member countries and subsequent to a notification issued by the Secretariat to this effect, as per Article 22 of the Agreement, the SAPTA Agreement entered into force on 7th December 1995 - two years ahead of the time schedule envisaged initially. SAPTA contains provisions giving special and favourable treatment to the LDCs in the SAARC region. Additional measures in favour of LDCs including provisions for safe-guard action and balance of payment measures are also incorporated in SAPTA to protect the interests of member states during critical economic circumstances.
With the operationalisation of SAPTA in December 1995, the IGG on Trade Liberalisation, embarked on its Second Round of Trade Negotiations, which was successfully concluded after four meetings of the Group in Colombo, Islamabad, New Delhi and at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu in March, September, October and November 1996 respectively. The number of products enjoying preferential treatment at the conclusion of the Second Round is more than 2000. The non-tariff barriers in the way of expansion of intra-SAARC trade are also being identified and removed. The Third Round of Trade Negotiations under SAPTA is presently underway and is expected to be completed shortly.
Following the ratification of SAPTA by all Member States, the Sixteenth Session of the Council of Ministers (New Delhi, December 1995) agreed that Member States should strive for the realisation of a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). An Inter-Governmental Expert Group (IGEG) on transition to SAFTA comprising experts from the Member Countries was set up as an ad-hoc body by the CEC to identify the necessary steps towards moving into a free trade area. The IGEG has met twice and held in-depth discussions and agreed on the draft terms of reference for the Group and has also drawn up a broad framework of Action Plan for achieving SAFTA. In order to give impetus to intra-SAARC trade under the SAPTA Agreement and to promote economic cooperation in the region, the Commerce Ministers of SAARC countries met in New Delhi in January 1996. It has since been decided that the Commerce Ministers shall meet annually and the second meeting has been held in Islamabad in April 1998.
The first SAARC Trade Fair was held in New Delhi in January 1996 with the theme "Cooperation for Growth". The Fair, organised as a part of the commemoration of the first decade of SAARC, was jointly inaugurated by the Commerce Ministers and leaders of delegations of Member States. The Fair provided a befitting venue for the representatives of the business and industry of SAARC Member Countries to discuss various issues connected with promotion and expansion of intra-SAARC trade. The second SAARC Trade Fair was held in Colombo (1998) and the next SAARC Trade Fair is slated to be held in Islamabad in 1999.
The Heads of State or Government at the Ninth SAARC Summit recognised the importance of achieving a free trade area by the year 2001 A.D., and reiterated that steps towards trade liberalisation must take into account the special needs of the smaller and the Least Developed Countries and that benefits must accrue equitably.
The Tenth SAARC Summit decided to constitute a Committee of Experts with specific terms of reference to work on drafting a comprehensive treaty regime for creating a free trade area and emphasised the importance of finalising the text of regulatory framework by the year 2001 A.D.
PROMOTING PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE CONTACT
Promotion of people-to-people contact in the region to strengthening mutual understanding and goodwill among the peoples of South Asia, has always received a high priority among SAARC leaders. In order to give effect to this concept a number of initiatives have been taken under the aegis of SAARC.
1. SAARC Audio-Visual Exchange (SAVE)
The SAARC Audio Visual Exchange (SAVE) Committee, aimed at increasing the awareness of SAARC among the peoples of the region and disseminating information about Member Countries, was established by the Council of Ministers at its Third Session (New Delhi, June 1987). The Committee is entrusted with the task of producing and implementing the SAVE Programmes.
SAVE programmes comprise regular TV and Radio Programmes. These are telecast/broadcast on the 1st and 15th of each month, respectively in all SAARC member countries. SAVE Radio and TV Quiz Programmes are also organised at regular intervals and have evoked keen interest among the youth.
Other SAVE programmes include joint productions on specific themes such as Environment, Disabled Persons, Youth, Literacy and Participatory Governance. SAVE has proved to be an effective medium for promoting South Asian consciousness amongst the peoples of the region and for establishing people-to-people contact.
Recently, the Committee has been entrusted with the production of a video documentary SAARC - The First Decade .
2. SAARC Scheme for Promotion
of Organised Tourism
The SAARC Scheme for the promotion of organised tourism was initiated with the over-all objective of strengthening people-to-people contact in the region. All issues relating to the Scheme are addressed by the SAARC Technical Committee on Tourism. The Scheme is specifically aimed at facilitating intra-regional tourism.
It was envisaged that the Scheme would facilitate exchange of organised group tours between the member countries, with provision of concessional air-fare, and arrangement for limited convertibility of foreign exchange through a travel voucher system.
The first meeting of SAARC Tourism Ministers held in Colombo in September 1997 decided to launch the Scheme with immediate effect.
3. SAARC Chairs, Fellowships
and Scholarships Scheme
The SAARC Chairs, Fellowships and Scholarships Scheme was instituted with the aim of providing increased cross-fertilization of ideas through greater interaction among students, scholars and academics in the SAARC Countries. The Scheme was reviewed by an Expert Group recently and its recommendations are under consideration by the Technical Committee on Education, Culture and Sports.
4. SAARC Youth Volunteers
The SYVOP is aimed at harnessing the idealism of Youth for regional cooperation programmes. The programme enables young people to work in other countries in the field of agriculture and forestry extension work.
SYVOP is implemented by the Technical Committee on Rural Development.
5. SAARC Visa
In order to further promote closer and more frequent contacts among the peoples of the region, the SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme was initiated in 1988 and became operational on March 1, 1992. Under the Scheme, visa requirements are waived for specified categories of persons to travel within the region. Currently, there are 21 categories of persons who are entitled to the Scheme. In addition, a process of simplification of visa procedures and requirements is in place to assist business people to accelerate promotion of trade and tourism within the region.
6. SAARC Youth Awards Scheme (SYAS)
The SAARC Youth Awards Scheme was established in 1996. The aim of the Scheme is to provide suitable recognition to extra-ordinary young talents and encourage the overall development of youth in the region. An annual award is presented to an outstanding youth selected from the Member States.
The first and second SAARC Youth Award were presented in 1997 and 1998 for "Outstanding Social Service in Community Welfare" and "New Inventions and Discoveries", respectively. The third award will be presented in 1999 to a selected youth from the region.
7. South Asian
The holding of the South Asian Festival at regular intervals is regarded as a desirable activity by all Member States to promote inter-cultural exchange, understanding and friendship among the artistes of the region.
So far, two festivals have been held in India (1992), and Sri Lanka (1996). A film festival is planned to be held in Sri Lanka in 1999.
SAARC REGIONAL INSTITUTIONS
1. SAARC Agricultural Information
SAIC, the first regional institution, was established in Dhaka in 1988. Its Governing Board formulates policy matters, approves projects, recommends budget estimates, monitors and evaluates administrative and overall activities of SAIC. The SAIC Director is the Member-Secretary of the Board.
SAIC serves as a central information institution having a network with relevant national information centres in each member state with a view to rapidly exchange regionally generated technical information and thereby strengthen agricultural research and development activities. SAIC has brought out several publications which contain information on various agricultural institutions in SAARC countries and current contents services on various subjects like fisheries, forestry, livestock, potato, rice etc. SAIC also publishes a quarterly newsletter.
Some of the completed programmes are : Directory of Agricultural Institutions in SAARC Countries; Directory of Agricultural Scientists and Technologists of SAARC countries; Database on Fish Diseases in the SAARC Region; Database on Potato; Directory of Agricultural Periodicals of the SAARC Countries; Bibliography of Women in Agriculture in the SAARC Countries; Bibliography of Agro-forestry in the SAARC Region.
The on-going and future programmes of SAIC include: Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI); Preparation and Distribution of Selective Bibliographies; Acquisition of Books, Journals, Annual Reports etc. produced in the SAARC Countries; Directory of on- going Research Projects in SAARC member states; SAARC Agricultural Fact Book; Improved Farm Implements Currently used in the SAARC Countries; Procurement and Processing of Non-conventional Agricultural Information Materials; Abstracting and Indexing of Articles of Journals/ Newspapers and other Periodicals.
2. SAARC Tuberculosis
Located at Thimi, Bhaktapur (Nepal), STC became operational in mid-July 1992. The Centre s main objective is to work towards the prevention and control of tuberculosis in the SAARC region through better coordination of efforts of the member states, especially their tuberculosis control programs. Institutional structure of the Centre consists of a Governing Board. A Director appointed to head the Centre is responsible for the implementation of the programmes and activities of the Centre. He is also the ex-officio Member-Secretary of the Board.
Since its inception, STC has undertaken a number of initiatives for the prevention and control of tuberculosis in the region. It has undertaken a number of important training programs for the medical practitioners in the relevant areas and also organised several seminars. Some of its notable activities included seminars on surgical aspects of tuberculosis, socio-cultural aspects of tuberculosis, tuberculosis control programme through primary health care approach etc. The Centre has also organised a number of trainers training programs for tuberculosis in the region. Its other useful initiatives resulted in the compilation and printing of a SAARC list of TB hospitals, TB training institutes in the region, compilation of a similar list on TB and chest specialists in South Asia. The Centre is actively engaged in collation and distribution of information on national tuberculosis control programs in SAARC countries, networking arrangements among member countries on tuberculosis related subjects as well as circulation of information on research activities in the region on tuberculosis.
3. SAARC Documentation
SDC has been established at the Indian National Scientific Documentation Center (INSDOC) in New Delhi in May 1994. The SDC Director is responsible for the implementation of the programmes/ activities of the Center and is also the Member Secretary of the SDC Governing Board which comprises a representative from each member state.
The SAARC Documentation System (SDS) comprises the central facility i.e. SDC and its sub-units in member states which would act as the Center's repositories, the SAARC Secretariat and SAARC Regional Institutions. In fulfilling the need for ready access to information, SDC will focus on documents generated in member states, those generated elsewhere in the SAARC region and access to international data bases in the areas of biological, physical, chemical, engineering, and life sciences as well as in developmental matters.
4. SAARC Meteorological
Research Centre (SMRC)
The SMRC, established in Dhaka, was inaugurated on 2 January 1995.
The Centre concentrates primarily on the research aspects of weather forecasting and monitoring rather than the operational aspects of the medium and long-range forecasting. The responsibilities of the Centre would include undertaking research relevant to weather prediction and compiling climatological information. In addition to monitoring special weather phenomena, developing a networking system among the member states would also receive priority in its work. SMRC has a Governing Board, comprising a representative from each member state.
Some of the important activities being undertaken by SMRC are collecting from national meteorological services of member states the available lists of up-to-date climatological information for compilation; compiling a Directory of Meteorological Professionals and Technicians available in the National Meteorological Services of member states; publishing newsletters regarding activities and programmes of the Centre; and collecting required meteorological data from sources outside the region for its research programmes and to disseminate it to member states.
5. SAARC Human
Resource Development Centre (SHRDC)
SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC) is being set up in Islamabad. The Director of the Centre has already been appointed and Member States have been invited to make nominations to the Governing Board which will draw up the Terms of Reference and Work Programme of the SHRDC.
The Centre aims at developing human resources in Member States, inter-alia, in social, economic, educational and environmental fields. The Centre will have a Governing Board comprising Members from all SAARC countries.
1. Agreement on Establishing
the SAARC Food Security Reserve
During the Third SAARC Summit (Kathmandu, 1987), an Agreement on establishing the SAARC Food Security Reserve was signed. The Agreement, which came into force on 12 August 1988, provides for a reserve of foodgrains for meeting emergencies in member countries. The size of the reserve at present stands at 241,580 tonnes.
The SAARC Food Security Reserve Board (SFSRB) comprises representatives from each member country and meets once a year. The main functions of the Board are to undertake a periodic review and assessment of the food situation and prospects in the region including factors such as production, consumption, trade, prices, quality and stocks of foodgrains. Member countries are now actively considering the possibility to further improve the functioning of the Reserve.
2. SAARC Regional Convention on
Suppression of Terrorism
The SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism was signed in Kathmandu in November 1987 during the Third SAARC Summit and came into force on 22 August 1988 following ratification by all member states. The Convention provides a regional focus to many of the well- established principles of international law in this respect. Under its provisions, member states are committed to extradite or prosecute alleged terrorists thus preventing them from enjoying safe havens.
Regional Cooperation is also envisaged in preventive action to combat terrorism through exchange of information, intelligence and expertise identified for mutual cooperation under the Convention.
The SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk (STOMD) has been established in Colombo to collate, analyse and disseminate information about the terrorist incidence, tactics, strategies and methods.
3. SAARC Convention on Narcotic
Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
The SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances which was signed in Malé during the Fifth SAARC Summit in November 1990 came into force on 15 September 1993, following ratification by all member states.
The Convention seeks to reinforce and supplement at the regional level, the relevant international conventions and promote regional cooperation among member states in both law enforcement and demand reduction. Incorporating the generally accepted principle of extradition or prosecution consistent with the respective national legislative regimes, the Convention envisages the widest measures for mutual legal assistance among member states in investigation, prosecution and judicial proceedings in respect of drug offences.
The SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk (SDOMD) has been established in Colombo to collate, analyse and disseminate information on drug related offences in member countries.
The implementation of the Convention is monitored by the Technical Committee on Prevention of Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse, during its annual meetings.
1. South Asian Development Fund
The idea of establishment of South Asian Development Fund (SADF) was mooted at the Sixth SAARC Summit in Colombo in December, 1991 to mobilise the global surpluses for the development of South Asia. The basic objective to establish SADF was to provide finances for industrial development, poverty alleviation, protection of environment and balance of payments support. The SADF was formally established in 1996 with the merger of the two earlier SAARC Funds namely: SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (SFRP); and SAARC Regional Fund (SRF).
The Fund is aimed at developing common economic interests among SAARC Member Countries by promoting economic projects involving more than one Member County.
SADF has three Windows for (i) Identification and Development of Projects (WIDFP); (ii) Institutional and Human Resource Development Projects (WIHRDP); and (iii) Social and Infrastructural Development Projects (WSIDP).
The Fund has provided finance for conducting feasibility studies for 13 projects, so far, under Window I.
The SAARC-Japan Special Fund has been established through a Memorandum exchanged between the two sides in Kathmandu on 27 September 1993.
The Fund established entirely with contribution of the Government of Japan consists of two components. The allocation under Component-I is to be used to finance selected programmes/ activities identified and managed by the member states. Component-II is for the programmes/activities identified and managed by the Government of Japan.
COOPERATION WITH INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ORGANISATIONS
SAARC has emphasised the need for strengthening inter-governmental efforts with increased people-to- people contacts through greater participation of NGOs, including professional bodies in the private sector, to promote socio-economic and cultural development of South Asia. In appreciation of the contributions of the NGOs and professional bodies to the official SAARC process, SAARC has set in motion a process of granting recognition to such deserving bodies. These organisations fall under two categories: (a) SAARC Regional Apex Bodies, and (b) SAARC Recognised Bodies.
A. SAARC REGIONAL APEX BODIES
1. SAARC Chamber of Commerce
and Industry (SCCI)
The SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) was granted the status of SAARC Regional Apex Body in December 1992. The SCCI brings together the national chambers of commerce and industry of the seven SAARC countries under one umbrella.
The SCCI has played a significant role in promoting the core area of economic and trade cooperation in the region. It was instrumental in bringing into fruition the SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA).
SCCI has been very active in the promotion of trade and interaction of business community of the SAARC region. It organises the SAARC Economic Cooperation Conferences on a regular basis and so far has held two such conferences in New Delhi (November, 1996), and Islamabad (March, 1998). SCCI has also been organising SAARC Trade Fairs in Member Countries, the first of which was held in New Delhi in January 1996. The Second Fair was held in Colombo in 1998 and the next SAARC Trade Fair is expected to be held in Islamabad in 1999.
SCCI has established a permanent Secretariat, headed by a Secretary-General, located in Pakistan.
2. Saarc Law
SAARCLAW is an Association for persons of the legal communities of SAARC countries. It was established in 1991 and was accorded recognition as a SAARC Regional Apex Body in July 1994. It was established with the twin objectives of bringing together the legal Communities of the region for closer cooperation and developing law as a source of social change for development. SAARCLAW has been convening periodic conferences covering important areas of common interest to Member States.
These conferences focused on themes such as : law and development in the region; law as an instrument of social justice; law as an instrument of economic change; law and justice for the common people; and development through law; legal education; public interest litigation; money laundering; child abuse and violence against women and investment climate in the region.
Since 1995, a parallel meeting of the Chief Justices of the Member States has also been held to coincide with the SAARCLAW conference. SAARCLAW aims at, inter-alia, exchange of legal professionals, establishment of SAARCLAW libraries, and harmonisation of laws which offer mutual assistance within the judicial process.
The Secretariat of the SAARCLAW is located in Sri Lanka.
B. SAARC RECOGNISED BODIES
1. South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation of Architects (SAARCH)
The SAARCH was founded in 1991 in Colombo with the objective of assisting the development of national architectural bodies within the South Asian region so that it would provide opportunities for consultation on holding of conferences of architects to discuss professional matters and interchange ideas. SAARCH was granted SAARC Recognised Body status in May 1997. It has held several conferences in the region and also publishes a newsletter SAARCH . The SAARCH Secretariat is located in Sri Lanka.
of Management Development Institutions (AMDISA)
AMDISA was established in June 1988 for the promotion of management education and management development activities in South Asian region. It has brought under its umbrella the leading institutions, both public and private, involved in the teaching, training and research in management and development oriented fields. SAARC Recognised Body status was granted to AMDISA in May 1997 in recognition of its contribution to management and development education fields. AMDISA has held several fora on management development related topics. Its general office is located in India.
3. SAARC Federation of University
SAARCFUW was established in July 1995 in Colombo with the objectives of, among other things, bringing together the university women of the region to promote understanding and cooperation and share responsibility in society for the social upliftment in the region. SAARCFUW was granted the status of SAARC recognised body in May 1997.
At present, it has national chapters in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It publishes a newsletter SAARCFUW. SAARCFUW Secretariat is currently located in Sri Lanka.
4.South Asian Federation
of Accountants (SAFA)
SAFA was established in 1984 with the objective of developing a coordinated accountancy profession in the region .
Its membership is open to accountancy bodies in the South Asian region. At present the Institutes of Chartered Accountants and/or the Institutes of Cost and Management Accountants in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the members of SAFA. SAFA was granted the status of SAARC Recognised Body in May 1997.
Its Secretariat is located at South Asian Federation and Accountants, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.
5. SAARC Association of Town
SAARC Association of Town Planners was granted SAARC recognition in August 1998. The main objective of the Association is to promote coordinated town planning in the region.
At present, its country chapters are in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Its headquarters is located in Colombo.
6. SAARC Cardiac
SAARC Cardiac Society was granted the status of SAARC recognised body in November 1998. The main objectives of the Society is to foster cooperation and exchange of information in the field of cardiovascular science including its research, training and rehabilitation programmes.
It has country chapters in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Its headquarters is located at Dhaka.
7. Association of SAARC Speakers
The Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians was formally launched in 1992 in Kathmandu. The Heads of State or Government at their Seventh SAARC Summit (Dhaka, April 1993) welcomed the initiative of the Speakers of Parliaments of SAARC countries in forming the Association.
The Association has so far held two conferences, in New Delhi (July 1995) and Islamabad (October 1997). The next Conference is scheduled to be held in Dhaka in 1999.
C. INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ORGANISATIONS
A Memorandum of Understanding on the Trade Analysis and Information System (TRAINS) was signed between SAARC and UNCTAD in February 1993. This was the first Agreement of cooperation to be signed by SAARC with an international organisation. Under this Agreement, since 1993, UNCTAD has been providing updated copies of its Trade Analysis and Information System (TRAINS) to the SAARC Secretariat on a regular basis. TRAINS, which is now available on CD-ROM, contains latest data on trade control measures prevailing in ninety-one developed and developing countries. Under the MOU, it is the responsibility of the SAARC Secretariat to update UNCTAD database on trade control measures in respect of the SAARC Member Countries and forward the same to UNCTAD Secretariat, Geneva on computer floppies for final incorporation in the forthcoming updated versions of TRAINS CD-ROM.
A Cooperation Agreement between SAARC and UNICEF, was signed in December 1993. The Agreement envisages cooperation in implementing the relevant SAARC decisions relating to Children through an annual agenda which include joint studies, exchange of documentation and monitoring of implementation.
In pursuance of the Cooperation Agreement, the SAARC Secretariat and UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia in Kathmandu hold regular consultations on all child related issues including the Annual Review of the Situation of Children in the SAARC Countries; and implementation of the decisions taken at the Ministerial Conferences on Children of South Asia held at the various SAARC capitals namely : New Delhi (1986), Colombo (1990) and Rawalpindi (1995).
SAARC and UNICEF have been at the forefront of efforts of the global community for the survival, protection and development of children.
The SAARC-APT Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in February 1994 envisages cooperation between the two organisations to promote the growth of telecommunications in order to accelerate economic and social development in the region. SAARC and APT exchange information, publications and documents on their respective activities in this field. They will also exchange technical and operational details of plans for improvement of national, regional and international telecommunications network. Collaboration is also envisaged in planning and development of networks, transfer of technology, promoting international standards, development of human resources and application of telecommunications in sectors such as health, education, environment, transport, and tourism.
A Framework Agreement for cooperation between SAARC and Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) was signed in February 1994. The Agreement provides for cooperation on development issues through joint studies, workshops and seminars and exchange of information and documentation in poverty alleviation, human resource development, trade promotion, foreign direct investment, environmental protection and prevention of drug trafficking, infrastructure development etc.
Since then, there has been regular interaction between the SAARC and ESCAP both bilaterally and under the aegis of the Consultative Meetings of the Executive Heads of Sub-regional Organisations in Asia and the Pacific and ESCAP.
The SAARC-UNDP Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in July 1995 and embodies a general agreement for broad- based collaboration with the aims and purposes of promoting sustainable human development for eradicating poverty , preservation and protection of environment, regeneration of natural resources, employment creation, and the goals of women in development; undertaking periodic consultation for joint activities; publishing studies on priority concerns and exchanging relevant reports.
Cooperation between SAARC and UNDP has been particularly close in the area of Poverty Eradication. UNDP has initiated programmes in specific locations in six member countries of SAARC to promote social mobilisation with a view to eradicating poverty under its programme RAS/96/600. UNDP and SAARC have been maintaining regular contacts on the implementation of these programmes. A UNDP Advisory Committee on its Poverty Eradication Programmes in South Asia was formed in 1996.
Recent SAARC-UNDP cooperation also covered issues relating to training of SAARC officials in specific disciplines and consideration of specific proposals for the strengthening of the institutional capacity of the SAARC Secretariat. UNDP arranged a specialised training for SAARC official in the important area of Media and Communication. SAARC and UNDP are also maintaining close contact on the possibility of further UNDP assistance to meet some of the important requirements of the SAARC Secretariat for greater professional and expert services in a number of specialised areas.
SAARC signed the MOU with UNDP in August 1995 to coordinate efforts in combating drug trafficking and drug abuse in the region. The Memorandum envisages mutual consultation and exchange of information between the two organisations, development and implementation of such activities as human resource development; improving regional cooperation on drug intelligence through the SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk; legislation; financial investigation; money laundering; precursor control; and the establishment of a networking arrangement among existing institutions in drug abuse prevention etc.
A UNDCP-SAARC Workshop for policy makers of the member states on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse was held in Colombo on 1996. The joint collaboration activities are under consideration.
Since the conclusion of the MoU on Administrative Cooperation with the EC in July, 1996, the Secretariat has been in regular touch with the European Commission to concretise SAARC-EC cooperation through the implementation of specific projects/programmes. The MoU mainly focuses on exchange of information, institutional support and training, and technical assistance. The MoU envisages cooperation between the two organisations in the areas of staff training of SAARC Secretariat and SAARC institutions, technical assistance for institutions and institutional support to strengthen the capacities and effectiveness of SAARC Secretariat and SAARC institutions. The two organisations have identified specific areas where cooperation was feasible.
The South Asia Rinderpest Eradication Campaign Support Project (SAREC SP) proposed by EU is under consideration by the Member States.
The Foreign Ministers of SAARC Countries, during the period of the annual UNGA Session in New York would meet the Troika of EU to carry forward the process of consultation between the two organisations.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SAARC and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was signed in March 1997. Providing a framework agreement for ensuring closer cooperation and coordination of efforts between SAARC and ITU. The areas covered by the MOU include development of telecommunications and telematic services as well as improvement of the quality of voice and non-voice telecommunication services in the region. Member States of SAARC and ITU would jointly work towards improving the productivity and efficiency of the telecommunication organisations and networks in the region.
SAARC and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) signed a Memorandum of Cooperation in July, 1997 for promotion of cooperation and mutually beneficial relationships between the two organisations in the core areas of mutual concern, which, among others, include poverty eradication; economic and trade cooperation; social and human resource development; sustained economic growth; and sustainable development. For the purpose of cooperation in these areas, the Memorandum envisages establishment of an annual Programme of cooperation and regular interaction for coordination, exchange of information, and review of cooperation activities, between the two contracting parties. The Memorandum also intends to encourage cooperation between SAARC and CIDA through involvement of mutually agreed upon regional institutions and non-governmental organisations.
Specific proposals on cooperation under the SAARC-CIDA MOU are currently being worked out.