Kathmandu,26 Nov 2014: The inaugural address by the Right Honourable Mr Sushil Koirala, Prime Minster of Nepal, at the 18th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is as follows:
Excellencies the Heads of State and Government of the SAARC Member States,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor and privilege for Nepal to host the Eighteenth Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). On behalf of the people and Government of Nepal and on my own, I would like to extend you all very warm welcome to Kathmandu and wish you a pleasant and productive stay in Nepal.
Let me express my sincere appreciation to His Excellency Mr. Abdulla Yameen, the President of the Republic of Maldives, for his outstanding leadership of the SAARC process during the last three years.
I also thank SAARC Secretary General and the SAARC Secretariat for their efforts put in preparatory process for this summit.
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
As we begin our Summit meeting, the whole world is watching South Asia. We meet here at a time when the international environment is rapidly changing, and our societies and economies are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent. South Asia has strategic geography, rich demographic profile with growing middle class, young, dynamic and hardworking population, increasing democratization process, abundance of natural resources, rich biodiversity and economic dynamism with a boundless market. The region has transformative potentials to gain global preeminence.
We meet here in a new spirit with new hopes and expectations of our people. We can take pride in the steady progress towards democratization in the region since the formation of SAARC. The evolution of Indian democracy as the largest and a strong civilizational force is inspiring. There have been a series of elections in the region since the last summit and legitimate, peaceful transfers of power. I would like to congratulate the distinguished and respected leaders on their successes.
While unique unity in vast diversity is the region’s resilience, some stubborn challenges, ranging from endemic poverty to international terrorism, transnational crimes, and trafficking of persons, drugs and arms and climate change are constantly staring at us. They have undermined social cohesion, peace, political stability, democratization process, and development. It is high time that we work honestly to confront these challenges, make proper use of resources, prove our worth by our collective commitment, and deliver the promise made to the people in the region.
Poverty remains an affront to our collective conscience. It has been a primary source of several evils, much friction, and tension that afflict our societies. Our collective efforts in liberating our peoples from dehumanizing conditions of poverty and hunger will become one of the success stories of the 21st century.
Poverty has multidimensional facets. We, therefore, need to push our collective efforts in critical areas as agriculture, health, sanitation, education and women empowerment.
South Asia is of one of the most vulnerable regions due to natural disasters emanating from climate change and erratic weather patterns. Whether it is the melting of Himalayan glaciers or the rise of sea level with devastating floods in the hills and plains in between, our people continue to suffer from compounding threats posed by climate change and environmental degradation. We call for a climate justice mechanism guided by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and to activate funding mechanisms for adaptation and mitigation measures. No one has the privilege to pollute the planet without accountability.
Despite geographical proximity, our region is one of the least integrated. Lack of connectivity has kept us far apart. The volume of intra-regional trade and investment is distressingly low. It requires a quantum jump and deepening of economic linkages, through the full implementation of SAFTA and further liberalization of trade, including trade in services to move towards the goal of achieving South Asian Economic Union. We need to build roads, railways, airways, pipelines, ports and waterways to facilitate greater movement of goods, services, capital and people.
The region is a home to great civilizations and holds spectacular heritage sites humanity has ever created. Nature has blessed us with stunning Himalayas, including the world’s tallest peak- Mount Everest, to the deep blue ocean. To reap the geographic dividend and to promote the seamless movement of our people, we require the effective implementation of SAARC process through the synergetic partnership among civic institutions, private sectors, and civil societies. By such measures, I am confident that we would be able to realize the theme of the Kathmandu summit “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity” in real sense.
Excellencies, Distinguished participants
In our region, we have a vast pool of young and dynamic population while other parts of the world are facing shortage of the workforce. However, lack of sufficient employment opportunities at home has compelled a sizable number of youth force to migrate to other countries for work. While remittances of the migrant workers substantially contribute to national income, these have not come without psychological, economic and social costs. This situation demands concrete regional programs for optimal utilization of human resources. We also need a mechanism to work on a common position in international forums on migrant workers for their safety, security and dignity.
Terrorism is our common enemy and a growing threat to civilized way of life. South Asia has been the worst victim of terrorism and transnational crimes of various kinds. Terrorism, in all from and manifestations including militant extremism and religious fundamentalism, must therefore be combated collectively and unequivocally, Any compromise on terrorism undermines the culture of peace. We have built some institutional frameworks under the SAARC, but we need their honest and effective implementation, active cooperation among our institutions and law enforcement agencies and timely sharing of critical information.
None of the challenges is more pressing in governance than the fight against endemic corruption. It is a growing threat to peace, stability, democracy and development. Our people after their decades of arduous struggles and disproportionate sufferings for a democratic system of governance deserve accountable, responsible, transparent, and corruption-free governance. We need to ensure that gaps in the governance need to be bridged and these values are not bypassed and undermined under any circumstances.
We have created a number of mechanisms under SAARC. They need to be made efficient, effective, and result-oriented. We strongly believe that SAARC Secretariat’s institutional capacity needs to be enhanced to enable it to realize its goals and discharge responsibilities in the changing context.
We thank observer states for their engagement in the SAARC process. We hope to fully benefit from their resources, experiences, and expertise in various sectors. We need to develop suitable modalities to engage them in a meaningful way.
Before I conclude, let me speak a few words on the latest political development in Nepal. The pressing priority before the nation is to conclude the peace process that began with the mainstreaming of armed rebels into constitutional democratic politics with the promulgation of a democratic constitution through the Constituent Assembly. All political parties remain engaged in the constitution making process. We have made significant strides on key constitutional issues towards institutionalizing peace and democracy in the country. The new constitution, with the spirit of constitutionalism, political pluralism, universal democratic values, and the rule of law firmly embedded in it, will institutionalize democratic gains and lay the foundation for an inclusive federal democratic republic Nepal.
We firmly believe that national reconciliation and national unity based on mutual trust and understanding as enunciated by B.P. Koirala, the first elected Prime Minister of Nepal, is absolutely necessary to give stability to the nation. Leader of the 2006 People’s Movement GP Koirala brought parties with different ideologies together in one platform for safeguarding national sovereignty, democracy, and human rights. This continues to be our approach to the constitution writing process.
With common commitments from political parties in the country and goodwill, and support, from our neighbors and friends in the international community, Nepal is set to embark on the path of peace, stability, and democratic system of governance. We believe that a peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous Nepal is in the long term interests of our neighbours, and region and acts as stabilizing force at the global level.
I am confident that our complementarities can bind us in a framework of peaceful cooperation. However, if we look back and do self introspection, our achievements are short of expectations. The cost of non-cooperation in a region of vast complementarities and abundance of resources has been colossal. Three decades of experience tell us to change the gear and introduce massive economic and technological innovations. Time has come for us to decide what kind of SAARC we want to pass on to our posterity. People have patiently waited for long. They deserve to be delivered with development dividends from the benefits of enhanced regional cooperation.
Let us address the impediments and challenges; let us strengthen our unity; let us demonstrate solidarity, let us muster courage to come out of past mindsets and prejudices, let us make SAARC a strong, unified, and meaningful means for overall development of South Asia, The pioneer of peace and son of this region, Gautam Buddha taught us and I quote: “Be a lamp to yourself, Be your own confidence. Hold to the truth within yourself as the only truth.” Unquote.
Peace, stability and democracy are the only means to help us harness resources, meet the common set of challenges that stare at us and deliver our promises to the people. Nepal is always happy to join hands with all the fellow Member States in their common vision and dreams. I reiterate Nepal’s profound commitment to the objectives of SAARC.