Kathmandu, 27 Nov 2014: The 18th SAARC Summit concluded in the capital with a 36-point Kathmandu Declaration emphasizing on SAFTA and trade facilitation, connectivity, combating terrorism and trans-national crimes as well as strengthening the SAARC processes.
The Declaration divided into 27 sub-headings recognizes that it is time to reinvigorate SAARC’s regional cooperation and revitalize SAARC as an effective vehicle to fulfill the developmental aspirations of the peoples of South Asia.
Accordingly, the Heads of State or Government have expressed their strong determination to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia by intensifying cooperation in trade, investment, finance, energy, security, infrastructure, connectivity and culture.
Emphasis has also been laid to implement the projects, programmes and activities in a prioritized, result-oriented and time-bound manner.
They have also expressed commitment to enhance support to the Least Developed and Landlocked Member States in their development efforts, with a view to ensuring equitable benefits of free trade arrangements.
In this content, they agreed to effectively implement the existing preferential facilities under SAFTA and SATIS.
Welcoming the significant progress towards finalization of the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and SAARC Regional Railways Agreement, the SAARC leaders agreed to hold a Meeting of the Transport Ministers within three months in order to finalize the Agreements for approval.
The leaders have reiterated their strong commitment to free South Asia from poverty and directed the Ministerial and Secretary-level mechanisms on poverty alleviation to review the progress and revisit the SAARC Plan of Action and its effective implementation, also taking into account the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The Heads of State or Government have also directed to eliminate the threshold criteria from the SAARC Food Bank Agreement so as to enable the Member States to avail food grains, during both emergency and normal time food difficulty.
Urging for early ratification of the SAARC Seed Bank Agreement, the leaders also directed the relevant SAARC bodies to finalize the establishment of Regional Vaccine Bank and Regional Livestock Gene Bank.
Welcoming the decision to establish the SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre, the leaders underlined the urgency for the global community to arrive at a Protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all by the end of 2015, based on the principles of the Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR), Respective Capabilities and Equity under the UNFCCC.
Furthermore, the SAARC leaders endorsed the Male Resolution on Regional Health Issues adopted at the Fourth Meeting of the SAARC Health Ministers, while directing to complete all necessary processes for upgrading the SAARC TB Reference Laboratory at SAARC TB and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC), Kathmandu to Supra-national Reference Laboratory with necessary funding from SDF.
The leaders have also directed their Education Ministers to develop a Regional Strategy for Enhancing the Quality of Education in order to raise the standards of South Asian educational institutions in order to better serve the youth in the region.
They also acknowledged the special needs of the elderly, women, children, differently-based persons, unemployed persons, and persons working at hazardous sites and agreed to develop and strengthen social protection for them and to share best practices in this regard.
The SAARC leaders welcomed the offer of India to develop and launch a satellite dedicated to SAARC Countries, while agreeing to develop capacity of the Member States to apply space technology for socio-economic development and the welfare of the peoples through experience sharing among themselves.
In another landmark decision aimed at facilitating inter-regional tourism development, the leaders called for effective and full implementation of their existing decision to charge nationals of SAARC Member States fees for entry into archaeological and heritage sites as applicable to their own nationals.
Likewise, the leaders have urged both public and private media to share responsibility in the efforts towards promoting understanding and cohesiveness of the SAARC Member States and their peoples.
Declaring the year 2016 as the SAARC Year of Cultural Heritage, they also agreed to develop a cultural trail linking major Buddhist historical sites in the region. The Leaders further agreed to facilitate access of persons visiting prominent and holy sites of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and all other major religions in South Asia.
The Leaders underlined the need for effective cooperation among the Member States to combat terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations, they directed respective authorities to ensure full and effective implementation of the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its additional Protocol, including through enacting necessary legislations at the national level to root out terrorism.
They also agreed to establish a cyber crime monitoring desk, and to take effective measures to combat illicit trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances, arms smuggling, money laundering, counterfeit currency and other transnational crimes.
Expressing satisfaction over steady progress in democratization in South Asia, the Leaders committed to further promote and institutionalize peace, stability, democracy and development as the common aspirations of the peoples of South Asia.
Realizing the need to strengthen the SAARC processes, the leaders directed rationalization of the work of the SAARC mechanism, which could be reviewed every three years by a regular session of the Standing Committee with a view to evaluate performance, achievements and constraints.
They have also committed to enhance the institutional capacity of the SAARC Secretariat in keeping with emerging realities, while agreeing to enhance its role commensurate with the objectives of SAARC, its areas of cooperation as well as the decisions and agreements reached in the past.
Another major reshuffle as far as the SAARC processes is concerned was the agreement to hold henceforth the meetings of the SAARC Summit every two years or earlier, if necessary, the Council of Ministers once a year, the Standing Committee at least once a year, and the Programming Committee at least twice a year.
They also agreed to make the Programming Committee a Charter body of SAARC.
Appreciating the Study undertaken by the SAARC Secretariat to review and analyze the engagement with the existing Observers, the Leaders directed the Programming Committee to engage the SAARC Observers into productive, demand-driven and objective project based cooperation in priority areas as identified by the Member States.
In the end, the Leaders welcomed the offer of the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan to host the Nineteenth Summit of SAARC. RSS