Daily Star: 17th Saarc Summit ends in Maldives with 20-point Addu Declaration; South Asian leaders also agree to forge effective cooperation for full implementation of Safta, better connectivity and steps towards Saarc Market for Electricity.
The 17th Saarc summit ended at Addu in the Maldives yesterday with the adoption of a 20-point Addu Declaration to forge effective cooperation among the member states in areas including economy, connectivity, climate change and food security.
The declaration was taken in at the concluding session in presence of all heads of government or state from the eight member countries–Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
In the declaration, the Saarc leaders agreed to direct the Safta ministerial council to intensify efforts to fully implement Safta and speed up the work of shortening the sensitive lists, resolving the non-tariff barriers and harmonising the standards and customs procedures.
They also decided to ask the Saarc finance ministers to chart a proposal that would allow for greater flow of intra-regional long-term investment.
According to the declaration, the 12th Saarc Trade Fair along with Saarc Travel and Tourism Fair will be held in Kulhudhuffushi, Maldives in 2012. Modalities will be developed by involving the relevant private sector to promote the region globally as “Destination South Asia”.
The summiteers will conclude the regional Railways Agreement and convene the Expert Group Meeting on the Motor Vehicles Agreement before the next session of the Council of Ministers. They will also press for an early demonstration run of a container train (Bangladesh-India-Nepal).
The summit decided to ask the secretary general to ensure completion of the preparatory work on the Indian Ocean Cargo and Passenger Ferry Service, including the feasibility study, by the end of 2012, in order to launch the service.
It agreed to ensure timely implementation of the Thimphu Statement on Climate Change.
The leaders resolved to make sure that at least 2 percent of the national income of a member state is available for investment in renewable energy. They also decided to dedicate more financial resources towards developing renewable energy in the region.
The summit, reads the declaration, agreed to wrap up the Inter-governmental Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation and the Study on the Regional Power Exchange Concept.
About food security, the regional grouping will seek to resolve the operational issues related to the Saarc Food Bank by the next session of the Council of Ministers.
To root out terrorism, it will make coordinated and concerted efforts taking into account linkages with illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and small arms.
In the declaration, the Saarc nations called for an early conclusion of the proposed UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and completion of the ratification of the Saarc Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.
The summit agreed to take measures to contain maritime piracy in the region.
In efforts to ensure women empowerment and gender equality, it decided to convene an inter-governmental expert group meeting that will discuss devising a regional mechanism with focus on national legislations including timely realisation of the MDGs and SDGs.
The summiteers also agreed to elaborate the Saarc regional convention on preventing and combating trafficking in women and children for prostitution by the next summit.
To address the common challenge of sanitation and access to safe drinking water in the region, they will formulate an actionable framework.
The leaders will also strive to expedite the work on mutual recognition of academic and professional degrees and harmonisation of academic standards; and establishment of long-term linkages among the universities, research institutions and think-tanks.
The summit decided to direct the South Asia Forum to continue work towards the development of the vision statement for the South Asia and its future development including on the global and elements of a South Asian Economic Union.
The leaders decided to direct Saarc mechanisms and institutions to develop and implement regional and sub-regional projects, as appropriate, in agreed areas.
Before the next session of the Council of Ministers in 2012, the grouping will comprehensively review all matters relating to Saarc’s engagement with Observers, including the question of dialogue partnership.
To mark a Saarc Media Day, the summit decided to convene a regional conference on the media to consider deepening collaboration in the region.
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