SAARC Development Fund
The agreement to be signed for setting up of a SAARC
Development Fund by member countries during the Colombo Summit
is a welcome development that is bound to inject new vigour to
the SAARC movement.
It is hoped that this would be a harbinger of positive
developments in the SAARC movement which hitherto had been
viewed as cruising along listlessly after the pomp and ceremony
of successive summits.
A fund of this nature would no doubt ensure benefits accruing
to the people of the region in a more tangible form. It would
also promote connectivity where the SAARC family would be
involved in a common bond to further common interests.
It will also act as a catalyst for the promotion of SAARC
ideals and realisation of its goals as envisioned by the
founders of the movement in a positive and tangible form.
However disbursement of the Fund among member countries should
be undertaken with care so as to ensure equitable distribution.
The quantum of funds no doubt will vary according to the
development requirements of each member country. The Fund should
also be out of the scope of development assistance received by
Member countries from other sources and should stand on its own.
According to our main story yesterday the proposed SAARC
Development Fund (SDF) will provide financial assistance for
economic, social and infrastructure development of SAARC member
It is to replace the exiting South Asian Development Fund (SADF)
and would serve as the umbrella financial institution for all
SAARC development projects.
It is commendable that one of the priorities identified for
funding is poverty alleviation. This is a scourge that has been
plaguing the region from time immemorial making us a poor
relation of the rest of the world, so to speak.
It is agreed that no progress can be made on the economic and
social front where poverty reigns and if we as a region are to
catch up with the rest of the world poverty should be tackled
and tackled fast.
It is also appropriate that and the subject of women too have
been targeted by the fund. This is one of the three windows
recognised for funding from the SAF. The others are the
infrastructure window and the economic window.
Poverty alleviation had been on the agenda of all past
summits. Whether the plans had ever gone beyond the blueprint
stage is any one’s guess considering the rampant poverty still
plaguing the region.
It is hoped that Sri Lanka as the leader of the grouping for
the next term will take necessary initiatives to ensure that
SAARC goes all out to tackle the problem of poverty head on.
No doubt the task would be an enormous one and the challenge
could not be met by a single fund of this nature.
However the creation of an apex fund such as this is a good
start which could even draw other contributors who desire
stability in the region.
It is also hoped that substantial resources would be devoted
towards the emancipation of women in South Asia, a large
percentage of whom are languishing in abject misery due to
social backwardness and are still the subjects of ancient
prejudices and indigenous cultures.
The emancipation of South Asian women had been a prominent
topic over the years but apparently numerous workshops and
elaborate sessions held in five star hotels on their behalf have
not produced results.
It is therefore incumbent on SAARC as a grouping to take up
the matter with all seriousness and ensure that South Asian
women receive their rightful place among their communities.
Special attention too should be paid to the plight of
children who are consigned to slavery and sexual abuse made
worse by the spread of AIDS. We are still not aware of the
dynamics in expending this Fund. A proper mechanism is vital to
ensure proper selection of areas where the funding is to be
Attention should also be focused on social development
targeting the backward communities while not damaging cultural
identities, indigenous practices and the social diversity that
underlines the beautiful fabric of South Asia.