SAARC geared for firm action on several fronts
The ongoing 15th SAARC summit will mark the significant
transformation of the regional organisation from the declaratory stage
to the implementation stage after 23 years, Export Development and
International Trade Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said.
Addressing the media at the end of the first day’s deliberations of
the SAARC Standing Committee, Prof. Peiris said this year’s summit held
in Sri Lanka reflects a shift in ‘the spirit and the level of
co-operation’ among the Member States which is explained by its theme
‘SAARC Partnership for People’.
Among the key issues presently being discussed by the SAARC
Committees which would finally pave the way to the Heads of State Summit
to be held on August 2 to 3, are poverty alleviation, food security,
energy crisis, terrorism and climate change.
In addition, four agreements relating to the setting up of a SAARC
Development Fund, a South Asia Standards Institution, the accession of
Afghanistan to the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), and
obtaining mutual assistance in criminal matters are also expected to be
finalised before the main Summit.
Another highlight of the Summit will be the signing of a Colombo
Declaration on Food Security by the SAARC Heads of State at the closing
SAARC foreign secretaries pose for a picture after their
deliberations at the SAARC Summit sessions in Colombo
yesterday. Picture by Sudath Nishantha
Prof. Peiris said that all eight SAARC nations have by now realised
that improving their respective GDP is not adequate for poverty
alleviation, and that development must reach the grassroots level.
”We have also reached a consensus that food production alone is not
sufficient to ensure food security, of which a vital component is the
existence of a proper mechanism for food distribution.
In relation to all these issues, including those of energy crisis and
terrorism, the collective experience of SAARC nations as well as
collective action by them regarding modalities of dealing with these
problems are of importance,” he said.
The Minister pointed out that Colombo has been at the centre of the
stage at every critical occasion in the history of SAARC.
”The sixth SAARC summit which marked the culmination of the South
Asian Preferential Trade Arrangement (SAPTA) was held in Colombo in
1991, while the decision to appoint an expert committee to draft its
successor SAFTA was also made in Colombo in 1998. The current summit is
equally critical since it marks SAARC’s transformation to the
implementation level,” he said.
Spokesman for the 15th SAARC summit Prasad Kariyawasam said the
Standing Committee constituting SAARC Foreign Secretaries which met
yesterday continued discussions commenced by the Programming committee
on the key issues of the Summit.
”The decision as to the collective measures to be adopted regarding
the issues will be taken by the Committee tomorrow (30th),” he said
adding that the issue of climate change will be referred to and adopted
in the Declaration of the Heads of State. They are also considering
requests by Australia and Myanmar for Observer status.
The Foreign Ministers meeting will begin tomorrow and all SAARC
foreign ministers are due to arrive in the island today.