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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 session.


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.

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