SAARC areas of cooperation
The issue of institutionalising cooperation on Biotechnology has been
on SAARC Agenda for some time. It was first mooted during the Fifth
SAARC Summit in 1990 and successive Summits reiterated the call for
concrete collaboration in this field. Leaders during the Tenth Summit in
1998, reiterated their call for intensifying cooperation in
The erstwhile Technical Committee on Science and Technology gave
focused treatment of the subject of biotechnology, in view of the
immense potential in improving the quality of life in the region, given
its vast reservoir of biodiversity and conducive climate.
With the restructuring of the Integrated Programme of Action as RIPA,
the Working Group on Biotechnology was formed in January 2004 to
coordinate regional cooperation in this important field.
Plan of Action for Cooperation in Biotechnology Member States have
agreed to develop a Plan of Action for Cooperation in Biotechnology.
The six areas of collaboration identified for the Plan of Action are
Plant Tissue Culture, Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Plant Biotechnology
including Therapeutic and Edible Vaccines, Vaccines and Diagnostics for
Human Health, Aquaculture, and Human Resource Development. Concept
papers are being prepared by Member States in each of these. Once
prepared, a Group of Experts would examine those.
The Group of Experts will finalise the proposed Plan of Action, which
will be regional in character and will clearly outline modalities of
Institutional Framework for Biotechnological Cooperation SAARC
Leaders have called for institutionalising cooperation in the field of
biotechnology including establishment of a networking arrangement.
A Concept Paper on Developing an Institutional Framework for
Biotechnology Cooperation is being finalised on the basis of comments
received from the Member States, giving emphasis on networking approach.
The proposals in the Concept Paper include setting up of a Standing
Group on Biotechnology. This Group would function as a chief advisory
body that embodies a diverse perspective on science, health and
State-of-the-Art Report The following State-of-the-Art Reports have
been prepared. They were part of a set of four Reports that were
considered by the erstwhile Technical Committee on Science and
Technology. Meetings of experts will be convened to develop common
regional strategies and concrete plans of action on the basis of the
i. State-of-the-Art Report on Selected Rural Technologies ii.
State-of-the-Art Report on Biotechnology New Areas in Biotechnology In
view of the importance of regional cooperation in Biotechnology, a
proposal to draw a regional framework for Biosafety Procedures and
Protocols is being considered in the context of the rules and
regulations prevailing in the Member States.
Member States are in the process of sharing information in this
important area. A concept paper on a regional framework for Biosafety
Procedures and Protocols will be finalised.
Recognising the escalating revolution in the ICT sector and the
tremendous opportunities and daunting challenges emanated there-from,
the issue of communications received due prominence in the SAARC
The Heads of State or Government at their Ninth SAARC Summit (Male’,
May 1997), noted that inadequate communications facilities amongst the
Member States were a major hindrance to closer economic cooperation.
They stressed the importance of developing infrastructure and
adequate communications networks among Member States to reinforce the
process of economic cooperation.
In this regard, they highlighted the need for the simplification of
complex documentation procedures and transactional software to
facilitate economic interaction across the region.
Pursuant to the above decision, the SAARC Communications Ministers
held their First Conference in Colombo in May 1998. They agreed that
telecommunications should not be looked upon purely as a source of
revenue but rather as a multifaceted process enhancing socio-economic
development in the region.
They also agreed on specific steps to further promote cooperation
among Member States on a sustained basis. The Conference adopted a Plan
of Action on Telecommunications.
The SAARC Communications Ministers held their second Conference in
Islamabad in June 2004. In view of the rapid and innovative developments
in the telecommunications sector, they had in-depth discussion on the
earlier Plan of Action.
They agreed on a comprehensive strategy for cooperation to facilitate
the enhancement and expansion of telecommunications facilities in the
region and adopted a Revised SAARC Plan of Action on Telecommunications
- 2004 with the following goals and objectives:
To promote cooperation in the enhancement of telecommunication links
and utilisation of information technologies within the SAARC region; To
minimise disparities within and among Member States in the
telecommunications field; To harness telecommunication technology for
the social and economic upliftment of the region through infrastructure
development by optimal sharing of available resources and enhanced
cooperation in technology transfer, standardisation and human resource
development; and To evolve a coordinated approach on issues of common
concern in international telecommunications fora. In order to achieve
these goals and objectives, the Ministers adopted the Revised SAARC Plan
of Action on Telecommunications.
The Second Conference also adopted Common Position on issues of
concern to the region in Telecommunications sector that was presented at
the World Summit for Information Society (WSIS), held in Tunis in
November 2005. The Conference felt the need to have more concerted
endeavours to address the issue of digital divide and urged the Member
States to share their successful initiatives for development of ICT
within the region. It decided that fellowships and training programmes
for the development of human resources would be offered by Member
It decided that the Third Conference would be held in India in the
first quarter of 2005. An exhibition of ICT related products developed
and manufactured in the region would also be organised concomitantly
with the Conference. So far, the Conference has not been held.
The acceleration of economic growth is a Charter objective of SAARC.
Cooperation in the core economic areas among SAARC Member Countries was
initiated following the Study on Trade, Manufactures and Services (TMS),
which was completed in June 1991.
Currently, the following important processes of SAARC are promoting
cooperation in the field of Trade, Economy and Finance, and related
Committee on Economic Cooperation: Overall Coordination of
cooperation in economic areas; SAFTA Committee of Experts and SAFTA
Ministerial Council: Administration and implementation of SAFTA; Finance
Ministers Mechanism: Cooperation in the field of Finance and related
areas; Standing Group on Standards and SAARC Standards Coordination
Board: Cooperation in the field of harmonization of Standards; Group on
Customs Cooperation is dealing with issues related to harmonisation of
Customs rules and procedures.
During the Twelfth SAARC Summit, the Council of Ministers at its
Twenty-Fourth Session approved the most recent restructuring of the
SAARC Integrated Programme of Action. Under the new Regional Integrated
Programme of Action, (RIPA), seven Technical Committees were reorganised.
At the same time five new Working Groups were created. The idea of
Working Groups is new in SAARC. Working Groups have been especially
created to focus on five new and emerging areas, namely, Energy,
Tourism, ICT, Intellectual Property Rights and Biotechnology. The
Working Groups are intended to have higher profiles than the Technical
Committees and to function along the lines of the Committee on Economic
Cooperation that has been functioning for over a decade now. As early as
its Fifth Session (Dhaka, 4 December 1985) the Standing Committee
approved the recommendation of the then Technical Committee on Science
and Technology to hold a workshop on Renewable Energy.
Since then, various activities were held in the energy sector under
the auspices of the Technical Committee on Science and Technology.
Subsequently, cooperation in the energy sector was brought directly
under the purview of the SAARC Integrated Programme of Action (SIPA) in
January 2000 by establishing a new Technical Committee on Energy.
The erstwhile Technical Committee on energy held two meetings to
discuss issues related to cooperation in this field in the region. While
focusing on the main mandate entrusted to this Working Group by the
Leaders at their Twelfth Summit to study various possibilities for
cooperation in the field of energy, including the concept of an Energy
Ring. Modalities in creating a South Asia Energy Cooperation including
the concept of an Energy Ring. (Mandated by the Twelfth SAARC Summit
(Islamabad 4-6 January 2004) The Twenty-fifth Session of the Council of
Ministers (Islamabad, 20-21 July 2004) approved the Report of the First
Meeting of the Working Group on Energy (WORGEN) and recommended the
following Plan of Action:
A South Asia Energy Forum at Ministerial level may be formed under
the SAARC umbrella for exchange of views on policy issues and
cooperation; The possibility of setting up a SAARC Energy Centre may be
explored; A study may be carried out on options, benefits and
constraints of energy trade in the region; Exchange of information and
technical discussions are prerequisites for cooperation and may be
encouraged by the respective Governments; Joint strategies may be
evolved for global energy forums for the benefit of the Member States;
Countries of the region may benefit from each others experiences in
institutional and pricing reforms in the energy sector; In the long
term, transnational energy lines (electricity, gas and oil) could
provide basis for an integrated and prosperous economic future of South
Asia; Special focus is required on energy availability in rural areas,
including conventional and non-conventional forms of energy for economic
development and poverty reduction; Non-conventional and renewable
sources of energy may be promoted through sharing of manpower,
expertise, know-how and training programmes; Feasibility of establishing
a Regional Fund for promoting non-conventional energy may be explored;
Energy efficiency and conservation may be promoted as a least cost
option; Cooperation on CNG use in transport may be promoted; Lessons may
be learnt from innovative projects in Member states such as Nepal
electricity rickshaw project, Bangladesh rural electrification
cooperative societies etc., and A quarterly internet based SAARC Energy
Newsletter may be posted by the Secretariat based on the information
provided by the Member States. The Group noted with appreciation that
the recommendations made at the erstwhile Technical Committee Meeting
merits continuity under the new framework of the Working Group. They
decided to pursue cooperation in all recommended areas i.e.
Exchange of Energy information; Environment friendly energy; Creation
of a Regional Power-Grid; and Cooperation regarding renewable energy.
SAARC-ASEAN Cooperation in the Energy Sector SAARC-ASEAN cooperation
recently developed between the two Secretariats recommended the proposal
of visit by the Experts from the SAARC region to relevant ASEAN
institutions coordinated by the ASEAN Secretariat.