South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS IN SAARC
INTEGRATED PROGRAMME OF ACTION (IPA)
TRADE AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
PROMOTING PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE CONTACT
SAARC REGIONAL INSTITUTIONS
COOPERATION WITH INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ORGANISATIONS
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SAARC is a manifestation of the determination of the peoples of South Asia to work together towards finding solutions to their common problems in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding and to create an order based on mutual respect, equity and shared benefits. The main goal of the Association is to accelerate the process of economic and social development in member states, through joint action in the agreed areas of cooperation.
The idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was first mooted in November 1980. After consultations, the Foreign Secretaries of the seven countries met for the first time in Colombo, in April 1981. This was followed, a few months later, by the meeting of the Committee of the Whole, which identified five broad areas for regional cooperation. The Foreign Ministers, at their first meeting in New Delhi, in August 1983, formally launched the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) through the adoption of the Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation (SARC).
At the First Summit held in Dhaka on 7-8 December 1985, the Charter establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was adopted.
The objectives, principles and general provisions, as mentioned in the SAARC Charter, are as follows :
- To promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life;
- To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realise their full potentials;
- To promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;
- To contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another's problems;
- To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields;
- To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;
- To strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and
- To cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.
- Cooperation within the framework of the Association is based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and mutual benefit.
- Such cooperation is to complement and not to substitute bilateral or multilateral cooperation.
- Such cooperation should be consistent with bilateral and multilateral obligations of the member states.
- Decisions at all levels in SAARC are taken on the basis of unanimity.
- Bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from its deliberations.
The highest authority of the Association rests with the Heads of State or Government. During the period 1985-95, eight meetings of the Heads of State or Government had been held in Dhaka (1985), Bangalore (1986), Kathmandu (1987), Islamabad (1988), Malé (1990), Colombo (1991), Dhaka (1993), New Delhi (1995) and Male (1997) respectively. (see Summit Declaration of Male)
Council of Ministers
Comprising the Foreign Ministers of member states is responsible for the formulation of policies; reviewing progress; deciding on new areas of cooperation; establishing additional mechanisms as deemed necessary; and deciding on other matters of general interest to the Association. The Council meets twice a year and may also meet in extraordinary session by agreement of member states. It has held fifteen sessions till November 1995.
Comprising the Foreign Secretaries of member states is entrusted with the overall monitoring and coordination of programmes and the modalities of financing; determining inter-sectoral priorities; mobilising regional and external resources; and identifying new areas of cooperation based on appropriate studies. It may meet as often as deemed necessary but in practice it meets twice a year and submits its reports to the Council of Ministers. It has held twenty regular sessions and two special sessions till November 1995.
Comprising the senior officials meets prior to the Standing Committee sessions to scrutinize Secretariat Budget, finalise the Calendar of Activities and take up any other matter assigned to it by the Standing Committee. This Committee has held fifteen sessions till November 1995.
Comprising representatives of member states, formulate programmes and prepare projects in their respective fields. They are responsible for monitoring the implementation of such activities and report to the Standing Committee. The chairmanship of each Technical Committee normally rotates among member countries in alphabetical order, every two years. At present, there are twelve Technical Committees. However, with the merger of the Technical Committees on Environment and Meteorology, beginning from 1st January 1996, the number of Technical Committees will be eleven.
According to the SAARC Charter, there is a provision for Action Committees comprising member states concerned with implementation of projects involving more than two, but not all member states. At present, there are no such Action Committees.
During the first decade of SAARC, several other important meetings took place in specific contexts. A number of SAARC Ministerial Meetings have been held, to focus attention on specific areas of common concern and has become an integral part of the consultative structure.So far Ministerial-level Meetings have been held on International Economic Issues:
-Islamabad (1986), Children
- New Delhi (1986) & Colombo (1992), Women in Development
- Shillong (1986) & Islamabad (1990), Environment - New Delhi (1992), Women and Family Health
- Kathmandu (1993), Disabled Persons
- Islamabad (1993), Youth - Male' (1994), Poverty
- Dhaka (1994) and Women : Towards the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing
- Dhaka (1995).
So far, six Meetings of Planners have been held, one in 1983 and five annually from
1987 to 1991. These meetings initiated cooperation in important areas such as Trade,
Manufacturers and Services; Basic Needs; Human Resource Development; Data base on
socio-economic indicators; Energy Modelling Techniques; Plan Modelling Techniques and
Poverty Alleviation Strategies.
In addition, a high level Committee on Economic Cooperation (CEC) has been established in 1991, for identifying and implementing programmes in the core area of economic and trade cooperation.
A three-tier mechanism was put in place in 1995, to follow-up on the relevant SAARC decisions on Poverty Eradication. The tiers consist of Meeting of Secretaries in-Charge of Poverty Eradication, Meeting of Finance/Planning Secretaries, and Meeting of Finance/Planning Ministers.
Established in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987, the SAARC Secretariat is responsible to coordinate and monitor the implementation of SAARC activities, service the meetings of the Association and serve as the channel of communication between SAARC and other international organizations.
The Secretariat comprises of the Secretary-General, a Director from each member state and the General Services Staff. The Secretary-General is appointed by the Council of Ministers upon nomination by a member state, on the principle of rotation in alphabetical order, for a period of two years. Mr. Abul Ahsan from Bangladesh was the first Secretary-General (16 January 1987 - 15 October 1989) followed by Mr. Kant Kishore Bhargava from India (17 October 1989 - 31 December 1991) and Mr. Ibrahim Hussain Zaki from the Maldives (1 January 1992 - 31 December 1993). The present Secretary-General, Mr. Yadab Kant Silwal from Nepal, assumed the office from 1 January 1994. The next Secretary-General from Pakistan, Mr. Naeemuddin Hasan will assume office on 1 January 1996.
Directors are appointed by the Secretary-General, upon nomination by member states for
a period of three years which, in special circumstances, may be extended by the
Secretary-General for a period not exceeding another full term, in consultation with the
member state concerned.
Following are the Directors presently serving in the Secretariat:
-Bangladesh : Mr. Liaquat Ali Choudhury (from 5.7.1995)
-Bhutan : Ms. K.C. Namgyel (from 17.10.1995)
-India : Mr. Ashok K. Attri (from 3.10.1994)
-Maldives : Mr. Ahmed Latheef (from 1.10.1993)
-Nepal : Mr. Prabal S.J.B. Rana (from 17.8.1992)
-Pakistan : Mr. Tahir Iqbal Butt (from 6.1.1994)
-Sri Lanka : Mr. Ranjith P. Jayasooriya (from 10.2.1995).
FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS IN SAARC
Member states make provision in their respective national budgets, for financing activities and programmes under the SAARC framework including contributions to the Secretariat budget and that of the regional institutions. The financial provision thus made is announced annually, at the meeting of the Standing Committee.
The annual budget of the Secretariat, both for capital as well as recurrent expenditure, is shared by member states on the basis of an agreed formula. The initial cost of the main building of the Secretariat, together with all facilities and equipment, as well as that of the annex building completed in 1993 has been met by the host government.
A minimum of forty percent of the institutional cost of regional institutions is borne by the respective host government and the balance is shared by all member states, according to an agreed formula. Capital expenditure of regional institutions which includes physical infrastructure, furnishing, machines, equipment etc. are normally borne by the respective host government. Programme expenditure of regional institutions is also shared by member states, according to the agreed formula.
In the case of activities under the approved Calendar, the local expenses including hospitality, within agreed limits, are borne by the host Government, while the cost of air travel is met by the sending Government.
INTEGRATED PROGRAMME OF ACTION (IPA)
The IPA is a key component of the SAARC process and includes twelve agreed areas of cooperation, each being covered by a designated Technical Committee.
In response to the emphasis given by successive Summits on the need to further consolidate and streamline IPA and to make it more result oriented, a comprehensive set of guidelines and procedures was adopted in 1992 for the rationalization of SAARC activities. As a result of this, there is now a greater focus on activities that would bring tangible benefits to the people of South Asia.
The Secretary-General reports on the progress in the implementation of IPA to the Standing Committee, both at its inter-Summit and pre-Summit Sessions.
The Standing Committee has also taken the initiative to review the institutional mechanisms and activities of the Association, including, the evaluation of the functioning of the Technical Committees, amalgamation/alteration of their mandate and also a review of the role of the Secretariat.
1. Agriculture (TC01)
Agriculture was among the original five areas identified for fostering regional cooperation. The first meeting of TC01 was held in 1983. Subsequently, Forestry was also included in the work of the Technical Committee. TC01 was instrumental in the setting up of SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC) at Dhaka in 1988 - the first SAARC regional institution.
Member states have been exchanging Germplasm, Breeding Materials on Livestock and Fishery in accordance with the quarantine regulations in force in their respective countries. Prototypes of Farmtools and Equipment have been exchanged for trial and adaptation. Activities for Improved Livestock through Exchange of Animals, Frozen Semen and Vaccine have also been undertaken. The responsibility of compiling lists of institutions and disciplines capable of offering training in member countries has been entrusted to SAIC. Rice and Wheat-breeding Programmes for enhancing productivity have been conducted while Multilocation trials for various crops are being undertaken.
Regular meetings of Counterpart Scientists is a very important feature of the Committee's programmes. The list of Counterpart Scientists in the twelve agreed areas of crops and disciplines have been finalised for networking. These are : Rice (Millet); Wheat; Oilseeds; Horticulture (Potato) Vegetables and Fruits; Fisheries; Forestry; Transfer of Technology; Livestock (Animal Health and Production); Farm Machinery and Implements; Post Harvest Technology; Agriculture Economics & Policies and Soils. Progress has been made towards establishing a network on Amelioration of Problem Soils.
The programme for the 1990s focuses on Genetic Engineering and Bio-Technology (for crop and livestock improvement, agricultural and horticultural development, embryo transfer technology for livestock and conservation of endangered germplasm); Homestead Vegetable Production; Food Availability and Nutritional Balance; Data Base on Technology and Training facilities in agricultural science within the SAARC countries; and meeting of the Expert Group on Crop Diseases. Two important project proposals namely
i) Promotion of the "Bio-Villages, and
(ii) Reaching the Million - Training of Farmers and Farm Women by 2000 A.D. have recently been completed and future course of action on these proposals is underway.
2. Communications (TC02)
TC on Telecommunications and TC on Postal Services both established in 1983 which had hitherto functioned separately were amalgamated into a single TC on Communications with effect from 1993.
With a view to bringing about an over-all improvement in the postal services in the region, the work programme in this sector included training, seminars, workshops study tours etc.
Training programmes were held for First and Middle Level Officers and for Trainers as well as in Philately, International Postal Services, International Mail Accounting and Routing, Postal Management Services and Post Office Savings Banks. Seminars / Workshops were organized on Postal Operation and future challenges, Mechanization of Postal Operations, Agency functions, Financial Services, Caring for Customer, Expedited Mail Service (EMS), Circulation System of EMS and Postal Marketing.
Study tours on Agency Services, Safety and Security of Postal Articles, Postal Services in Hilly or Rural Areas and New Mail and Financial Service in Pakistan were undertaken to gain first-hand knowledge of problems and plans for improvement of postal services.
Since 1985, Letter Writing Competitions have been held annually. Studies had been undertaken on Productivity Measurement Techniques applied in postal operations, Postal Delays in SAARC region, Integration of Postal Services with rural development and Concessional Mail Tariff and Mail Transmission. Other activities undertaken include issuance of commemorative stamps, postage stamp displays and philatelic exhibitions.
Within the overall objective of providing telecommunication services to majority of the rural population by the year 2000, TC02 has focused on efforts to promote technological and human resource development and management. There has been substantial progress in implementing the recommendations for the establishment of ISD, automatic telex, and bureaufax facilities, improvement of inter-country links, introduction of common collection charges and media independent tariff, adoption of SDR as common accounting unit and off-peak period tariff.
Short-term activities in Telecommunications include Seminars/Workshops on Data Transmission, Digital Switching, Network Management, Operations, Software maintenance, Trends in External Plants practice, Adoption of new technologies in rural telecommunication system, Transition from analogue to digital transmission, improvement of quality services in telecommunications, IDR satellite technology and improvement of rural telecommunications.
Training courses have also been held on new technologies for maintenance of switching systems, software development, financial management, packet switch data network and NEAX 61.
3. Education, Culture and Sports (TC03)
TC on Education (established in 1989) and TC on Sports, Arts and Culture (established in 1983) were amalgamated into a single TC on Education and Culture with effect from 1993. TC03 was renamed in 1995 as TC on Education, Culture and Sports.
The priority themes identified for cooperation in the field of Education are Women and Education; Universal Primary Education; Literacy, Post Literacy and Continuing Education; Educational Research; Science and Technical Education, Education for the Underserved Areas and Distance Education. The nominations of Nodal Agencies for each of the priority themes have been completed and appropriate Action Plans are being prepared.
Short-term activities in the field of Education include, Expert Group Meetings; Workshops/Seminars on the priority themes; Modernisation of Curriculum; Environmental Education including Population Education; Planning and Management of Education, Teacher Training, Higher Education and Book Production and Marketing.
TC03 is also engaged in the improvement and expansion of the SAARC Chairs, Fellowships and Scholarships Scheme. Nodal Points for networking arrangement for sharing information on Mass Literacy Programmes have been identified. The modalities and operational framework for this purpose are being prepared.
Short term activities in the field of Culture include six South Asian Archaeological Congresses; one History Conference; Workshops / Training / Seminars on Conservation of Wall Paintings, Documentation of Musical and Oral Traditions, Archives and Photographic Exhibitions of Monuments, National Heritage and an Expert Group Meeting on Preservation of Monuments and Archival Materials. In the field of Arts and Exhibition of Handicrafts; Workshops on Sea Based Crafts and Artisans at Work; and SAARC Painters Camp have been held.
As part of the regional cooperation activities in Sports, Coaching Camps / Clinics have been conducted in Table Tennis, Squash, Hockey, Basketball, Swimming, Athletics and Volleyball. Training of Experts in Sparktaid has been conducted. Basketball and Football Tournaments and SAARC Marathons have been organised.
4. Environment (TC04)
The Third SAARC Summit (Kathmandu, 1987) decided to commission a study on "Causes and Consequences of Natural Disasters and the Protection and Preservation of the Environment". National Studies were undertaken and subsequently consolidated into a Regional Study, which was approved by the Sixth SAARC Summit (Colombo, 1991).
The recommendations of the above Regional Study were considered by the Committee on Environment (February 1992), which identified, for immediate action, measures for strengthening the environment management infrastructure; programmes on environmentally sound land and water use planning; research and action programme on mountain development in the Himalayan Region; coastal zone management programme; a SAARC forestry and watershed programme; programme on energy and environment; pollution control and hazardous waste management programme; a SAARC cooperative programme for biodiversity management; peoples participation in resource management; information exchange on low cost and environmentally sound habitat technologies; establishment of a SAARC relief and assistance mechanism for disaster and regional cooperation on the development of modern disaster warning systems.
A special session of the Committee on Environment (November 1992) met to evolve specific programme activities and modalities to implement the above measures.
The Fourth SAARC Summit (Islamabad, 1988) decided that a joint study be undertaken on "Greenhouse Effect and its Impact on the Region". National Studies prepared by member states were consolidated into a regional study, which was approved by the Seventh SAARC Summit (Dhaka, 1993).
The Committee on Environment was designated as the Technical Committee on Environment and included within its purview, "Greenhouse Effect and its Impact on the Region". It began functioning from January 1, 1993.
TC04 has identified measures for immediate action from among the recommendations and decided on a number of modalities for their implementation. These include, improving climate monitoring capability through networking arrangement and through SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC); developing climate change and sea-level rise scenario through country specific studies and sharing of information data in this respect; making available to member states expertise on climate research and monitoring Greenhouse Gases emission; identification of training and research institutions and ongoing programmes; exchange of information and data; exchange of experience on strategies for developing, mitigating and adaptive responses to climate change.
TC04 also covers topics such as Approaches to Environmental Legislations, Regulations and Standards in SAARC countries; Rehabilitation of Degraded Lands; Training Course on Wetlands Assessment and Management; Workshop on Alternate/Renewable Energy and Workshop of SAARC National Experts on Climate Change. The urgent need to establish a networking approach through identified nodal points/institutions has also been stressed.
A SAARC Environment Ministers Conference was held in New Delhi in April 1992 to evolve a joint position on the issues related to the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). SAARC also presented a common position paper to the Fourth World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction (Yokohama, May 1994).
TCs on Environment and Meteorology will be merged and designated as TC on Environment and Meteorology with effect from 1 January 1996.
5. Health and Population Activities (TC05)
Health and Population Activities was one of the original five areas of cooperation identified by member states. The First Meeting of TC05 was held in 1984.
The primary focus of TC05 has been on children, population welfare and policy, maternal and child health, primary health care, disabled and handicapped persons, control and eradication of major diseases in the region such as malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis, diarrhea diseases, rabies, AIDS, and iodine deficiency disorder.
Important activities undertaken by TC05 include the setting up of the SAARC Tuberculosis Centre (STC), in Kathmandu in 1992, devising a standard Format for preparing the Annual Review of the Situation of Children in the SAARC region; establishment of networking arrangements for training, research and eradication of malaria and regional approach for combating major diseases in the region. A Directory of training programmes in six priority areas, i.e. malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, diarrhoeal diseases, human rabies and maternal and child health have been prepared and circulated. In addition, several status papers on important subjects relating to health have been circulated among member states.
The Second SAARC Summit (Bangalore, 1986) decided that the survival, protection and development of Children should be given highest priority and directed that annual reviews be undertaken on the situation of children in SAARC countries. Such annual reviews for the years 1993 and 1994 have been completed by TC05 based on annual country reports submitted by member states. These annual reviews have indicated, inter-alia, reduction of infant mortality and significant progress in the immunisation programme for children in the region.
TC05 will be renamed as TC on Health, Population Activities and Child Welfare with effect from 1 January 1996.
6. Meteorology (TC06)
Meteorology was also one of the five areas of cooperation initially identified by member states. The first meeting of TC06 was held in 1984. Since its inception, the Committee has been involved in organizing seminars/workshops in areas such as Joint Inter-Comparison of Barometers, Meteorological Instruments, Agricultural Meteorology, Numerical Weather Prediction, Crop-Weather relationship and Crop-Yield Forecast, Long Range Weather Forecasting, Radar Meteorology etc. Training programmes have been conducted on Meteorological Tele-communications, Management and Establishment of National Data Centers, Monsoon Forecasting etc. State-of-the-art Reports on Western Disturbances, Tropical Cyclones including Prediction of Recurvature, Thunder Storms, Long Range Forecasting of Monsoon Rain, Short Range Prediction of Monsoon and Norwesters, Tornadoes and Water Sprouts, have been completed. Expert panels have been convened on specialized fields such as Agro-meteorology; Climatology and Data Exchange; and Instrumentation.
An Annual Regional Award is given to a young scientist or a group of scientists for a research paper on meteorological topics to encourage research in the field of Meteorology. Another Award has been introduced since 1995 for senior scientists to encourage research work in the field of Meteorology.
The programmes for 1990s identified by the Committee include, the establishment of National Data Centers, conducting studies on Meteorological aspects of Environment Pollution, establishment of Port Meteorological Offices for obtaining Data from Ocean areas. TC06 has also identified long-term measures, such as creation of a Regional Data Bank, Organization of Research Flight Facilities for probing cyclones, networking for Drifting and Anchored Buoys in Oceanic Regions, Environmental Pollution Monitoring stations, Preparation of Atlases of Meteorological Parameters and Familiarization with Computer Technology as needed for meteorological research, including visits to computer centers and cost of consumable.
TCs on Meteorology and Environment will be merged and designated as TC on Environment and Meteorology with effect from 1 January 1996.
7. Prevention of Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse (TC07)
Since its establishment in 1987, TC07 has implemented a number of programmes in law enforcement, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation as essential elements of a coordinated regional strategy in combating drug trafficking and drug abuse. It contributed significantly towards the finalisation of the SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in November 1990, which came into force in September 1993 upon its ratification by all member states.
Cooperation among Drug Law Enforcement Agencies and Officers is being developed through short-term activities such as Seminars and Training Courses. Nodal Agencies in member states have been nominated to exchange information and intelligence on drug offences. The SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk (SDOMD) has been established in Colombo to collate, analyse and disseminate information on drug offences. Efforts are afoot for further strengthening SDOMD.
In the field of demand reduction, short-term activities such as workshops/ seminars held so far have focused on the role of media in drug abuse prevention, community mobilization against drug abuse, preventive education, school curriculum development, treatment and relapse prevention and exchange of information on indigenous and innovative methods of treatment. A networking arrangement among Nodal Institutions in drug abuse prevention is being established.
Meetings of selected NGOs involved in Drug Abuse Prevention have been held. A Directory of such Organisations has been compiled in order to promote greater interaction among them. The Colombo Plan Bureau's Project Proposal and the establishment of working relations between SAARC and the Colombo Plan Bureau were approved by the Twentieth Session of the Standing Committee. This will promote and encourage cooperation among NGOs in SAARC countries involved in anti-narcotics activities.
Efforts have been directed at promoting SAARC member states' accession to the relevant UN Conventions, conclusion of Regional and Drug Convention and harmonisation and consolidation of national drug laws. A Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation between SAARC and the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) has been signed.
8. Rural Development (TC08)
Rural Development is one of the five original areas identified for cooperation under the IPA. The first meeting of the Committee was held in 1984. Specific activities taken up by the Technical Committee include, exchange of information and literature among member states on issues relating to rural development, preparation of research studies on selected topics, compilation of lists of experts, training institutes, and institutions involved in transfer of appropriate technology in member states, with a view to exchanging expertise and sharing training facilities within the region.
Several workshops/seminars and training courses covering practically all aspects of rural development including regional planning, poverty focused development, rural energy, design of agricultural projects, local level planning, inter-country comparisons, appropriate technology, disaster management, rural child development, rural sociology, peoples participation, rural water supply, employment generation, social forestry, rural communication and development of agricultural markets have been conducted in member states under the TC08.
Priority areas identified by TC08 for the 1990s for the selection of well identified, target-oriented and time bound programmes are Poverty Alleviation, Employment, Human Resource Development and Organization of Rural Poor, Women in Development, Sustainable Rural Development, Environment and Technology transfer.
The decision to establish a Shelter Information Network "SHELTERNET" has been followed up by an Expert Group meeting which has defined its objectives and prepared detailed financial cost-estimates as well as operational modalities for final approval.
The Committee has also been entrusted with the work relating to the SAARC Youth Volunteers Programme (SYVOP) since November 1989.
9. Science and Technology (TC09)
Since its establishment in 1983, TC09 has undertaken a wide variety of programmes which include short-term activities such as Seminars/Workshops, Training Programmes, Joint Research Projects, preparation of State-of-the-art Reports and compilation of Directories.
Seminars/Workshops/ Meetings of Experts held so far were on: Post Harvest and Food Technology; Renewable Energy Resources; Photovoltaic; Pesticides; Instrumentation, Maintenance and Calibration, Cultivation and Processing of Medicine and Aromatic Plants; Delivery System of Improved Stoves for Rural Users; Low Cost Housing Technology Diffusion in Rural Areas; Treatment of Drinking Water in Rural and Urban areas; Science Policy; Low Cost Scientific Educational Equipment; Bio-Fertilizer Technology; Bio-Mass Gasification; Recycling of Waste Water and Development of Technologies for Pollution Control; Technology Information and its Linkages; Biological Control of Plant Pests; Immunodiagnostics; Ore Benefaction; Energy Modeling Techniques; Solar Thermal Technology; Technological Aspects of Low Cost Housing; Examination of Operational System of Rural Electrification Cooperative; and Short Course on Technology Assessment and Technology Diffusion.
Training Programmes have also been held for Scientists and Technologists on Tannery Waste Management, Low Cost Housing, Development of Prawn Hatcheries, Electronics and Molecular Biology. In addition, Joint Research Projects on Design and Manufacture of Food Processing Equipment and Appropriate Post Harvest Food Technology for Perishable Items have been carried out.
State-of-the-art Reports have been completed on Bio-Gas; Mineral Resources Exploration; Producer Gas; Application of Remote Sensing Techniques; and Use of Organic Fertilizers. The Report currently under preparation include Building Materials and Technologies; Integrated Management of Tannery Waste; Selected Rural Technologies; Food Processing Technologies and Handicrafts; Local Electronic Products in the SAARC Region; and Bio-technology.
Directories are being prepared on Specialized Analytical Instrumentation Facilities and Techniques; and Process Engineering/Pilot Plant Facilities in Agro Food Processing.
Networking Arrangements are being established in the fields of Bio-technology and Genetic Engineering, Energy Modeling Techniques, Technology Information and Low Cost Housing and Building Technologies.
10. Tourism (TC10)
TC10 was established in 1991 to promote cooperation in the field of tourism in the region. At its first meeting held in Colombo in October 1991, the Committee decided on an Action Plan on Tourism to promote cooperation in the areas such as training programmes, exchange of information, joint promotion, jointventure investment, intraregional tourism etc. It also reviewed progress on the SAARC Scheme for Promotion of Organized Tourism. These topics have formed an integral part of the agenda of the five Meetings of this Committee which have been held so far.
Under the purview of TC10, member countries have exchanged information on training facilities existing in the region and a number of slots for providing training in the field of tourism and hotel management were offered. TC10 has decided upon steps to produce joint tourism brochure, SAARC Travel Guide and joint-production of SAARC tourism promotional film on the theme "A Unique Holiday with Diversity : From Top of the World to the Sunny beaches". Activities such as familiarisation tours and Food Festival in member states were also identified. Steps were also taken to coordinate the participation of SAARC member states in international tourism fairs. Emphasis is also being placed on the importance of early launching of the SAARC Scheme for Promotion of Organised Tourism.
11. Transport (TC11)
In recognition of the importance of the transport sector, TC11 was set up in 1983. The work of the Technical Committee covers three major segments of transport, i.e. land transport, divided into roadways and railways; sea transport sub-divided into inland waterways and shipping; and air transport.
The activities of TC11 cover exchange of data and information, preparation of status papers, compilation of data-base and directories of consultancy centres for transport sector. Seminars and Workshops have covered areas such as Material and Cost of Road Construction, Maintenance of Roads, Rural Roads, Road transportation and safety; Containerisation for Railways, Urban transportation, Inland Water Transport, Maritime Transport etc.
Training Courses have included Corporate Planning for Railway sector, Highway and Bridge Engineering. A Compendia of Information on Roads in the SAARC region has been completed and similarly data on Railway Transport has been compiled. Two important Directories - one on Centres of Excellence and the other on Consultants and Experts in the field of transport are being prepared. An important Study on "In-depth examination of Transport Infrastructure and Transit Facilities so as to come up with viable proposals for Improvement" has recently been completed.
The activities held under the Transport Sector, so far, have helped in fostering better cooperation among member countries and resulted in the dissemination and exchange of data, expertise, information and experiences.
The work programme for the 1990s covers a wide range of issues related to rail, sea and air transportation. Recently, four new areas of cooperation in the Transport Sector have been identified by the Committee: Transport Safety, Rural Transport, Environmental Aspects, and Energy Conservation. Two new proposals : "Establishing Joint Venture Operations to provide Container Liner Shipping Services for Long Haul Trade Routes" and "Consultancy/Contracting Joint Ventures in the Transport Sector in the SAARC Region" are also being considered by the Technical Committee.
Transport is a vital area in providing access to products to markets and opening up new areas of productivity. Especially now with the signing of Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) this sector has even a more crucial role to play in intra-SAARC trade.
12. Women in Development (TC12)
Women in Development was included as an area of cooperation under the IPA in 1986. Specific issues taken up by TC12 include, preparation of a Regional Plan of Action for Women, effective dissemination of technical information relating to women in development generated by member states, preparation of Guide Books on Women in Development by member states etc. SAARC Women's Journals on specific themes relating to women in development have been published to coincide with important events like SAARC Summits.
On the recommendation of the Committee, 1990 was designated as the "SAARC Year of the Girl-Child" and subsequently 1991-2000 A.D. declared as the "SAARC Decade of the Girl-Child". A SAARC Plan of Action has been drawn up to observe the decade in order to highlight the gender disparities in the region and to promote the welfare of the Girl-Child. Member states are now in the process of implementing the Plan of Action. In this connection SAARC would be conducting a comprehensive mid-decade review for presentation to the Ninth SAARC Summit.
SAARC has recognised the serious threat faced by certain groups of Girl Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances (GCEDC) and decided that an urgent appraisal of the situation of these children be undertaken and presented to the Ninth SAARC Summit.
Several short-term activities like seminars, workshops and training courses have been held in the areas of women in law, women and environment, women's education and training, women's employment, women in agriculture and extension etc. Several activities related to different aspects of the Girl-Child have also been held under the Committee. Exhibitions on Handicrafts and Design by Women have also been organised by member states.
A Women's Cell has been established in the SAARC Secretariat to act as a Data Bank and a store house of information on Women in Development in the region. It will also act as a forum for coordination among member states and other TCs.
A SAARC collective position on issues before the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September 1995 had been formulated and a "SAARC Ministerial Meeting on Women: Towards the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing" has been held and the Dhaka Resolution adopted at the meeting provided additional input from SAARC Countries to the Beijing Conference.
Girl representatives present the Girl-Child's Appeal to the Heads of State or Government during the Fifth SAARC Summit (Male', November 1990)
The Sixth SAARC Summit (Colombo, 1991) accorded the highest priority to the alleviation of poverty in South Asia and decided to establish an Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation (ISACPA) consisting of eminent persons from member states to conduct an in-depth study of the diverse experiences of member states and report their recommendations on the alleviation of poverty to the Seventh Summit.
A consensus on poverty eradication was adopted at the Seventh SAARC Summit (Dhaka, 1993). The Summit welcomed the ISACPA report and expressed its commitment to eradicate poverty from South Asia preferably by the Year 2002 through an agenda of action which would, inter-alia, include a strategy of social mobilization, policy of decentralised agricultural development and small-scale labour-intensive industrialisation and human development. The Summit also stressed that within the conceptual approach of "Dhal-Bhaat", the right to work and primary education should receive priority. It also underscored the critical links between the success of national efforts at poverty alleviation and relevant external factors. The Summit urged major actors in the world economic scene to create an enabling atmosphere supportive of poverty alleviation programmes and expressed the need for a new dialogue with donors for this purpose. The call for a new dialogue with donors has led to important initiatives in this respect, among which was the SAARC/World Bank Informal Workshop on Poverty Reduction in South Asia (Annapolis, USA, October 1993). UNDP and ESCAP are formulating proposals for cooperation with SAARC in Poverty Reduction.
The Eighth SAARC Summit (New Delhi, May 1995) endorsed the recommendations of the Finance/Planning Ministers (Dhaka, July 1994) to establish a three-tier mechanism for exchanging information on poverty eradication. India hosted the meetings of the first and the second tier in New Delhi (September 1995). The meeting of the first tier
Group of Secretaries dealing with Poverty Eradication and Social Development in Member Countries during their meeting in New Delhi to address Poverty Eradication issues in the region. which constituted the Group of Secretaries to the Governments in the Ministries / Departments concerned with poverty eradication and social development in SAARC countries, underscored the need to give a distinct status and top priority to pro-poor plans in member countries ensuring specific commitment of adequate resource and organisational support. It also stressed the necessity to involve the poor in the formulation and implementation of plans meant for them through participatory institutions and process at grass root levels. The member states were also urged to evolve mechanisms to evaluate the efficacy of pro-poor plans and develop appropriate socio-economic indicators relevant for the purpose. On specific issues germane to poverty eradication, the meeting emphasised the need to pursue an integrated approach taking into account the critical linkages among various sectors.
The Meeting of the second-tier, i.e. Finance and Planning Secretaries, endorsed the recommendation of the first-tier and emphasised that poverty eradication should be viewed in the overall context of accelerating economic growth resulting in resulting in employment generation in an environment of macro-economic stability with emphasis on overall human resource development. The meeting also put special emphasis on the need to improving the implementation of poverty eradication programmes through devolution of power and decentralisation. A special mention was also made in the meeting on the need to ensure the sustainability of these programmes, especially through ensuring their recurring cost.
The Meeting of the third-tier Finance and Planning Ministers, is proposed to he held in India on 3-4 January 1996 which will consider the second-tier Report. Its recommendations will be submitted to the Ninth SAARC Summit through the Council of Ministers.
TRADE AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
SAARC has taken important steps to expand cooperation among member countries in the core economic areas. In 1991, a Regional Study on Trade, Manufactures and Services (TMS) was completed outlining a number of recommendations for promoting regional cooperation in the core economic areas. The Council of Ministers at its Ninth Session in Malé in July 1991 endorsed the Study and decided to set up a high-level Committee on Economic Cooperation (CEC). This Committee has so far held six meetings.
At the Colombo Summit in December 1991, the Heads of State or Government approved the establishment of an InterGovernmental Group (IGG) to seek agreement on an institutional framework under which specific measures for trade liberalization among SAARC member states could be furthered. IGG evolved a draft Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) during its first two Meetings. Subsequently, the Council of Ministers, upon the recommendation of CEC signed the framework Agreement on SAPTA in Dhaka on 11 April 1993 during the Seventh SAARC Summit.
In the subsequent four Meetings of IGG, the member states conducted their bilateral/multilateral trade negotiations in which they exchanged concessions to be offered/sought. The Consolidated National Schedules of Concessions were finalised in the Sixth Meeting of the IGG held at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu on 20-21 April 1995 and subsequently approved by the Council of Ministers in May 1995. All SAARC member countries have ratified the SAPTA Agreement and as per Article 22 of the Agreement, SAPTA will enter into force on 7th December 1995 - two years ahead of the time schedule envisaged initially.
The Council of Ministers at its Fifteenth Session agreed that the full and timely realisation of the benefits of regional economic cooperation required
(a) the implementation of other related measures such as the removal of para-tariff, non-tariff and other trade control barriers within the specific timeframes and
(b) eventual progression to the creation of a free-trade area in the region.
The Heads of State or Government at their Eighth SAARC Summit (New Delhi, May 1995) noted with satisfaction that the first round of trade negotiations under SAPTA has been completed. They reiterated their firm belief that the operationalisation of SAPTA will herald the beginning of a new and significant process of regional cooperation and would lend strength to SAARC as an institution for promoting the welfare of the peoples of South Asia.
CEC at its Sixth Meeting (New Delhi, November 1995) recommended that with the operationalisation of SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA), it is now desirable to work towards removal of para-tariff and non-tariff barriers, widening and deepening the tariff cuts and expanding the list of products to be included for intra-SAARC preferential trade under SAPTA. It reiterated that the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) is a clear eventual goal, at the same time it noted that the progress towards it may have to be in gradual stages. To push the SAPTA process forward, it recommended that the Inter-Governmental Group on Trade Liberalisation be reconvened to conduct the Second Round of Trade Negotiations under SAPTA and proposed that the first meeting of the second round may take place in early 1996 and appreciated the offer of Sri Lanka to host the same. The Committee also recommended that the first Meeting of the Committee of Participants of SAPTA may be held in the third quarter of 1996 to review the progress in the implementation of the Agreement.
Each member country will notify the SAARC Secretariat and the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry about their overseas bulk purchases. A Group of Experts from Research Institutions of Member States have been requested to commission a tripartite study involving governments, business and academic sectors to accelerate the process of eventual progression to the creation of a free-trade area in the region.
The following initiatives have also been taken towards promoting trade cooperation within the region:
i. Cooperation in the field of Handicrafts and Cottage Industries
A Group of Experts on Joint Ventures in Handicrafts and Cottage Industries was established in 1991 pursuant to the decision of the Fifth SAARC Summit (Malé, 1990). So far, the Group has held two meetings in which it has identified an indicative list of crafts and industries for the purpose of mutual cooperation. Out of this list, the Group has selected six sectors namely: hand knotted carpets, beekeeping and honey production, handloom textile products (including embroidery), leather products (including leather garments), wooden handicrafts and pottery and ceramic products as priority areas. It has made several recommendations regarding development of marketing and export promotion, design development, procurement and supply of certain raw material, skill upgradation and transfer of technology, entrepreneurship development. The implementation of these recommendations is reviewed regularly by the Committee on Economic Cooperation (CEC). At its Sixth Meeting in New Delhi in November 1995, CEC urged member states to take all necessary steps for the speedy implementation of these recommendations. The Committee requested the Secretariat to coordinate organisation of other agreed activities through consultations with member states as appropriate.
ii. Study on Transport Infrastructure and Transit Facilities
The CEC was directed by the Council of Ministers at its Eleventh Session (Colombo, July 1992) to specify appropriate steps for further improvement of transport infrastructure and transit facilities in the region to accelerate the growth of trade within and outside the region. Subsequent to this, a consultancy report was prepared on the subject by the Institute for Sustainable Development, Kathmandu. The Report was considered by the CEC at its Sixth Meeting in New Delhi in November 1995. The CEC requested the member states to complete their examination of the Report urgently.
PROMOTING PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE CONTACT
1. The Second SAARC Summit (Bangalore, 1986) laid special emphasis on promoting people-to-people contact in the region and approved the following five initiatives in this regard:
i. SAARC Audio-Visual Exchange (SAVE) Programme
The SAVE programmes comprise of regular TV and Radio Programmes which are being telecast/broadcast on the 1st and 15th of each month respectively in all SAARC member countries. SAVE Radio and TV Quiz Programmes are also being held at regular intervals and have evoked keen interest among the youth. The other programmes include joint productions on specific Themes such as Environment, Disabled Persons and Youth. SAVE has proved to be an effective medium for promoting South Asian consciousness amongst the peoples of the region and for establishing people-to-people contact.
ii. SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC)
The Centre has been established to provide ready access to reliable and up-to-date information on technical, scientific and development matters.
iii. SAARC Scheme for Promotion of Organised Tourism
The Scheme was initiated with the over-all objective of people-to-people contact in the region and more specifically as a step to facilitate development of intra-regional tourism. Confessional air fare to the tourists travelling under the Scheme is now under the consideration of the Technical Committee on Tourism which is presently taking necessary action to ensure early implementation of the Scheme.
iv. SAARC Chairs, Fellowships and Scholarships Scheme
The SAARC Chairs, Fellowships and Scholarships Scheme was instituted with the aim of providing increased cross-fertilization of ideas through greater interaction among students, scholars and academics in the SAARC Countries. This Scheme has now been brought under the purview of the Technical Committee on Education, Culture and Sports.
v. SAARC Youth Volunteers Programme (SYVOP)
1.The main objective of the SYVOP is to harness the idealism of Youth for regional cooperation programmes by enabling them to work in other countries in the field of agriculture and forestry extension work. SYVOP was brought under the purview of the Technical Committee on Rural Development in 1989. Seven activities have so far been held in the member countries under this programme.
2. Other initiatives taken by the Organisation for promoting people-to-people contact include the following :
1. SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme
In order to further promote closer and more frequent contacts among the peoples of the region, the SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme was initiated in 1988. The Scheme became operational from March 1, 1992 and so far about 1600 visas have been issued under the Scheme. Currently, persons entitled to the Scheme are the Supreme Court Judges, Members of the National Parliaments, Heads of National Academic Institutions, Foreign/Permanent Secretaries dealing with foreign affairs, SAARC Secretary-General and Directors of the SAARC Secretariat, Presidents of National Chambers of Commerce and Industry and their accompanying spouses and dependent children below 18 years of age.
2. South Asian Festivals
The First South Asian Festival was held in India from 9-24 October 1992 with popular participation from all member states. The festival which included performing arts, exhibitions and seminars was a unique event and served to enhance the interaction and strengthened the affinities among the peoples of South Asia. The festival also served to focus on the civilisational personality of South Asia manifested in the rich heritage of its art forms, architecture, literature, theater and films.
South Asian Festivals covering selected areas would be organised in future in member countries.
3. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
SAARC has emphasized the need for strengthening intergovernmental efforts with increased peopletopeople contacts through greater participation of NGOs, including professional bodies in the private sector, to promote socio-economic and cultural development of South Asia. In this context, a set of guidelines and procedures for granting recognition by SAARC to Regional Apex Bodies has been formulated.
While the following regional apex bodies have been welcomed/granted recognition by SAARC, applications for recognition from several other apex bodies of professionals such as architects, accountants, university women etc. are presently under consideration :
(i) Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians
The Speakers of Parliaments of SAARC Countries first met in Sri Lanka in June 1992 and resolved to set up an Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians. They met in Kathmandu in November 1992 and The First South Asian Festival held in India (October 1992) with participation from all Member Countries was a unique event which focused on the rich cultural heritage of South Asia formally launched the "Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians" and adopted the Charter of the Association. The Speakers Council which is the Apex Body of the Association finalised and ratified the draft rules of the Association prepared by the Parliamentary Secretaries-General in January 1994. Since then they have met periodically and addressed issues of common interest to member countries. The Heads of State or Government at their Seventh Summit (Dhaka, April 1993) welcomed the initiative of the Speakers of Parliaments of SAARC Countries in forming the Association
(ii) SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI)
The SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) was recognised by SAARC in December 1992.
SCCI has established its headquarters at Karachi and national units in all seven SAARC countries. Mr. S.M. Inam was elected as the first President of SCCI. The establishment of SCCI is a significant development and it will act as a dynamic instrument of promoting regional cooperation in the areas of trade and economic relations.
The SAARC Chamber has been instrumental in disseminating the information about the content, scope, and potential of the Framework Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) among the business community in the region. For this purpose, it has organised, under its aegis, various National Seminars on SAPTA in the Member Countries. A Regional Seminar on SAPTA was also organised in Kathmandu in December 1994 by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry in cooperation with the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung.
SCCI delegations, headed by its President and comprising representatives of the National Federations of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of SAARC Member States, have visited Germany and Japan for expanding the exports from the SAARC region to the European Union and Japan.
In view of expanding activities of the SCCI in the field of promoting trade both within and outside the SAARC region, SAARC has decided to continue its recognition to SCCI for a period of five years.
The present President of SCCI is Mr. Salman F. Rahman, President of FBCCI, who was elected in October 1995.
SAARCLAW - an Association for persons of the legal communities of the SAARC countries, established in 1991 with its headquarters in Colombo was recognised by SAARC as a regional apex body in July 1994. Established with the twin objectives of bringing together the legal communities within the region for closer cooperation and developing law as a source towards social change for development, SAARCLAW has been convening periodic conferences covering important areas of common interest to member countries. Since the establishment, SAARCLAW has held regional conferences in Colombo (1991), Karachi (February 1993), New Delhi (January 1994), and Kathmandu (April 1995). The fifth regional conference is to be held in Dhaka in January 1996. Since the Kathmandu conference, the parallel meeting of the Chief Justices of member countries would become a regular feature during the future conferences of SAARCLAW.
In addition, SAARCLAW is engaged in
(a) exchange of personnel (lawyers, Judges, Academics),
(b) establishment of a SAARCLAW library in each country,
(c) harmonisation of laws which offer mutual assistance within the judicial process,
(d) publication of SAARCLAW magazine, and
(e) establishment of a SAARC Arbitration Centre.
SAARC REGIONAL INSTITUTIONS
1. SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC)
SAIC, the first regional institution, was established in Dhaka in 1988. A Governing Board formulates policy matters, approves projects, recommends budget estimates, monitors and evaluates administrative and overall activities of SAIC. The SAIC Director is the Member-Secretary of the Board.
SAIC serves as a central information institution having a network with relevant national information centres in each member state with a view to rapidly exchange regionally generated technical information and thereby strengthen agricultural research and development activities. SAIC has brought out several publications which contain information on various agricultural institutions in SAARC countries and current contents services on various subjects like fisheries, forestry, livestock, potato, rice etc. SAIC also publishes a quarterly newsletter.
Some of the completed programmes are : Directory of Agricultural Institutions in SAARC Countries; Directory of Agricultural Scientists and Technologists of SAARC countries; Database on Fish Diseases in the SAARC Region; Database on Potato; Directory of Agricultural Periodicals of the SAARC Countries; Bibliography of Women in Agriculture in the SAARC Countries; Bibliography of Agroforestry in the SAARC Region.
The on-going and future programmes of SAIC include: Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI); Preparation and Distribution of Selective Bibliographies; Acquisition of Books, Journals, Annual Reports etc. produced in the SAARC Countries; Directory of on-going Research Projects in SAARC member states; SAARC Agricultural Fact Book; Improved Farm Implements Currently used in the SAARC Countries; Procurement and Processing of Non-conventional Agricultural Information Materials; Abstracting and Indexing of Articles of Journals/ Newspapers and other Periodicals etc.
2. SAARC Tuberculosis Centre (STC)
Located at Thimi, Bhaktapur (Nepal), STC became operational in mid-July 1992. The Centre's main objective is to work towards the prevention and control of tuberculosis in the SAARC region through a better coordination of efforts of the member states, especially their tuberculosis control programs. Institutional structure of the Centre consists of a Governing Board. A Director appointed to head the Centre is responsible for the implementation of the programmes and activities of the Centre. He is also the ex-officio Member-Secretary of the Board.
Since its inception, STC has undertaken a number of initiatives for the prevention and control of tuberculosis in the region. It has undertaken a number of important training programs for the medical practitioners in the relevant areas and also organised several seminars. Some of its notable activities included seminars on surgical aspects of tuberculosis, socio-cultural aspects of tuberculosis, tuberculosis control programme through primary health care approach etc. The Centre has also organised a number of trainers training programs for tuberculosis in the region. Its other useful initiatives resulted in the compilation and printing of a SAARC list of TB hospitals, TB training institutes in the region, compilation of a similar list on TB and chest specialists in South Asia. The Centre is also actively engaged in collation and distribution of information on national tuberculosis control programs in SAARC countries, networking arrangements among member countries on tuberculosis related subjects as well as circulation of information on research activities in the region on tuberculosis.
3. SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC)
The SMRC, established in Dhaka, was inaugurated on 2 January 1995.
The Center will concentrate primarily on the research aspects of weather forecasting and monitoring rather than the operational aspects of the medium and long-range forecasting. The responsibilities of the Center would include undertaking research relevant to weather prediction and compiling climatological information. In addition to monitoring special weather phenomena, developing a networking system among the member states would also receive priority in its work. SMRC has a Governing Board, comprising a representative from each member state.
Some of the important activities being undertaken by SMRC are collecting from national meteorological services of member states the available lists of up-to-date climatological information for compilation; compiling a Directory of Meteorological Professionals and Technicians available in the National Meteorological Services of member states; publishing an annual newsletter regarding activities and programmes of the Center; and collecting required meteorological data from sources outside the region for its research programmes and to disseminate it to member states.
4. SAARC Documentation Center (SDC)
SDC has been established at the Indian National Scientific Documentation Center (INSDOC) in New Delhi in May 1994. The SDC Director is responsible for the implementation of the programmes/activities of the Center and is also the Member Secretary of the SDC Governing Board which comprises a representative from each member state.
The SAARC Documentation System (SDS) comprises the central facility i.e. SDC and its sub units in member states which would act as the Center's repositories, the SAARC Secretariat and SAARC Regional Institutions. In fulfilling the need for ready access to information, SDC will focus on documents generated in member states, those generated elsewhere in the SAARC region and access to international data bases in the areas of biological, physical, chemical, engineering, and life sciences as well as in developmental matters.
1. Agreement on Establishing the SAARC Food Security Reserve (SFSR)
During the Third SAARC Summit (Kathmandu, 1987), an Agreement on establishing the SAARC Food Security Reserve was signed. The Agreement, which came into force on 12 August 1988, provided for a reserve of foodgrains for meeting emergencies in member countries. The size of the reserve at present stands at 241,580 tonnes.
The SAARC Food Security Reserve Board comprises representatives from each member country and meets once a year. The main functions of the Board are to undertake a periodic review and assessment of the food situation and prospects in the region including factors such as production, consumption, trade, prices, quality and stocks of foodgrains.
2. SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism
The SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism was signed in Kathmandu in November 1987 during the Third SAARC Summit and came into force on 22 August 1988 following ratification by all member states.
The Convention embodies and gives a regional focus to many of the well-established principles of international law in this respect. Under its provisions, member states are committee to extradite or prosecute alleged terrorists thus preventing them from enjoying safe heavens.
Regional Cooperation is also envisaged in preventive action to combat terrorism. Exchange of information, intelligence and expertise are among the areas identified for mutual cooperation under the Convention. Cooperation among Liaison Officers (Anti Terrorist Law Enforcement Officers) is being developed through holding international meetings continually at regular intervals to monitor, update, evaluate and improve counter-terrorism strategies.
The SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk (STOMD) has been established in Colombo to collate, analyse and disseminate information about the terrorist incidence, tactics, strategies and methods. Efforts are being undertaken for further strengthening STOMD.
The Eighth SAARC Summit, (New Delhi May 1995) expressed serious concern on the spread of terrorism in and outside the region and reiterated their unequivocal condemnation to acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal, It deplored all such acts for their ruinous impact on life, property, socio-economic development and political stability as well as on regional and international peace and cooperation. The Summit Leaders reiterated the need for a constant dialogue and interaction among the concerned agencies of member states.
The Ministers sign the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism in Kathmandu in November 1987.
3. SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
The SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances which was signed in Malé during the Fifth SAARC Summit in November 1990 came into force on 15 September 1993, following ratification by all member states.
The Convention seeks to reinforce and supplement at the regional level, the relevant international conventions and promote regional cooperation among member states in both law enforcement and demand reduction.Incorporating the generally accepted principle of extradition or prosecution consistent with the respective national legislative regimes, the Convention envisages the widest measures for mutual legal assistance among member states in investigation, prosecution and judicial proceedings in respect of drug offences. The implementation of the Convention is monitored by the Technical Committee on Prevention of Drug Trafficking and Drug Abus, during its annual meetings.
4. Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA)
The Agreement on SAPTA was signed by the Ministers of Member States on 11 April 1993 during the Seventh SAARC Summit.
The initiative towards establishing SAPTA was taken during the Sixth SAARC Summit in Colombo in December 1991. This Agreement is an umbrella framework of rules providing for step-by-step liberalisation of intra-regional trade. It envisages periodic rounds of trade negotiations for exchange of trade concessions on tariff, para-tariff and non-tariff measures.
SAPTA contains provisions giving Special and Favourable Treatment to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in SAARC region. Additional measures in favour of LDCs are incorporated in Annex-I of the Agreement. Provisions for safeguard action and balance of payments measures are also incorporated in the Agreement to protect the interest of Member States during critical economic circumstances.
An Inter-Governmental Group (IGG) on Trade Liberalisation completed the first round of trade negotiations at its Sixth Meeting held at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu on 20-21 April 1995. It finalised the Consolidated National Schedules of Concessions which were approved by the Fifteenth Session of the Council of Ministers held in New Delhi on 30 April - 1 May 1995. The SAPTA Agreement has since been ratified by Member States and will enter into force on 7th December 1995. The Committee of Participants has since been established and will meet in the third quarter of 1996 to review the progress in the implementation of the SAPTA Agreement.
The Agreement on Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA ) signed in Dhaka on 11 April 1993 has accelerated the process of trade and economic cooperation in the region.
South Asian Development Fund (SADF)
In order to establish a South Asian Development Fund, initially a Panel of Experts was formed under the chairmanship of H.E. Lyonpo Dawa Tshering, the Foreign Minister of Bhutan. The Panel of Experts consisting of eminent persons from the SAARC Region held three meetings and the Chairman had exploratory consultations with the potential donors. Subsequently it was decided to establish an InterGovernmental Group (IGG) on South Asian Development Fund (SADF) to define the size, structure, resources and operational modalities of the proposed Fund and also to examine the relationship of the Fund with the SAARC Fund for Regional Projects including the possibility of their merger.
A Consultant appointed by the Secretary-General submitted his Report which was considered by the IGG at its Second Meeting held at the SAARC Secretariat in October 1994.
The Second Meeting of IGG, inter-alia, recommended that a three-window South Asian Development Fund (SADF) may be established with the merger of the SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (SFRP), the SAARC Regional Fund (SRF) and a third window for social development and infrastructure building. This recommendation has been since approved by the Fifteenth Session of the Council of Ministers (New Delhi, 1995). The Council approved the recommendation of the Standing Committee which included convening a meeting of the Group of Experts consisting of the Members of the Council of SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (CSFRP) and National Focal Points of Member States at the SAARC Secretariat, to finalise the terms of reference, operational modalities and composition of the Governing Board of the South Asian Development Fund (SADF). The Meeting of the Expert Group held at the SAARC Secretariat (September 1995) finalised the recommendations for consideration of the Sixteenth Session of the Council of Ministers.
SAARC-Japan Special Fund
SAARC-Japan Special Fund has been established, under which the Government of Japan has agreed to finance activities/programmes relating to SAARC region. Letters were exchanged between the Secretary-General and the Japanese Ambassador in Kathmandu on 27 September, 1993 confirming the acceptance of the Memorandum on the Guidelines for the Fund.
The Fund established entirely with contribution of the Government of Japan consists of two components. The allocation under Component-I is to be used to finance selected programmes/activities identified and managed by the member states. Component-II would be for the programmes/activities identified and managed by the Government of Japan.
SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (SFRP)
The SFRP was established in 1991 to make available credit on easy terms for the identification and development of projects having a regional character. The Fund is managed by the Council for SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (CSFRP) comprising representatives of the Development Financing Institutions of SAARC member states. So far feasibility studies for thirteen projects have been undertaken which cover hydropower, sericulture, dairy products, medicinal cultivation and herbs etc.
SAARC Regional Fund (SRF)
The SRF aims at expediting the implementation of approved projects/programmes under IPA which remain unimplemented due to financial constraints. It would be administered by member states themselves. The sources of the Fund would be grants from donor countries, international agencies and organisations, and private sector donations. The projects/programmes that would qualify for funding are programme costs of SAARC Regional Institutions; costs of programme component of networking arrangements; development projects of scientific and technical in nature; projects/programmes involving high costs; long-term training programmes and projects/programmes of any other nature to be identified in future by member states.
DESIGNATED SAARC YEARS
Since 1989, it has been the practice to designate SAARC Years to focus on specific themes of common concern to member states. Plans of Action both at the regional and national levels were implemented in the following years :
· 1989 - SAARC Year for Combating Drug Abuse and Drug Trafficking
· 1990 - SAARC Year of Girl-Child
· 1991 - SAARC Year of Shelter
· 1992 - SAARC Year of Environment
· 1993 - SAARC Year of Disabled Persons
· 1994 - SAARC Year of the Youth
· 1995 - SAARC Year of Poverty Eradication
- In addition, 1991-2000 A.D. has been designated as the "SAARC Decade of the Girl-Child" and 1996 as the SAARC Year of Literacy.
COOPERATION WITH INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ORGANISATIONS
SAARC-UNCTAD Memorandum of Understanding on the Trade Analysis and Information System (TRAINS) was signed in February 1993. The global aim of TRAINS is to increase transparency in international trading conditions and thus facilitate trade. This was the first Agreement of cooperation to be signed by SAARC with an international organisation. Under this Agreement, UNCTAD provides the SAARC Secretariat, on a regular basis, an updated copy of TRAINS CD-ROM containing latest data on trade control measures prevailing in developed and developing countries. The SAARC Secretariat in turn updates trade control measures prevailing in the SAARC member states on a regular basis and forwards the same to UNCTAD Secretariat, on computer floppies for incorporation in the updated versions of TRAINS CD-ROM.
SAARC Secretariat has now data on trade control measures prevailing in 50 countries including most of the SAARC member countries. The target of UNCTAD is to include latest trade control measures of 100 countries of the world in this PC-based information system. This information is available to SAARC member states on request.
A Framework Agreement for cooperation between SAARC and ESCAP was signed in February 1994. The Agreement provides for cooperation on development issues through joint studies, workshops and seminars and exchange of information and documentation in poverty alleviation, human resource development, trade promotion, foreign direct investment, environmental protection and prevention of drug trafficking, infrastructure development etc.
SAARC Secretary-General has attended two Consultative Meetings of the Executive Heads of Subregional Organizations in Asia and the Pacific and ESCAP (Bangkok 1994 and Jakarta 195). The Secretary-General also participated in the Meeting of Eminent Persons on Human Resources Development organised by ESCAP Secretariat in Bangkok (November 1994).
A Cooperation Agreement between SAARC and UNICEF, was signed on 10 December 1993. The Agreement envisages cooperation in implementing the relevant SAARC decisions relating to Children through an annual agenda which include joint studies, exchange of documentation and monitoring of implementation.
In pursuance of the Cooperation Agreement, the SAARC Secretariat and the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia have been holding regular consultations, which have covered progress in the implementation of Summit directives on Children and the recommendations of the Council of Ministers, Standing Committee and the relevant Technical Committees. The consultations focus on all child related issues including the Annual Review of the Situation of Children in the SAARC Countries; implementation of the Colombo Resolution on Children; Plan of Action to mark 1991-2000 A.D. as the SAARC Decade of the Girl Child; the serious threat faced by Girl Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances (GCEDC); mid-decade goals on Children emanating from the World Summit for Children (1990) and certain aspects of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The regular interaction between SAARC and UNICEF has facilitated better understanding of problems faced by Children in South Asia and regional policies and strategies to meet these challenges.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by SAARC Secretary-General and Executive Director of Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) on February 4 1994. The MOU envisages cooperation between the two organisations to promote the growth of telecommunications in order to accelerate economic and social development in the region. SAARC and APT will exchange information, publications and documents on their respective activities in this field. They will also exchange technical and operational details of plans for improvement of national, regional and international telecommunications network. Collaboration is also envisaged in planning and development of networks, transfer of technology, promoting international standards, development of human resources and application of telecommunications in sectors such as health, education, environment, transport, and tourism.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SAARC and UNDP was signed by the SAARC Secretary-General and Administrator of UNDP in July 1995. The MOU embodies a general agreement for broad-based collaboration with the aims and purposes of promoting sustainable human development for attaining poverty elimination, preservation and protection of environment, regeneration of natural resources, employment creation, and the goals of women in development; undertakes periodic consultation for joint activities; publishing studies on priority concerns and exchanging relevant reports.
SAARC Secretary-General and United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) Executive Director signed an MOU on 18 August 1995 to coordinate their efforts in combating drug trafficking and drug abuse in the region. The Memorandum envisages mutual consultation and exchange of information between the two organisations. In addition, the two organisations have agreed to seek each other's technical cooperation in pursuing their respective drug control activities in areas of drug supply and demand reduction to assist in the development and implementation of such activities as human resource development; improving regional cooperation on drug intelligence through the SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk; legislation; financial investigation; money laundering; precursor control; the establishment of a networking arrangement among existing institutions in drug abuse prevention etc.
8. COLOMBO PLAN
SAARC has also entered into cooperation arrangement with the Colombo Plan Bureau for promotion on the Role of SAARC NGOs in anti-narcotic activities. In this context, representative of NGOs from seven countries attended a meeting of the SAARC Forum on the role of NGOs in Drug Demand Reducation in Dhaka on 10-13 April 1995.
Efforts are also underway to establish a working relationship between the SAARC Secretariat and the Colombo Plan Bureau on training facilities in the region.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SAARC and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has been finalised and is to be signed shortly.
For more information visit SAARC's home page: http://www.south-asia.com/saarc/
Globalization and Workers' Rights