High Commissioner H.E Ahmed Saleem's remarks on SAARC Charter Day
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the SCCI, Pakistan, for having given me an opportunity to make a few comments on this important occasion.
Launched on 8 December 1985, SAARC is the manifestation of the collective will of our Member States to promote regional cooperation and integration in order to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life. Although SAARC commenced with a few areas of regional cooperation, the ambit of regional cooperation has now grown substantially over the years. SAARC today, caters to many diverse areas of regional cooperation pursued through a number of inter-governmental mechanisms and institutions.
While the Association has made notable achievements in many areas, there is a growing realization that a lot more needs to be done to strengthen SAARC’s institutions in order to make the SAARC process more efficient, effective and result-oriented. More than anything else, SAARC must continue to serve as a common platform to address the common issues facing our region, thereby building mutual trust and confidence among one another.
To this end, for the first time in the history of SAARC, the SAARC Secretariat was mandated by Member States in 2012, to undertake a comprehensive Study to strengthen all the mechanisms and processes of SAARC, including the Secretariat, Regional Centers and SAARC Specialized Bodies. This Study was completed and submitted to the last Council of Ministers in the Maldives in February last year. I do believe that with the implementation of several recommendations contained in that Study, the SAARC process will be revitalized for the common good of our peoples in the region. One recommendation that is worthy of mention is the one proposing the reduction of 11 regional institutions that have been created over the years haphazardly, to only five, mostly by merging some institutions that have been duplicating the work of some others. I am delighted that the process is now on going because this will save Member States millions of Dollars.
Obviously, economic cooperation is the key to success in our region just like it has been in others, such as the EU and ASEAN. At the same time, political stability is central to creating a conducive environment for economic cooperation in our region. We must vigorously peruse greater economic cooperation because only that will create the necessary climate of mutual trust and confidence that is indispensable to creating an environment of peace and stability in our region.
With one fifth of the world’s population and so much potential in the region, there is absolutely nothing we cannot achieve! But that will happen only if we put our differences aside and work together for the benefit of the people in the region. Given the fact that economic cooperation is so vital for the advancement of our region, I think it is shameful that the volume of SAFTA trade stands only at $3 billion today, which is peanuts compared to what we can collectively do, to realize the aspirations enshrined in the SAARC Charter.
I sincerely believe that SAARC is the best thing that has happened to this region. And we must congratulate ourselves that SAARC has survived this long, in spite of all the problems and failures we have had. SAARC has a long way to realize its objective and make this region a peaceful and prosperous one that it deserves to be.
In a message to mark SAARC’s 30 years, my President Mr. Yameen Abdul Gayoom, has said that quote ‘as we commemorate the Charter Day, I would like to reaffirm the Maldives commitment to the SAARC ideals and our pledge to foster greater regional cooperation, for the advancement of South Asia. As we move forward, it is my sincere hope that we can continue to put aside our differences and work together to realize our common goal for a better and more prosperous future. The power to achieving our goals lies within us; all we need is unison and the willingness to work together as a region. Let us today recommit and re-dedicate ourselves to strengthen SAARC, to meet the growing expectations of our people in the region.
Thank you all.
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