The Fifty-seventh Session of the Programming Committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) commenced today at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu.
Comprising Heads of SAARC Divisions (Joint Secretary/Director General) from the Ministries of Foreign/External Affairs or National Focal Points of the Member States of SAARC, the Programming Committee is a Charter Body of SAARC.
Shanker Das Bairagi, Foreign Secretary of Nepal, and Chairman of the SAARC Standing Committee, graced the Inaugural Session of the Programming Committee’s Fifty-seventh Session with his august presence.
In his Address,the Foreign Secretary said, “SAARC has become a well networked, a widely recognized and an established regional body in its 35 years of operation.” While highlighting the importance of SAARC for promoting the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and the need to further reinvigorate it to address challenges, while reaping benefits from opportunities, he said that the cost of non-cooperation was enormous and that regional cooperation in South Asia was not a choice, but a compulsion.
He said, “Regional Cooperation is one of the priorities of Nepal’s Foreign Policy. As a founding member and current Chair, Nepal’s commitment to the principles and objectives of SAARC is unflinching.” He expressed the hope that the Member States will arrive at a consensus to convene the Nineteenth SAARC Summit at an early date. Similarly, other SAARC activities should be held regularly, he added. He also appreciated the leadership provided by the current Secretary General of SAARC in carrying forward the SAARC process as well as in running the Secretariat efficiently.
Addressing the Inaugural Session, Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of SAARC, briefly reviewed the progress made by SAARC during 2019. “Drawing satisfaction from the progress we have made during the year, we should continue to work strenuously to achieve the coveted objectives enshrined in the Charter, as well as the goal of the South Asian Economic Union (SAEU), as envisioned by our leaders,” he said.
He further said, “The raison d’etre for creation of SAARC is to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life through accelerated social progress and economic development. In order to carry forward this people-centric objective, it is of utmost importance to regularly convene the meetings of the Charter bodies at all levels,” Stating that Summits provide renewed impetus to the SAARC process, he expressed the hope that a consensus will be evolved soon among the Member States to convene the Nineteenth SAARC Summit at Islamabad.
Convened under the Chairmanship of Ram Prasad Subedi, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, the Committee is to review progress of regional cooperation in a number of priority areas of the SAARC process. Besides, considering the SAARC Calendar of Activities for 2020, the Committee will review matters relating to the SAARC Secretariat, Specialized Bodies and Regional Centres, including their budgets and Calendars of Activities for 2020.
The two-day Session of the Programming Committee also brings together the Heads of SAARC Specialized Bodies and SAARC Regional Centres.
The Programming Committee last met at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu on 11-12 December 2018.