|SAARC Foreign Ministers to give directions towards finding meaningful solution to common challenges|
|Saturday, 28 February 2009 20:19|
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said, President Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed the need for the Foreign Ministers to be seized of current common challenges before us in South Asia and the duty of the Council to give directions towards finding meaningful solutions. Minister Bogollagama address the media today (28/02) on the out come of the SAARC 31st session of the Council of Ministers’ Meeting and Preceding Meetings in Colombo.
Minister Bogollagama expressed his appreciation to the media and said, “we depend on you, the media, to carry our message to the people of our region and beyond. We depend on you for making SAARC better known and better understood by Governments and people around the world. You have an essential role to play in making the voice of SAARC heard in all parts of the world and therefore, we value the role of the media as a key partner in advancing the process of regional cooperation"
31ST SESSION OF THE SAARC COUNCIL OF MINISTERS
Members of the local and foreign media,
I wish to thank you for your presence at this briefing. Although SAARC is essentially an inter-governmental process, we depend on you, the media, to carry our message to the people of our region and beyond. We depend on you for making SAARC better known and better understood by Governments and people around the world. You have an essential role to play in making the voice of SAARC heard in all parts of the world and therefore, we value the role of the media as a key partner in advancing the process of regional cooperation.
I wish to also thank Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma, Secretary General of SAARC for joining me at this Press Briefing. He will be available to clarify any matters pertaining to SAARC that you wish to pose to him.
The important meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers took place at the mid-point of Sri Lanka’s chairmanship of SAARC. As you are aware, the Council of Ministers is Charter bound to meet at least twice a year to formulate policies, to review progress of cooperation, take decisions on new areas of cooperation, and establish additional mechanisms in line with the objectives and the goals of SAARC. We now work more and more as a family and take quick decisions in the interest of our Region in friendship, supporting each other.
The two-day meeting of the 31st Council of Ministers was inaugurated yesterday by His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In his Inaugural Address to the Council the President stressed the need for the Foreign Ministers to be seized of current common challenges before us in South Asia and the duty of the Council to give directions towards finding meaningful solutions. In this context he highlighted the challenges of terrorism and the global economic crisis. And he emphasized that the region should let its collective voice be heard in international fora in the quest for global solutions.
Heeding the call of H.E. the President, the Council of Ministers ably assisted by the Foreign Secretaries of SAARC Member States and Senior Officials, adopted two important documents, namely,
The SAARC Ministerial Declaration on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism and the SAARC Ministerial Statement on Global Economic Crisis
I believe that copies of these documents have been made available to you.
The Declaration on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism is significant for the region. It reiterates and re-emphasizes the common and collective resolve of all SAARC Member States to work together to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from our region. You would also observe agreement voiced in the Declaration to consider the development of an integrated border management mechanism. This is the first occasion on which such agreement has been voiced by Member States.
We also decided to establish a High-Level Group of Eminent Experts to review and make proposals to further strengthen the SAARC anti-terrorism mechanisms, including for pragmatic cooperation.
The Ministerial Statement on Global Economic Crisis is of special significance as it projects the collective view of SAARC Member States on this current issue of critical concern for the region. We agreed that the Global Economic Crisis affects both developed and developing countries including in the region. And that special stimulus packages are needed to cushion the impact of the crisis. We referred in the statement to both regional and global measures that need to be explored in seeking solutions to the crisis. While recognizing the need to strengthen intra-regional trade we agreed to develop mechanisms to create bilateral arrangements in the region to address short-term liquidity difficulties and to supplement international financing arrangements. We also called on multilateral agencies such as World Bank and ADB as well as development partners to consider a moratorium on repayment of debt.
Apart from considering these two important current issues of concern for the Region, the Council reviewed and assessed progress in the implementation of the decisions of the 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo and renewed commitment to the comprehensive realization of the vision enumerated by the Leaders of Member States in Colombo last August.
We considered several Reports of SAARC ministerial meetings including the Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Science and Technology, Energy, and Agriculture. We also took up for consideration matters relating to Economic Cooperation, implementation of SAFTA, reducing the sensitive lists and the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services. Issues pertaining to the SAARC Development Fund; Operationalization of the SAARC Food Bank Board; and the Action Plan on Poverty Alleviation and SAARC Developed Goals were also discussed.
The Council also took up for consideration, matters related to the SAARC Award and SAARC Youth Award. As recommended by the Selection Committee of the SAARC Youth Award 2008, the Council conferred the Award on the theme “From Himalayan Glaciers to verdant plains to coral reefs – protecting the environment of South Asia” upon Ms. Uswatta Arachchige Deepani Jayantha of Sri Lanka last evening. The Council decided that the theme for the SAARC Youth Award 2009 would be – “Outstanding contribution to humanitarian work in the aftermath of Natural Disasters”; and authorized the Secretary General to initiate the process of selection for the Award.
As you are aware, the SAARC Programming Committee consisting Senior Officials and the Standing Committee consisting Foreign Secretaries also met before the Meeting of the Council of Ministers. They took several decisions with regard to implementing SAARC programmes and activities as directed by our Heads of State and Government.