|Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka inaugurated the Fourth SAARC Ministerial Conference|
|Friday, 10 July 2009 10:15|
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka inaugurated the Fourth SAARC Ministerial Conference on Children at Hilton Colombo on 10 July. Chairman of the SAARC Council of Ministers, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was also present at the Inauguration Ceremony.
Addressing the gathering, Prime Minister Wickramanayaka, Chief Guest on the occasion stated that the well-being of the region’s children requires political action at the highest levels and stressed that children’s rights generate obligations and responsibilities that must be respected and honoured by all without compromise.
In this context, the Prime Minister stated that successive governments in Sri Lanka, since Independence, irrespective of different political ideologies, have closely adhered to social pro-child policies to provide free education for both boys and girls and free healthcare including maternal and child health services which have reaped benefits in terms of declining maternal mortality rates, higher literacy rates and declining under-five mortality rates. The Prime Minister also stressed the importance of constant focus on the alleviation of poverty in the region as a means of protecting child rights and ensuring their wellbeing.
Addressing the Ceremony, Minister of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment Sumedha Jayasena said that Sri Lanka offered to host the Fourth SAARC Ministerial Conference on Children in keeping with the vision of President Mahinda Rajapaksa who has recognised that ensuring the protection of the rights of children including the provision of education and health are factors that are essential for the sustainable development of a nation, and a strong region.
Director of the SAARC Secretariat Hassan Shifau addressed the gathering, representing the Secretary General of SAARC. Stating that that wellbeing of children was one of the five original areas of cooperation identified by Member States as they initiated consultations on the establishment of SAARC in early 1981, he said that important milestones have since been achieved, such as ratification and implementation of SAARC Conventions on Combating and Prevention of Trafficking in Women and Children and Regional Arrangements for Promotion of Child Welfare. The SAARC Regional Strategic Framework on Protection, Care and Support of Children affected by HIV/AIDS, he said, is so far the only such regional policy document to be agreed upon by a regional association of nations. The Director also outlined the progress made by the Regional Task Force instituted to monitor progress in implementation of the Conventions on Prevention of Trafficking and Promotion of Child Welfare. Emphasising that the region needs to hasten action towards result-based deliverables in the short-term, based on the long-term vision on Children of South Asia, Mr. Shifau said that this will help address the concern that despite the region’s commitment to meeting timely child-related SAARC Development Goals and Millennium Development Goals, the region might slide behind the expected targets.
The Conference attended by all SAARC Member States will review the status of implementation of the SAARC Decade of the Rights of the Child (2001-2010) and make recommendations on the future course of action. The Ministers will also adopt a Ministerial Statement on Children in South Asia aimed especially at addressing emerging issues relating to children.
The Ministerial Conference which was chaired by Minister of Higher Education Prof. Wiswa Warnapala was preceded by a meeting of Senior Officials chaired by Secretary of the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment Mrs. M. Sumanadasa on 9 July.
Upon the conclusion of the Ministerial Conference, the visiting SAARC Ministers and Heads of Delegation will call on H.E. the President at Temple Trees.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
10 July 2009