|Colombo Declaration of the 15th SAARC Summit|
|Friday, 08 August 2008 00:00|
Fifteenth SAARC Summit Colombo, 2-3 August 2008
Partnership for Growth for Our People
The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, His Excellency Mr. Hamid Karzai; the Chief Adviser of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, His Excellency Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed; the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, His Excellency Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley; the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh; the President of the Republic of Maldives, His Excellency Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom; the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the Rt. Hon’ble Girija Prasad Koirala; the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, His Excellency Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani; and the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, His Excellency Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, met at the Fifteenth Summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on August 2-3, 2008.
2. The Heads of State or Government reaffirmed their commitment to the principles and objectives enshrined in the SAARC Charter. They renewed their resolve for collective regional efforts to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development which would promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and improve their quality of life, thereby contributing to peace, stability, amity and progress in the region.
3. The Heads of State or Government recognized that SAARC has been making steady and incremental progress over the years, in particular since the last Summit held in New Delhi in April 2007, towards realizing the objectives of the Charter. They accordingly emphasized the importance of maintaining the momentum, through clear links of continuity between the work already underway and future activities. The Heads of State or Government recognized the need for SAARC to further strengthen its focus on developing and implementing regional and sub-regional projects in the agreed areas on a priority basis. Each Member State may consider taking up at least one regional/ sub-regional SAARC project as the lead country.
4. The Leaders noted with satisfaction the considerable progress made in various domains of partnership among SAARC Member States and emphasized the need to consolidate and ensure effective implementation of all SAARC programs and mechanisms by rationalization and performance evaluation on a regular basis.
A Partnership for Growth for the Peoples of South Asia
5. The Heads of State or Government were convinced that the process of regional cooperation must be truly people-centered, so that SAARC continues to strengthen in keeping with expectations as a robust partnership for growth for the peoples of South Asia. They accordingly directed all SAARC mechanisms to abide by the Charter objective of promoting the welfare of the people and improving their quality of life. In this regard they directed the Council of Ministers to ensure that SAARC mechanisms identify further areas of cooperation where people-centric partnership projects could be initiated.
6. The Heads of State or Government observed that an effective and economical regional tele-communication regime is an essential factor of connectivity, encouraging the growth of people-centric partnerships. They stressed the need for the Member States to endeavour to move towards a uniformly applicable low tariff, for international direct dial calls within the region.
Connectivity 7. The Heads of State or Government recognized the importance of connectivity for realizing the objectives of SAARC. They accordingly directed the SAARC mechanisms to continue to embody in their programs and projects a strong focus on better connectivity not only within South Asia, but also between the region and the rest of the world. They further stressed the necessity of fast-tracking projects for improving intra-regional connectivity and facilitating economic, social and people-to-people contacts.
8. The Heads of State or Government noted that increased access to energy is critical for fulfilling the legitimate expectations of growth and development in South Asia. They observed in this regard that the escalation of oil prices threatens both the energy security of the region, as well as the economic growth witnessed in South Asia. In this context, they recognized the need to expeditiously develop and conserve the conventional sources of energy and to build up renewable alternative energy resources including indigenous hydro power, solar, wind and bio, while introducing energy reforms, energy efficiency and the trade and sharing of technology and expertise. They also noted that there is tremendous potential for developing regional and sub-regional energy resources in an integrated manner and noted the efforts being made to strengthen regional cooperation in capacity development, technology transfer and the trade in energy. While expressing satisfaction at the progress over the recent years to strengthen energy cooperation, the Leaders directed that the recommendations of the Energy Dialogue be implemented through an appropriate work plan.
9. The Heads of State or Government stressed the urgent need to develop the regional hydro potential, grid connectivity and gas pipelines. They noted that the possibility of evolving an appropriate regional inter-governmental framework may be explored to facilitate such an endeavour. They welcomed Sri Lanka’s offer to host the Third Meeting of SAARC Energy Ministers in Colombo in 2009.
10. Being increasingly aware of global warming, climate change and environmental challenges facing the region, which mainly include sea-level rise, deforestation, soil erosion, siltation, droughts, storms, cyclones, floods, glacier melt and resultant glacial lake outburst floods and urban pollution, the Heads of State or Government reiterated the need to intensify cooperation within an expanded regional environmental protection framework, to deal in particular with climate change issues. They were of the view that SAARC should contribute to restoring harmony with nature, drawing on the ancient South Asian cultural values and traditions of environmental responsibility and sustainability.
11. The Leaders expressed satisfaction at the adoption of SAARC Action Plan and Dhaka Declaration on Climate Change by the SAARC Environment Ministers at the SAARC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change held at Dhaka on 3 July 2008. In this context they stressed the need for close cooperation for capacity building, development of CDM projects and promotion of programs for advocacy and mass awareness raising on climate change. They also expressed satisfaction at the adoption of a SAARC Declaration on Climate Change for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by the Twenty-ninth Session of the Council of Ministers.
12. The Heads of State or Government expressed deep concern over global climate change and its impact on the lives and livelihoods in the region. They also noted the urgency of the immediate need for dealing with the onslaught of climate change including sea level rise, on meeting food, water and energy needs, and taking measures to ensure the livelihood security of the peoples in the SAARC region. They resolved to work together to prevent and address the threats to the livelihoods of the peoples and to provide access to remedies when these rights are violated and also to find an equitable distribution of responsibilities and rights among the Member States. They also emphasised the need for assessing and managing its risks and impacts. In this regard, they called for an in-depth study on “Climate Justice: The Human Dimension of Climate Change,” to come up with a rights-based approach that would highlight the human impact when responding to the impacts of climate change.
13. The Heads of State or Government affirmed that every citizen of this planet must have an equal share of the planetary atmospheric space. In this context, they endorsed the convergence of per capita emissions of developing and developed countries on an equitable basis for tackling climate change. They were of the view that any effort at addressing climate change should take into account historical responsibility, per capita emissions and respective country capabilities.
14. The Heads of State or Government expressed concern at the human loss suffered through natural disasters in the region and stressed the need for the timely provision of relief in humanitarian emergencies. In this regard they directed that a Natural Disaster Rapid Response Mechanism be created to adopt a coordinated and planned approach to meet such emergencies under the aegis of the SAARC Disaster Management Centre.
15. The Heads of State or Government expressing their deep concern at the looming global water crisis, recognized that South Asia must be at the forefront of bringing a new focus to the conservation of water resources. For this purpose they directed initiation of processes of capacity building and the encouragement of research, combining conservation practices such as rain water harvesting and river basin management, in order to ensure sustainability of water resources in South Asia.
16. The Heads of State or Government while acknowledging the significant steps taken to alleviate poverty in the region, resolved to continue to combat poverty through all available means, including especially through people’s empowerment. They committed themselves to continuing to share each other’s experiences and success stories of pro-poor poverty reduction strategies such as micro-credit systems, community-driven initiatives and the raising of the consciousness of the poor on their right to resources and development.
17. In this respect, they emphasized on undertaking sustained efforts, including developing and implementing regional and sub-regional projects towards the attainment of SAARC Development Goals (SDGs). They noted the decision by the Ministers on Poverty Alleviation to obtain an inter-governmental mid-term review of the attainment of the SDGs to be completed by 2009.
18. The Leaders welcomed the offer of Nepal to host next Ministerial Meeting on Poverty Alleviation.
SAARC Development Fund (SDF)
19. The Heads of State or Government expressed satisfaction at the signing of the Charter of the SAARC Development Fund (SDF), and finalization of its Bye-laws, and called for an early ratification of the SDF Charter. They also welcomed early operationalization of the Fund from the available funds. They expressed satisfaction at the launching and identification of the projects on women empowerment, maternal & child health and teachers’ training under the social window of the SDF, as directed by the Finance Ministers. They reiterated their commitment to expedite their financial contributions to the Fund. In this regard, the Heads of State or Government accepted with appreciation the offer of the Kingdom of Bhutan to host the SAARC Development Fund Secretariat in Thimphu.
Transport 20. The Heads of State or Government expressed satisfaction at the progress through the Meetings of the Ministers of Transport. They reiterated the critical importance of an efficient multi-modal transport system in the region for integration and for sustaining the region’s economic growth and competitiveness. They urged early implementation in a gradual and phased manner of the proposals of the SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport Study (SRMTS).
21. They noted the progress made in the consideration of the draft Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) by Member States. They also noted that technical inputs related to Regional Transport and Transit Agreement and Regional Multilateral Railway Agreement were being examined by the Member States. In this context, they directed the next Transport Ministers Meeting to expedite work in this regard. They appreciated the offer of Sri Lanka to hold the Second Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Transport in Colombo in 2008.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Development
22. The Heads of State or Government urged the need for even more expeditious and close regional cooperation in information and communication technology. They welcomed the enhanced digital connectivity among the Member States and the ongoing work to upgrade the regional telecommunication infrastructure. They directed that the arrangements needed to implement the proposed collaborative tele-projects such as those for health care and education, be expedited.
Science and Technology
23. The Heads of State or Government acknowledged the ongoing contribution of Science & Technology including cutting edge technology in information and bio-technology in improving the quality of life of the peoples of South Asia. They noted the offer of India to host the Ministerial Meeting on Science & Technology on September 15-16, 2008 for development of a roadmap on identifying implementable focused regional and sub-regional projects in SAARC.
24. The Heads of State or Government underscored the vital contribution that tourism could afford to the economic development of the SAARC region. They agreed to make every effort to implement the comprehensive action plan adopted by the Second Ministerial Meeting held at Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. These efforts would include facilitating the movement of people through improved travel infrastructure and air, sea and land connectivity among the SAARC countries, collaboration in human resource development and the promotion of SAARC as a common destination through public-private partnerships and joint campaigns.
25. The Heads of State or Government emphasized the role of cultural connectivity in bringing the peoples of South Asia closer, while reinforcing and projecting a distinct South Asian identity. They directed that the Agenda for Culture be implemented in full.
SAFTA and Trade Facilitation
26. The Heads of State or Government emphasized their commitment to implement SAFTA in letter and in spirit, thereby enabling SAARC to contribute as well to the dynamic process of Asia’s emergence as the power house of the world. Recognizing the need to continue to address the major barriers hindering effective trade liberalization in the region, which include sensitive lists of items and Non-Trade Barriers (NTBs), they directed that the decision to revise the sensitive lists by the SAFTA Ministerial Council (SMC) be implemented early. They also recommended that while revising the Sensitive Lists, special consideration be given to the LDCs. The Leaders directed that SAFTA Committee of Experts (SCoE) to expeditiously resolve the issue of Non Tariff Measures (NTMs) and Para Tariff Measures (PTMs) in order to facilitate and enhance the trade under SAFTA.
27. The Heads of State or Government underlined the need for taking concrete measures to improve trade facilitation in terms of the mutual recognition of standards, the adoption of common tariff nomenclatures, the harmonization of customs procedures. They directed the relevant SAARC bodies to expedite their work in these areas. They also recognized the importance of development of communication system and transport infrastructure and transit facilities specially for the landlocked countries to promote intra-SAARC trade.
28. The Heads of State or Government observed that the SAARC legal instruments on trade liberalization and the measures and initiatives for trade facilitation are increasingly affording significant openings for mutually beneficial trade, investments and economic co-operation within South Asia. These openings are complemented by the uniformly sound levels of national economic growth being attained by the Member States of SAARC. The Leaders accordingly noted the growing and urgent need for enhancing capacity within SAARC dedicated to encouraging national and regional strategies that would further maximize the positive trade, investments and economic cooperation climate in South Asia. In this regard they welcomed the offer of Sri Lanka to prepare a Concept Paper and a Working Paper on the subject and directed that the Paper be discussed at a Session of the Standing Committee specially convened for this purpose, to enable the adoption of appropriate follow-up measures.
29. The Heads of State or Government welcomed the signing of the text of the Agreement on the Establishment of the South Asian Regional Standards Organization. The Heads of State or Government welcomed the signing of the Protocol on Afghanistan for Accession to SAFTA.
Trade in Services
30. The Heads of State or Government expressed satisfaction at the conclusion of the Study on Trade in Services and welcomed the decision of SAFTA Ministerial Council to commence negotiation on the Framework Agreement on Trade in Services. Towards achieving further economic integration, they directed that the Draft Agreement on Investment Promotion and Protection be finalized early and the SAARC Arbitration Council be operationalized.
SAARC Social Charter
31. The Heads of State or Government underscored the imperative to make steady progress in the implementation of the SAARC Social Charter and directed the Member States to complete the National Plans of Action with a perspective of seeking to transform current challenges into opportunities. They further directed the National Coordination Committees (NCCs) to recommend activities in conformity with the Social Charter and to introduce an efficient and effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism for reviewing the progress in the implementation of the Social Charter. The Leaders emphasized the need to implement the selected regional and sub regional programs and projects to complement national implementation efforts. They urged that such activities be suitably accommodated in the SAARC Calendar. They called for people’s participation in strategy initiatives, planning and implementation to ensure people’s responsibility and ownership. The Leaders directed to develop a policy on the protection of rights of the senior citizens for their geriatric care taking into account existing national policies of the Member States.
Women and Children
32. The Heads of State or Government noted with satisfaction the increased cooperation in the region towards achieving the all important goal of bringing women fully into the mainstream of development, on the basis of gender equality. They called for focused attention on women’s economic empowerment and skills development, while addressing key health issues and violence against women. The Leaders directed to work for a regional cooperation for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and abuse against women in general and widows in particular and guarantee their rights to live in the society in a dignified manner.
33. The Heads of State or Government welcomed the substantial progress made in the establishment of the South Asian University in New Delhi and directed that the University should begin its Session from 2010. They also directed that increased interaction between students should be encouraged through institutionalization of students, academics, teachers and youth exchange programs. They further directed early institutionalization of an elaborate SAARC Scholarship Scheme in ICT and related areas.
34. The Heads of State or Government strongly condemned all forms of terrorist violence and expressed deep concern over the serious threat posed by terrorism to the peace, stability and security of the region.
35. They further recognized the growing linkages between the phenomenon of terrorism, illegal trafficking in narcotic and psychotropic substances, illegal trafficking of persons and firearms and underscored the need to address the problem in a comprehensive manner. They reiterated their commitment to strengthen the legal regime against terrorism, including by undertaking to implement all international conventions relating to combating terrorism to which Member States are parties, as well as the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and the Additional Protocol to the SAARC Regional Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. The Head of States or Government while recalling United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) emphasized the importance of criminalizing any act for the provision, collection and acquisition of funds for the purpose of committing terrorist acts.
36. The Heads of State or Government recognized in this regard the value of the proposed UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. They noted the progress made during recent rounds of negotiations and called for an early conclusion of the Convention.
37. They emphasized the need for strongest possible cooperation in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime amongst the relevant agencies of the Member States especially in the area of information exchange. The Heads of State or Government further emphasized the importance of completing all legislative and other relevant measures to implement within Member States, the provisions of the Regional Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The Leaders noted the considerable work done to promote cooperation in Police matters. They appreciated the offer of Pakistan to host the Third Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Interior/Home in Islamabad during 2008.
38. The Heads of State or Government expressed satisfaction on the finalization of the text of the SAARC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters at the Fifteenth Summit and its signing. They expressed appreciation at the accommodating manner in which the negotiations were conducted by the Member States to provide each other the widest measures of mutual assistance in criminal matters to ensure a greater sense of security within the region, the Heads of State or Government urged for early ratification and implementation of the Convention.
39. The Heads of State or Government resolved to encourage consultations among delegations of SAARC Member States at the appropriate international forums and agreed to cooperate accordingly.
40. The Heads of State or Government welcomed the Observers namely the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mauritius, the United States of America and the European Union and appreciated their participation in the Summit. They also welcomed Australia and Myanmar to be associated as Observers to SAARC. They approved the guidelines for cooperation with Observers and looked forward to working with them in the common pursuit of the partnership for growth for our people.
41. The Heads of State or Government welcomed with appreciation the offer of the Maldives to host the Sixteenth Summit Meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).