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    Observer states to be involved in SAARC's priority areas

    September 03, 2014

    A four-day meeting of the SAARC Programming Committee concluded in Kathmandu, Nepal on Monday had recommended that SAARC’s engagement with observers be made more effective and result-oriented, according to a report published by the Himalayan Times yesterday.


    The Himalayan Times report said that the meeting also came up with the recommendation that SAARC regional centers be reduced from 11 to five.


    The HT report continued: All SAARC division heads of the member-states took part in the meeting, where Yagya Hamal, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented Nepal.

    According to him, both proposals were made as the measures towards reforming and revamping SAARC and its approaches and conducts.


    Currently, there are nine SAARC Observers: USA, China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Australia, Mauritius and the European Union and they have been taking part and making statements in the inaugural sessions of SAARC Summits as well as SAARC ministerial meetings.


    As per the new recommendation, the Observers are expected to have direct engagement with SAARC countries for the project-based cooperation. According to an official, following the recommendation by the Committee, the SAARC Secretariat today sent letters to all member states as well as the concerned regional centers calling for making their inventory of ongoing projects and staff available so that merger process could be started. It also directed the regional centres to carry out those projects only which could be completed by 2015 and discontinue those which could go beyond 2015.


    The SAARC Secretariat and individual observers can finalise the projects, wherein the observers can directly support.


    The meeting also proposed to merge the four SAARC regional centres — SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre (Maldives), SAARC Forestry Centre (Bhutan), SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (Dhaka) and SAARC Disaster Management Centre (India) — to form a single regional centre with the proposed name SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre.


    Hamal said it was yet to be decided where the new integrated centre would be established.


    Likewise, a recommendation has been made to keep SAARC Information Centre (Kathmandu) and Documentation Centre (New Delhi) within the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu. “The recommendation for the integration and merger has been made based on their performance as well as commonality in business,” Hamal added. The Committee expressed satisfaction over the performance of four regional centres — Agriculture Centre (Dhaka), Energy Centre (Islamabad), Tuberculosis Centre (Kathmandu) and Cultural Centre (Sri Lanka) — and recommended that they be kept intact.


    Hamal said both the recommendations — engagement with observers and restructuring of the regional centres — were subject to endorsement by the Standing Committee and Council Ministers. The endorsement and formalisation of the recommendations are likely to happen during the upcoming SAARC Summit scheduled for November in Kathmandu.


    Based on a report of the SAARC Secretariat, a foreign ministerial meeting earlier held in the Maldives had directed the SAARC Programming Committee to come up with a concrete proposal on reforms.(Special Reporter)

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