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Our Role in SAARC

Message from Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa President of Sri Lanka on the occasion of the Commemoration of SAARC Charter Day 8 December 2008

(December 08, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Today, we in South Asia commemorate the Twenty-third anniversary of the day on which seven nations of South Asia came together in 1985 to sign a Charter establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). SAARC has since grown to an eight-member organization with Afghanistan’s entry into our fold.

The SAARC region is home to one-fifth of the world’s population, making SAARC the largest regional entity in the world. We are heirs to a rich cultural heritage. Our countries form a mosaic of rich cultural traditions, languages, arts, and philosophies. We should, in unison, work to safeguard our rich heritage and also rise to face the challenges that test us. On this occasion marking the twenty-third anniversary of the signature of the SAARC Charter, our eight nations should rededicate our efforts with firm resolve to work together to realise the noble aims we have set for ourselves.

It is a great pleasure for me, as the current Chair of SAARC, to extend warm greetings and best wishes on our Charter Day to the people of our eight nations whose benefit and best interests we must always bear in mind in all deliberations, actions and decisions of SAARC. We must not forget that the main objective of SAARC is the promotion of the welfare of the people of South Asia as a whole and the improvement of the quality of their lives.

In this context, it was an honour for Sri Lanka to have hosted the Fifteenth SAARC Summit under the theme of “Partnership for Growth of Our People”. The decisions reached at the Fifteenth Summit following the significant success of the Fourteenth Summit in New Delhi which focused on “connectivity” indicated a renewed optimism in harnessing our strengths to realise the SAARC objectives. The adoption of the Statement on Food Security, the Charter of the SAARC Development Fund, the Agreement on the Establishment of South Asian Regional Standards Organisation (SARSO) and the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters were important outcomes of the Fifteenth Summit. Member States with the able assistance of the SAARC Secretariat are already in the process of implementing these decisions.

Outside the inter-governmental sphere, the increasing contacts and interactions between the peoples of our region are an important aspect of the SAARC process and must receive the encouragement of governments. These interactions between our peoples – professionals, teachers, academics, non-governmental groups – play a vital role in strengthening our ties which will, in turn, strengthen the SAARC process. It is my fervent hope that we resolve on this occasion to work towards making SAARC more meaningful for our people, giving SAARC a truly people-centred focus through all its programmes and mechanisms.

I avail of this opportunity to reiterate Sri Lanka’s strong commitment to strengthening SAARC as our principal mechanism for regional cooperation.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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