Spirit of SAARC

Thirty Sixth session of the Standing Committee (Colombo – 25-26 February 2009),Closing Remarks by the Chairperson Dr. Palitha Kohona

(February 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) We have now come to the end of the Meeting. I am happy that we have been able to deliberate at length on all the agenda items and make important recommendations and take decisions - decisions that will set the tone for the future for our organization. We are in the process of making SAARC more effective and our decisions will impact on this process.

We reviewed the progress of the implementation of the decisions taken at the Thirty-fifth Session of the Standing Committee held in Colombo in July 2008 and noted with satisfaction the action taken to implement them.

We have made some modest proposals for strengthening the SAARC Secretariat taking into account the necessity for and the importance of adding to its staff. We noted all the additional responsibilities that we are conferring on it.

The Committee discussed in detail matters relating to economic and financial cooperation and made recommendations for promoting economic and financial cooperation. In this regard, we considered matters relating to the administration and implementation of SAFTA, the SAARC Framework Agreement on Trade in Services, etc.

The Standing Committee also considered the status of ratification and implementation of the Protocol of Accession of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Agreement on the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), and the Agreement on the Establishment of the South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO).

The Committee noted with appreciation the arrangements being made by Bhutan to hold the Ninth SAARC Trade Fair in 2009.

The matters relating to the SAARC Development Fund (SDF), the Ratification and Implementation of the Agreement on the Establishment of the SAARC Food Bank, the activities of SAARC Goodwill Ambassadors for HIV and AIDs, (Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya is a SAARC Goodwill Ambassador), the SAARC Social Charter etc. were discussed in detail.

The Standing Committee reviewed the progress in the implementation of SAARC Regional Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol, the SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and matters relating to the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal matters.

The Delegations expressed their strong condemnation of terrorism and expressed their deep concern on terrorism's impact on regional peace and prosperity.

The Committee noted with appreciation the progress made in the Establishment of South Asian University and made further recommendations, after listening to CEO, Professor Chadha, for completing the tasks relating to the Establishment of the University. This will be a major development in the context of SAARC.

The Committee reviewed the activities of the SAARC Apex and Recognized Bodies and Cooperation with Observers and International Organizations.

The Standing Committee considered in detail recommendations that will be made to Ministers on combating terrorism and on the financial crisis.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to all the delegations for their valuable contributions to the work of the Committee and the cooperation extended to me during the deliberations. I note with gratitude the hard work that they put into finalizing our work.

I also thank His Excellency Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma, Secretary General and his very able team for their assistance in numerous ways, facilitating discussions in a very professional manner and preparing excellent documents for the meeting.

I am pleased with the obvious cohesion among the Delegations and the desire to achieve the common goals that the SAARC must pursue. This, in no small measure, is owed to my fellow Foreign Secretaries who are making an unstinted effort to realize these goals.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, our discussions took place in a very friendly atmosphere reflecting true SAARC spirit.

I take this opportunity to extend my best wishes to the Maldives as the next Chair of SAARC.

I now declare this meeting closed.

-Sri Lanka Guardian