The Tenth Summit (Colombo, July 1996), while reviewing the progress made in the social sector, determined the need to develop, beyond national plans of action, a regional dimension of action including a specific role for SAARC with a view to speeding up social development in the region. It, therefore, decided to adopt a Social Charter incorporating a broad range of targets to be achieved across the region in the areas of poverty eradication, population stabilization, empowerment of women, youth mobilization, human resource development, promotion of health and nutrition, and protection of children.
At their Twelfth Summit (Islamabad, January 2004), the Leaders signed the SAARC Social Charter.
The provisions laid down in the Social Charter are now being implemented across the region with the establishment of National Coordination Committees (NCCs) in all Member States.
The Leaders at the Thirteen Summit (Dhaka, 12-13 November 2005) reiterated their commitment to take initiatives at national as well as regional levels for achieving the specific objectives contained in the Social Charter. The Leaders decided on annual meetings of the Heads of NCCs and directed convening of their first meeting at the earliest for follow-up and implementation of the Social Charter.
The Charter requires that Member States shall also formulate a National Plan of Action or modify the existing one, if any, in order to operationalize the provisions of the Charter. This shall be done through a transparent and broad-based participatory process. Stakeholder approach shall also be followed in respect of implementation and evaluation of programmes under the National Plans of Action.
The Fourteenth Summit recognised that the implementation of the Social Charter needs focused attention and directed the National Coordination Committees (NCCs) to formulate concrete programmes and projects to complement national implementation efforts. The Leaders underscored that civil society organizations have a vital role to play in driving forward the implementation of the Social Charter and directed the NCCs to mobilize civil society organizations to achieve this end.
The Second Meeting of the Heads of National Coordination Committees (New Delhi, 6-7 September 2007) to implement the SAARC Social Charter made specific recommendations for its implementation, including thematic listing of areas of cooperation
The Heads of NCCs at their third meeting held in Islamabad, 4-5 Nov. 2008, “ noted that there is an urgent need to emphasize the importance of youth mobilization and empowerment with respect to harnessing their enormous talents and potential for development processes of the region”. In light of the recommendation for closer and focused attention on meaningful youth development it should be useful for Technical Committee on Women, Youth and Children to examine critical challenges faced by young people of the region such as unemployment and drugs etc and suggest a few specific projects or initiatives.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, when the countries are under tremendous financial stress, there is a growing concern over how this will impinge on the livelihoods of the lower strata of the society. The Heads of NCCs, while noting that there are a number of initiatives in the Member States aligned to Social Protection, recommended that there is a need to conduct a study to explore the possibilities of developing a Regional Strategy on Social Protection. In the interest of expediting the matter to provide social security and protection to those who might be affected most and to prevent further impoverishment of the poor, we should seek consultation of regional experts to assess the situation and provide recommendation for instituting measures on the ground.