Under this area of cooperation, there are following mechanisms:
i. Ministerial Meeting
ii. Senior Officials Meeting
iii. Inter-governmental Expert Group Meeting
Ministerial Forum is preceeded by Secretary Level Meeting. SAARC Plan of Action on Poverty Alleviation had been developed and implemented. Annual reporting and assessing of the progress is done through Ministerial Meeting. Secretariat has brought out publications called the Regional Poverty Profile (RPP) until 2009-2010. Member States have decided to replace the publication of the Regional Poverty Profile with the SAARC Development Report from 2017 onwards.
SAARC Minister on Poverty Alleviation have met four times and recommended several initiatives, including contextualization of 2030 Development Agenda from regional perspective, funding of SAARC Projects on Poverty Alleviation under Social Wing of SAARC Development Fund (SDF), such as SAARC Handicraft Development Centre, SAARC Model Village, Renewable Energy Development and Livelihood Perspective in South Asia, Review of SAARC Plan of Action on Poverty Alleviation (PAPA) – 2004.
During the Eighteenth SAARC Summit (Katmandu, 26-27 November 2014), the Leaders reiterated their strong commitment to free South Asia from poverty and directed the Ministerial and Secretary-level mechanisms on poverty alleviation to review the progress and revisit the SAARC Plan of Action and its effective implementation, also taking into account the Post-2015 Development Agenda. They recognized the potential of cooperatives in achieving inclusive, broad-based and sustainable economic growth and development, and called for sharing of experiences, expertise and best practices in this sector. The Leaders also recognized that the Post-2015 Development Agenda, following its adoption at the UN, would present opportunities to complement national and regional efforts on sustainable development. They directed to initiate an Inter-Governmental process to appropriately contextualize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the regional level.
New Areas of Cooperation: ‘Labour Migration’, ‘Cooperatives’ and ‘Blue Economy’
The Leaders at the Eighteenth SAARC Summit (Kathmandu, 26-27 November 2014) expressed their strong determination to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia by intensifying cooperation, including in three new areas, namely ‘Migration’ and ‘Cooperatives’, and ‘Blue Economy’.
Migration: The Leaders, at the Eighteenth SAARC Summit (Kathmandu, 26-27 Nov 2014), “agreed to collaborate and cooperate on safe, orderly and responsible management of labour migration from South Asia to ensure safety, security and wellbeing of their migrant workers in the destination countries outside the Region”. ’The SAARC Plan of Action for Cooperation on Matters Related to Migration has been finalized and zero draft of ‘SAARC Declaration on Labour Migration’ has been circulated among Member States. Setting up of a SAARC Technical Committee on Labour Migration and establishing a SAARC Ministerial Forum dealing with labour migration is in the process.
Cooperatives: The Leaders at the Eighteenth SAARC Summit (Kathmandu, 26-27 Nov 2014), “recognized the potential of cooperatives in achieving inclusive, broad-based and sustainable economic growth and development, and called for sharing of experiences, expertise and best practices in this sector”. The Secretariat has circulated a Concept Note on ‘Cooperatives,’ received from the Government of Nepal to the Member States. It is under consideration of the Member States.
Blue Economy: At the Eighteenth SAARC Summit (Kathmandu, 26-27 November 2015), the Leaders recognized the manifold contributions of ocean-based ‘Blue Economy’ in the SAARC Region and the need for collaboration and partnership in this area. The SAARC Secretariat has circulated a Concept Note on Blue Economy, received from Bangladesh, to the Member States. It is under consideration of the Member States.
II. Telecommunications and ICT
The Working Group on Telecommunications and ICT was established, by the Council of Ministers during its Twenty-fourth Session held in Islamabad in January 2004.
Reduction of Call Rates among SAARC countries and rationalization of tariff structures
Multilateral utilization of terrestrial communications routes among SAARC countries; Up-gradation of National and Regional Telecom Infrastructure;
Utilization of Existing Infrastructure, including SASEC Project by SAAARC Member States;
Connectivity among Member States;
Utilization of National Knowledge Network facilities by Member States;
Establishing Regional Connectivity Hub and its utilization;
Universal Access to Telecommunications Services;
Development of the Performance Indicators on Telecommunications sector in the Member States of SAARC
Consideration of Matter regarding signing of MOU on Tele-Education E-Network
Cross-border interference on Radio Signals
Improving the Telecommunication Linkages to Reduce Call Rates and Telecommunication Tariffs and Interconnection Termination Charges among SAARC Countries and Development of Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure
Following the closure of two Regional Centres, i.e. SAARC Information Centre and SAARC Documentation Centre, the working group has included the following areas under its purview:
Use of Information and Communication Technology in the fields of education, public health, agriculture, disaster management, etc;
Communication and Information Policy for SAARC Member States;
Contemporary Trends in Communication in SAARC;
People to People Contact through Communication Tools and Techniques;
The Government of India has made available a Concept Paper on “National Knowledge Network Connectivity with SAARC Countries”. It is under consideration of the Member States.
South Asian Postal Union
SAARC Member States had considered setting up South Asian Postal Union. A Concept Paper regarding formation of a South Asian Postal Union (SAPU) prepared by India was first discussed in the Second Meeting of the Working Group on Telecommunications and Information and Communications Technology (New Delhi, 3-4 April 2008).A Draft Constitution and General Regulations for the Establishment of SAPU has also be prepared. An interim Secretariat of SAPU had been established in New Delhi. As directed by the Forty-fourth Meeting of the Programming Committee (Kathmandu, 9-11 December, 2013), a Joint Meeting of the representatives of Postal Service and the National Focal Points was held at Islamabad on 10 July 2015.
The Meeting decided to put the matter related to the establishment of South Asian Postal Union on hold until the moratorium is lifted and recommended that the agenda related to Postal Cooperation may be discussed in the meetings of the Working Group on Telecom and ICT. As directed, the SAARC Secretariat is exploring the possibility of Cooperation with Universal Postal Union/Asia Pacific Postal Union on areas such as capacity building, technical assistance etc.
III. Working Group on Information and Media
The Fifty-second Session of the Programming Committee (Kathmandu, 14-15 March 2016), while considering matters relating to Heads of National TV, Radio and News Agencies (HTRN) and SAARC Audio Visual Exchange Programme (SAVE) had decided that the existing SAARC mechanism of HTRN/SAVE will be renamed as the ‘Working Group on Information and Media’. The work pertaining to formation of Working Group on Information and Media is underway.
IV. Internship at SAARC:
The overall objective of the SAARC Internship Programme (SIP) is to promote awareness about the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) thereby making it widely known in and beyond South Asia through discourse and research in the academia and at the professional level. Accordingly, the SIP aims at encouraging and facilitating research and studies concerning the Association and its activities by offering internship at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu, Nepal. Such internship may include, at the discretion of the Secretary-General, a period of attachment at any of the relevant SAARC Regional Center. Under this program, the interested students or researchers will be placed at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu for a period of two weeks to six months, depending on the need and nature of the projected research work and the requests so made by the prospective internees.
The Secretariat has been regularly receiving requests from students in SAARC Member States and outside the Region for pursuing Internship at the SAARC Secretariat. On completion of their Internship at the SAARC Secretariat, they submit their research papers in varied areas of interests. On successful completion of the Internship, the internees are awarded a Certificate by the Secretary General.