H. E. Mr. Ahmed Saleem, Secretary-General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) called on Hon. Rabindra Kumar Shakya, Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission of Nepal at the latter’s office today.
During the meeting, the Secretary-General apprised the Vice-Chairman of the ongoing efforts of the SAARC Secretariat aimed at the alleviation of poverty in the region. These included initiatives as publication of the Regional Poverty Profiles (RPPs), 2009-10 and 2011-12 on the themes “Food Security Challenges for the Poor and Social Inclusion” and “SAARC Development Goals (SDGs) Achievements” respectively; holding of an Inter-Governmental Expert Group at the Secretariat in September 2013 to discuss achievements of SDGs; holding of a Workshop to formulate SAARC’s position on Post-2015 Development Agenda; and convening of a Symposium on Best Practices on Poverty Alleviation in South Asia.
The Secretary-General also briefed the Vice Chairman about the impending initiatives of the SAARC Secretariat as SAARC Handicraft Development Centre; Highland Food Security with high value chains in South Asia; and Urban Poverty Management.
Welcoming the presentation of the Secretary-General, the Vice Chairman pledged the support of the Government of Nepal towards the initiatives of the SAARC Secretariat in reducing poverty in the region, to which, he added, Nepal also attached high priority at the national level.
Mr. Dhan Bahadur Oli, Director, who heads the Poverty Alleviation Division at the Secretariat, was also present at the meeting.
Established in December 1985 with the primary objective of improving the welfare of the people of South Asia, SAARC comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as its members. At the Twelfth SAARC Summit held in Islamabad in 2004, the Heads of State or Government declared poverty alleviation as the “overarching” goal of SAARC. Subsequently, the Thirteenth SAARC Summit held in Dhaka in 2005 declared the decade of 2006-15 as the Decade of Poverty Alleviation.
According to the World Bank estimates, SAARC is home to a population of 1.65 billion of which 32 percent fall below the international poverty line at US$ 1.25 per capita per day. The average per capita Gross National Income (GNI) of SAARC countries stood at US $ 1358.00 in 2012. The GNI of South Asia has been growing by 6.53 percent annually during the last decade.