Press Release


The Programming Committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) convened its Fifty-ninth Session at the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu, on 06-07 March 2024.

The Programming Committee’s in-person Session was held after a gap of four years. The Fifty-seventh Session of the Programming Committee was held in physical mode at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu on 19 December 2019, while its Fifty-eighth Session was held virtually on 15 December 2020.

The Government of Nepal currently holds the Chair of the SAARC Programming Committee, comprising National Focal Points of SAARC and Heads of SAARC Division (Joint Secretary/Director General) from the Ministries of Foreign/External Affairs of the Member States, namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

H. E. Ms. Sewa Lamsal, Foreign Secretary of the Government of Nepal and Chairperson of the SAARC Standing Committee, graced the Inaugural Session of the Programming Committee with her gracious presence as Chief Guest. In her Inaugural Address, while welcoming the delegates to the Programming Committee’s Session, the Foreign Secretary highlighted the need of holding regular meetings of the Charter Bodies of SAARC, including the Programming Committee. As the current Chair of SAARC, the Foreign Secretary expressed the resolve of the Government of Nepal to take necessary measures to steer the SAARC process, overcoming the challenges facing SAARC collectively. Recognizing SAARC as the viable platform for promoting peace and prosperity in South Asia through regional cooperation, she said that the Association holds enormous potential to strengthen regional collaboration in areas, such as trade, finance, transport, power, connectivity as well as people-to-people contacts.

H. E. Mr. Md. Golam Sarwar, Secretary General of SAARC, also addressed the Inaugural Session. In his Address, the Secretary General of SAARC highlighted the urgent need to make SAARC more and more “people-centric” so as to win the trust and confidence of the peoples across the region. He also stressed the need to promote people-to-people contacts as well as Public-Private Partnership to complement inter-governmental efforts in attaining the Charter objectives of SAARC. In order to give further momentum to the SAARC process, he highlighted the need to activate Action Committees, as provided for in Article VII of the SAARC Charter, to give way to project-based sub-regional cooperation with the involvement of more than two Member States. He further stated that considering the present scenario, the SAARC Secretariat has redoubled its efforts to bolster SAARC’s engagement with its development partners and the Observer States to keep the process of regional cooperation vibrant as well as to augment SAARC’s visibility globally. In concluding his remarks, Ambassador Sarwar said, "We are strong individually, but we are the strongest collectively." He further stated, "If we are tall, we can touch the roof, but if we are together, we can touch the sky."

Ms. Rita Dhital, Joint Secretary (Regional Organizations Division), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, chaired the Fifty-ninth Session of the Programming Committee in her capacity as the current Chair of the Committee.  In her opening remarks, the Chair thanked the Member States for their concurrence to hold the Fifty-ninth Session of the Programming Committee in Kathmandu. The Chair also welcomed the National Focal Points of SAARC and delegates from the Member States to the Programming Committee’s in-person Session in Kathmandu. She expressed the confidence that with active participation and insightful interventions of the National Focal Points, the Committee would be able to accomplish its work successfully.

Convening in Kathmandu, the two-day Session of the Programming Committee reviewed the current status of regional cooperation in the identified areas since its last Session and gave guidance for forward movement in areas where the progress of work was tardy. The Committee finalized the budgets and Calendars of Activities of the SAARC Secretariat, Specialized Bodies and Regional Centres for 2024. It also finalized the nomination of Dr. Shahzad Afzal from Pakistan for appointment as the Director General of the South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO), based in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The Fifty-ninth Session of the Programming Committee had the participation of Heads of all Specialized Bodies and Regional Centres from various capitals of SAARC.


SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu, 07 March 2024