Press Release

The Fifty-eighth Session of the Programming Committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) commenced in virtual mode, this morning. 

H. E. Mr. Bharat Raj Paudyal, Foreign Secretary of Nepal and Chairman of the SAARC Standing Committee, addressed the Inaugural Session of the Programming Committee. In his Address, the Foreign Secretary highlighted the importance of the Programming Committee’s Sessions in taking forward the SAARC process. Recognizing SAARC as the collective aspiration of the people of South Asia for peace and prosperity through regional cooperation, he said that the Association had taken some important steps for promoting regional integration through trade, finance, transport, power, connectivity as well as people-to-people contacts. He said, “Blessed with abundant natural and human resources, South Asia holds a high potential for development and prosperity. Enhanced regional cooperation and deeper economic integration is a must to realize this potential.”  The Foreign Secretary underscored the need to forge early consensus for holding the stalled Nineteenth SAARC Summit and its preceding meetings. Stating that regional cooperation is one of the priorities of Nepal’s foreign policy, he expressed the unwavering faith of the Government of Nepal in the ideals, principles and objectives of SAARC. He also expressed Nepal’s readiness to play a constructive role to advance the SAARC process.

H. E. Mr. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary General of SAARC, also addressed the Inaugural Session. In his remarks, the Secretary General of SAARC thanked the Foreign Secretary of Nepal and Chairman of the SAARC Standing Committee, for his presence in the Inaugural Session. He conveyed condolences to the people and Governments of the Member States of SAARC over loss of life caused by the pandemic. Presenting a synopsis of developments in regional cooperation since the last Session of the Programming Committee, he referred to the high-level meetings of the SAARC Leaders and Health Ministers during the ongoing pandemic as well as other Ministerial Meetings on Education and Planning.  He highlighted the need to strengthen regional cooperation to contain the further spread of the Coronavirus and mitigate its after-effects in the region. He also stressed the need to ensure availability of affordable and effective vaccines to protect the health of the people from this deadly virus.  

Mr. Bharat Kumar Regmi, Joint Secretary (Regional Organization Division), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, chaired the Meeting.  In his opening remarks, Mr. Regmi welcomed the delegates to the Meeting. He appreciated the excellent documentation and technical arrangements made by the SAARC Secretariat in facilitating the Meeting.

The Programming Committee is a Charter Body of SAARC, comprising Heads of SAARC Divisions (Joint Secretary/Director General) from the Ministries of Foreign/External Affairs or National Focal Points of the Member States of SAARC.

Convening at the tail-end of the year, the one-day Session of the Programming Committee is expected to review the current status of regional cooperation in the identified areas since its last Session. The Committee is also expected to finalize the budgets and Calendars of Activities of the SAARC Secretariat, Specialized Bodies and Regional Centres for 2021.

The Programming Committee last met at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu on 19-20 December 2019.

Kathmandu, 15 December 2020

The Member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) observed the Thirty-sixth Charter Day of SAARC today.  SAARC comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as members. Its Secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Heads of State or Government of South Asia founded SAARC at the First SAARC Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, by adopting its Charter on 08 December 1985. Since then, 08 December every year is commemorated as the SAARC Charter Day.

As enshrined in its Charter, the primary objective of SAARC is to promote the welfare of the peoples and to improve their quality of life through accelerated social progress and economic development in the region. A forum of eight countries in South Asia that are bound by ties of history and culture, SAARC is a tangible manifestation of the determination of its Member States to promote peace, stability, amity and progress in the region through strict adherence to the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, national independence, non-use of force and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and peaceful settlement of disputes.

SAARC hosted eighteen Summits since 1985. With the declaration of poverty alleviation as its “over-arching goal” at the Twelfth SAARC Summit in 2004, it today facilitates regional cooperation in almost all the spheres of development activity having a bearing on the life and livelihood of its peoples. SAARC’s Specialized Bodies (South Asian University, New Delhi; SAARC Development Fund, Thimphu; SAARC Regional Standards Organization, Dhaka; and SAARC Arbitration Council, Islamabad) and Regional Centres (SAARC Agriculture Centre, Dhaka; SAARC Tuberculosis & HIV/AIDS Centre, Kathmandu; SAARC Energy Centre, Islamabad; SAARC Cultural Centre, Colombo; and an Interim Unit of the SAARC Disaster Management Centre, Gujarat) promote regional cooperation in their respective field.

The Heads of State or Government and/or Foreign Ministers of the Member States issued special messages to commemorate the Thirty-sixth SAARC Charter Day, which are in the Media section in the website.


Also is the Message from the Secretary General of SAARC on the occasion of the Charter Day this year.

Kathmandu, 08 December 2020

The Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan convened the First Meeting of the SAARC Planning Ministers in virtual mode, today. The Meeting was devoted to the theme, ‘Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in South Asia: Shaping the SAARC Vision-2030’.


Hon’ble Mr. Asad Umar, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives of Pakistan, chaired the Meeting, which was attended by Mr. Mohammad Nabi Sroosh, Acting Deputy Professional, Ministry of Economy, Afghanistan; Hon’ble Mr. M.A. Mannan M.P., Minister of Planning, Bangladesh; Mr. Rinchen Wangdi, Director, Gross National Happiness Commission, Bhutan; H.E. Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, India; Hon’ble Mr. Mohamed Ali, Minister of State for the National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, Maldives; Hon’ble Prof.   Dr. Pushpa Raj    Kandel, Vice-Chairperson of   the National Planning Commission, Nepal; and Hon’ble Mr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal, M.P., State Minister of Money & Capital Markets and Public Enterprise Reforms, Sri Lanka.


During the Meeting, the Hon’ble Ministers and Heads of Delegation shared national experiences in SDGs-implementation as well as the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministers called for closer regional collaboration to realign efforts of the Member States to fight the further spread of the Coronavirus and to mitigate its after effects on the socio-economic development of the region.

Recognizing that the attainment of SDGs was hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Meeting agreed to revitalize regional approaches to successfully attain the Sustainable Development Agenda-2030, particularly in respect of poverty, food security, hunger, health, education, inequality and financing for sustainable development.  The Meeting emphasized the need to build sustainable and mutually beneficial collaboration among the Member States to harness a future, which, at its core, builds quality of life for each and every individual.

The Ministerial Meeting adopted the Report of the First Meeting of the SAARC Planning Secretaries held virtually on 23 November 2020, which covered matters relating, inter alia, to contextualization of SDGs at the regional level; accelerated implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda; and development financing.


H. E. Mr. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary General of SAARC, also addressed the Meeting. In his address, the Secretary General thanked the Government of Pakistan for convening the Meeting and the Member States for their active participation, which he described as the reflection of the priority attached to the effective implementation of SDGs in the region. He further said, “This Ministerial Meeting assumes considerable significance in the   context of the directive of the Eighteenth SAARC Summit to initiate an inter-governmental process in contextualizing SDGs in the region.”


Kathmandu, 25 November 2020


The Virtual Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Education/Higher Education on education sector’s response to COVID-19 was held yesterday in Kathmandu.

Convened by the Government of Nepal, the Conference had participation from all the Member States.

Hon’ble Mr. Giriraj Mani Pokharel, Minister for Education, Science and Technology of Nepal, chaired the meeting.

In his opening remarks, the Hon’ble Minister referred to the huge disruption the pandemic has caused on the education system in the region and called on the Member States to work together to overcome this challenge. He also described how Nepal’s education sector has responded to the pandemic.

In their country statements, the Hon’ble Ministers and Heads of Delegation explained the measures taken to respond to Covid-19 in their respective countries. They recognized that the Government agencies and other stakeholders had been resourceful in quickly adopting distance learning through a combination of platforms such as radio, TV, mobile and online. They asserted that the disruption caused by the pandemic was an opportunity to rethink the future of education and to create more resilient education systems in the region.

During the Conference, the delegations discussed the importance of regional cooperation in addressing the adverse impacts of the pandemic on education, including through sharing of knowledge, especially through digital learning platforms.

The country delegations were headed by Hon’ble Abdul Tawab Balakarzai, Deputy Minister for Academic Affairs, Ministry of Higher Education of Afghanistan; Hon’ble Dr. Dipu Moni, Minister of Education of Bangladesh; Hon’ble Jai Bir Rai, Minister of Education of Bhutan; H. E. Mr. Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, All India Council for Technical Education of India; Hon’ble Dr. Ibrahim Hassan, Minister of Higher Education of the Maldives; H. E. Ms. Wajiha Akram, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training of Pakistan; and Hon’ble Susil Premajayantha, State Minister of Education Reforms, Promotion of Open Universities and Distance Learning of Sri Lanka.

H. E. Mr. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary General of SAARC, also addressed the Virtual Meeting. In his brief statement, he described the pandemic as a once in a generation threat to the world that has affected the world population. He observed that the Ministerial Meeting was a welcome opportunity to reflect on the impact the pandemic has had on achieving SDG4 goal for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.

09 October 2020

SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu.