Press Release

H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), addressed the Inaugural Session of the Regional Conference, “STOP STUNTING: Improving Young Children’s Diets in South Asia” in Kathmandu this morning.


In his Address, the Secretary General said that South Asia was home to the largest population of children, of which 59 million were stunted children, under the age of five. He said that stunting had a huge impact on children, not just physically but on their mental or cognitive development, which in turn had an impact on the development of a nation, both from social and economic standpoints.  “It is, therefore, time that we look at children’s development from a broader perspective,” he said.


The Secretary General said that complementary feeding, coupled with poor dietary practices, had an adverse impact on the nutritional status of children. He also said that poverty situation and lack of awareness about such issues were equally detrimental to the development of children. “Our policies and programmes, therefore, need to cater to varying stages of development across the region,” he asserted.


Stating that since its inception, SAARC had been according high priority to the promotion of the welfare of children, the Secretary General highlighted several initiatives taken by SAARC to achieve this end.


In this context, he made a particular reference to the SAARC Social Charter, which identified several targets to be achieved in respect of the children. He said, “In addition to having observed the SAARC Decade of the Rights of the Child, we have instituted two major Regional Conventions related to children, namely Convention on Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution, and Convention on Regional Arrangements for the Promotion of Child Welfare.” He also referred to the Regional Action Framework on Nutrition developed jointly by SAARC and UNICEF.


The Regional Conference being held in Kathmandu on 17-19 September 2019 is the third in the series co-organized by SAARC and UNICEF in the implementation of the Regional Action Framework on Nutrition.


SAARC actively collaborates with UNICEF in the promotion of the welfare of children in pursuance of the Cooperation Agreement first signed between the two organizations in 1993.


Kathmandu, 17 September 2019

“Traditional and modern handicrafts are still alive in the SAARC region, which continues to remind us that we are the proud owners of a rich culture,” H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) said. 

He made these remarks, while addressing the Inaugural Ceremony of the SAARC Handicraft Exhibition & Workshop in Patan, Lalitpur, Nepal, this morning. 

“The countries in the SAARC region have diverse handicraft traditions. These handicrafts are not mere decorations but serve useful purposes in our everyday life. Just looking around this city, you can see many handicraft traditions which are still in use,” he added.

In his Address, the Secretary General said that South Asia, while reflecting a rich and plurality of cultural values and traditions, had shared civilization, constituting a historical basis for sustaining harmonious relations among the peoples of the region. He said, “The emergence of SAARC, therefore, contributes to further strengthening of cordial and fraternal ties among the Member States.”

He said that in recognition of the fact that the SAARC process could draw more deeply from the vitality and strength of South Asia's cultural heritage, the leaders had identified the promotion of cultural cooperation and development in the region as one of the Charter objectives of SAARC. He said, “In pursuance of this objective, during their Fourteenth SAARC Summit in New Delhi in April 2007, our leaders adopted the SAARC Agenda for Culture, which identifies several facets for collaboration in preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of our region.” 

In this context, he acknowledged the role being played by the SAARC Cultural Centre as a Centre of Excellence in efficiently and successfully implementing the SAARC Agenda for Culture.  

The SAARC Handicraft Exhibition and Workshop was organized jointly by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal and the SAARC Cultural Centre based in Colombo. It brought together artisans from across the region to showcase their handicrafts under one roof, and to share their knowledge and skills among themselves as well as visitors.  

The Exhibition was inaugurated by Minister of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation of Nepal in the historic city of Patan in Lalitpur. It will conclude on 12 September 2019.



Kathmandu, 09 September 2019

The Fourth Meeting of the SAARC Agriculture Ministers held in Thimphu, Bhutan on 27 June 2019, reaffirmed their commitments to further strengthen regional cooperation by promoting cooperation in Agriculture and Rural Development for enhancing food, nutrition and livelihood security of the Region. The Inaugural Session of the Meeting was attended by H.E. Dr. Tandi Dorji, Hon'ble Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Royal Government of Bhutan as the Chief Guest. While addressing the Meeting, Hon'ble Foreign Minister stated that in the rapidly changing regional and global state of affairs, SAARC would need to align itself to the emerging priorities and assured the unwavering support and commitment of the Royal Government of Bhutan to the SAARC processes. H.E. Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor, Hon’ble Minister of Agriculture and Forests of Bhutan and H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) also addressed the Inaugural Session. 

Thimphu Statement on Agriculture and Rural Development, was unanimously adopted by the Meeting, with 19-points regional pledges and strategies, to deal with the emerging challenges being faced by the region in agriculture and allied sectors and to advance agricultural sector of the Region. 

The Meeting, among others, agreed to promote multi-sectoral approaches to attain higher level of food safety and nutrition security; promote climate resilient agricultural strategies and technologies; expand agro-processing and building competitive agricultural value chains; facilitate gender mainstreaming and attracting youth and women in agriculture; intensify agricultural research, development and innovation through higher public investment and public-private partnership; adopt appropriate measures for addressing the issues related to transboundary animal diseases.

Recognizing the increasing challenges, posed by Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) to animal and human health in the region, the Ministers also adopted a Statement on SAARC’s Cooperation on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) with some specific directives to tackle this menace.

Hosted by the Kingdom of Bhutan, the Fourth Meeting of the SAARC Agriculture Ministers was preceded by the Meetings of the SAARC Senior Agriculture Officials, Technical Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and Third Multi-stakeholders’ Dialogue.

The Government of Nepal will host the Fifth Meeting of the SAARC Agriculture Ministers.

Kathmandu, 28 June 2019


“The promotion and protection of women and children of South Asia has been a priority for SAARC,” H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), said.


The Secretary General made this statement, while delivering his remarks at the opening of the SAARC Technical Consultation on Early Childhood & Women’s Nutrition: Improving the nutrition situation of young children and women in South Asia, that commenced at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu today.


“We are committed to ensure that children grow well to be able to make meaningful contribution to the society,” he said. “As a manifestation of our sustained commitment, we observed 2000 to 2010, as the SAARC Decade of the Rights of the Child.” More importantly, the SAARC Social Charter, adopted by SAARC leaders in 2004, identified specific targets to be achieved across the region in the development of children and empowerment of women, he stated.


He affirmed that SAARC’s collaboration with UNICEF had been particularly fruitful in improving the nutrition situation of women and children in the region. “Our collective efforts have culminated in the adoption of the South Asia Regional Framework on Nutrition,” he said.


“With so much of focus being given to improving the nutritional status of children and women globally, we hope that we will be able to create a separate inter-governmental mechanism within the ambit of SAARC to deal with the issues of nutrition,” the Secretary General said.


Under the framework of an MoU, SAARC and UNICEF collaborate to achieve the universal goals on children and women. SAARC and UNICEF organized a Regional Conference to Stop Stunting. In 2018, the two organizations co-hosted a Regional Conference on Nutrition: Power of Maternal Nutrition. The outcome document of the 2017 Conference “Call for Action”, containing 10-point recommendations, was adopted by the SAARC Health Ministers in their meeting in Colombo in July 2017.


This Consultation is the outcome of one of the recommendations of the ‘Call for Action’.


Organized with the support of UNICEF, the Consultation brought together representatives from the Member States of SAARC as well as UNICEF to discuss nutrition issues. It will conclude on 18 June 2019.


Kathmandu, 17 June 2019