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 Consultation Workshop on Gender Sensitive Value Chain in South Asia, in Kathmandu, this morning.

 

The Secretary General stated that a majority of the population of South Asia lived in rural areas, while agriculture continued to be the mainstay of the region’s economies. In this context, he said, “The SAARC Agriculture Perspective-2020 puts forth the visionary targets to be achieved across the region in agriculture and its allied sectors. Inspired by this visionary document, our ongoing efforts are geared towards making agriculture knowledge-intensive, market-oriented and demand-driven.”

 

Addressing the Inaugural Session, he further said, “Gender equality and development of sustainable food systems are interdependent goals.” In South Asia, a larger number of women were engaged in agriculture, contributing significantly to the goal of food security. Therefore, the contribution of women to the region’s economies was enormous and must be duly recognized.

 

While women are key actors in agriculture, they continued to face challenges in accessing productive resources and benefitting from effective participation in value chains. “Our efforts, therefore, should be directed towards promoting gender sensitive value chain in agriculture with a view to augmenting the livelihood of women in the region,” the Secretary General said. “It is also necessary to facilitate greater gender involvement in economic activities and livelihood initiatives so as to be able to contribute meaningfully to the socio-economic development of our region.”

 

The Secretary General appreciated that FAO was using the value chain approach as the key to the development of sustainable food systems, with gender relations as a primary component of the socio-economic context. He said, “At the regional level, the SAARC Agriculture Centre, which is the Centre of Excellence, had long been undertaking various need-based programmes on value chain development and gender mainstreaming in agriculture.”

 

The Regional Consultation Workshop was organized by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Asian Farmers’ Association in collaboration with the SAARC Secretariat and the SAARC Agriculture Centre.

 

The Workshop has the participation of representatives both from the Government and Non-governmental entities as well as from regional and international organizations.

 

The Workshop will conclude on 14 June 2019.

 

Kathmandu, 12 June 2019


H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), addressed the Inaugural Session of the Twelfth Meeting of the Committee of Heads of University Grants Commissions or Equivalent Bodies, in Kathmandu, this morning.

 

In his statement at the Inaugural Session, the Secretary General said, “As you are aware, one of the objectives of SAARC, as enshrined in its Charter, is to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potentials. We can achieve this objective through the promotion of education.”

 

He stated that as early as in 1988, at the Fourth SAARC Summit, the leaders had decided to include education as one of the areas of regional cooperation. Since then, the priority attached to the promotion of education in the region is amply manifest in the Declarations of successive SAARC Summits.

 

“At the last SAARC Summit, our leaders expressed their resolve to eliminating illiteracy from the region in line with the global goal of education for all and ensuring quality education in all institutions by reforming curricula, teaching methods and evaluation systems, adequately supported by physical, technical and other facilities,” he said. “At the same Summit, our leaders also agreed to promote regional cooperation in the field of vocational education and training.”

 

The Secretary General said that the directives of the leaders are being pursued by several inter-governmental mechanisms under the auspices of SAARC, which include, among others, the meetings of SAARC Education Ministers and Heads of University Grants Commissions or Equivalent Bodies. “In this perspective, the convening of this Meeting bears enormous significance,” he stated.

 

“The SAARC Chairs, Fellowships and Scholarships Scheme is a commendable effort of our Member States to facilitate exchange of scholars and researchers across the region,” he said. “Moreover, the establishment of the South Asian University is considered as one of the most significant accomplishments of SAARC in imparting quality education.”

 

The Secretary General said that in the attainment of regional objectives in education, SAARC has developed the SAARC Framework for Action (SFFA) on Education 2030 and agreed on an “Action Plan on the Implementation of the New Delhi Declaration on Education”.

 

In his Address, the Secretary General encouraged the Member States to offer more and more scholarships under the SAARC Chairs, Fellowships and Scholarships Scheme. He also highlighted the emerging need to offer scholarships on need-based requirements of the Member States.

 

The Twelfth Meeting of the Committee of Heads of University Grants Commissions or Equivalent Bodies that opened today in Kathmandu is hosted by the University Grants Commission of Nepal and will conclude on 31 May 2019. The Eleventh Meeting was held in the Maldives in April 2017.

 

Kathmandu, 30 May 201


H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), defined “education” as “enlightenment”.

 

Delivering a Key-Note Address at the Inaugural Session of the South Asia Statistical Capacity Development Workshop on Developing SAARC SDG4: Monitoring Framework and Preparatory Meeting for the Fifth APMED in Kathmandu today, the Secretary General said, “A single-word definition of education is, enlightenment. I repeat “education is enlightenment”.”

 

In his Address, the Secretary General said, “One of the objectives of SAARC, as enshrined in its Charter, is to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potentials. This we believe is possible through education.”

 

Shedding light on the genesis of regional cooperation in education, he stated that at the Fourth SAARC Summit in 1988, the leaders decided to include education as one of the areas of regional cooperation. He added that regional collaboration on education is being vigorously pursued through several inter-governmental mechanisms, such as the meetings of SAARC Education Ministers and Heads of University Grants Commissions or Equivalent Bodies. The SAARC Chairs, Fellowships and Scholarships Scheme is another good example of the collective efforts of the Member States, he said. “Moreover, the establishment of the South Asian University is considered as one of the most significant accomplishments of SAARC in imparting quality education,” he asserted.

 

Citing the directives of the SAARC leaders at the Eighteenth SAARC Summit, he said that the leaders have expressed their resolve to eliminating illiteracy from the region in line with the global goal of education for all and ensuring quality education in all institutions by reforming curricula, teaching methods and evaluation systems adequately supported by physical, technical and other facilities. “At the same Summit, our leaders also agreed to promote regional cooperation in the field of vocational education and training,” he said.

 

The Secretary General also apprised the participants of the Workshop about the SAARC Framework for Action (SFFA) on Education 2030, which not only provides an overall strategy for educational development, but it also seeks to promote specific commitments of South Asian governments in achieving SDG4. “We have also agreed on an “Action Plan on the Implementation of the New Delhi Declaration on Education”, which identifies thirteen areas for cooperation,” he said.

 

The Workshop which began today in Kathmandu was organized by UNESCO and UNICEF in partnership with the SAARC Secretariat and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. It will end on 24 May 2019.

 

Both UNESCO and UNICEF have Memoranda of Understanding with SAARC for collaboration in areas of mutual interest.

 

Kathmandu, 21 May 2019


H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), addressed the Thirteenth Informal Meeting of the SAARC Finance Ministers in Nadi, Fiji, this afternoon.

 

Chaired by Hon. Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Finance Minister of Nepal, the Informal Meeting was devoted to the theme, “Financial Inclusion”.

 

In his address, the Secretary General said, “The primary objective of SAARC, as enshrined in its Charter, is to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life through accelerated economic growth in the region. The theme of this Meeting, Financial Inclusion, therefore, draws inspiration from the SAARC Charter itself.”

 

He said that the theme of this Meeting bore considerable significance in view of the increasing emphasis being given to regional economic and financial integration. “As we are aware, at the Eighteenth SAARC Summit, our leaders have reiterated their commitment to achieving the goal of the South Asian Economic Union in a phased and planned manner through creation of a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union,” he said.

 

Speaking on the theme of the Meeting, the Secretary General said, “South Asia is home to almost a quarter of humanity. According to Global Findex Report 2017, 70 percent of adults in the region have an account with a financial institution or mobile money provider, which was 47 percent in 2014. Much of this growth was driven by India, where the Government has actively promoted financial inclusion through biometric identification linked to basic savings accounts.”

 

The Secretary General opined that despite significant expansion of microfinance and SME activities in the region, a large number of people were still poor and did not have access to financial services. “Pragmatic policies targeting those people who are still excluded from the financial system are the need of the hour,” he stated, adding that financial institutions, including cooperatives, could play a proactive role in promoting Financial Inclusion across the region.

 

He stated that mere financial inclusion may not be enough for promoting the welfare of the peoples of the region. “In order to achieve this objective, it is essential to work together towards attaining sustainable growth and inclusive development, along with meaningful financial inclusion,” he asserted.

 

Taking advantage of their collective presence at the Annual General Meeting of the Asian Development Bank, SAARC Finance Ministers have been meeting informally on its sidelines since 2006. These meetings are facilitated by ADB, which is an active partner of SAARC.

 

Kathmandu, 02 May 2019