Press Release

“Intra-regional economic integration is the backbone of the SAARC process. As envisaged by our Leaders at the Eighteenth SAARC Summit, our ultimate goal is to achieve South Asian Economic Union in a phased and planned manner through a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union,” said H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

 

H. E. Mr. Sial made these remarks, while addressing the Inaugural Session of the Sixth South Asia Region Public Procurement Conference on Professionalization of Public Procurement for Better Performance in Thimphu this morning.

 

“Public procurement is yet to become a part of formally agreed areas of regional cooperation under the auspices of SAARC. This sector, however, does have great importance for the economies of all the South Asian countries. We, therefore, highly value the convening of this Conference on Public Procurement,” said the Secretary General.

 

In his statement, the Secretary General said that globally, public procurement accounted for a significant amount of the total expenditure of Governments and is reportedly around 15 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “It is estimated that the South Asian countries spend around US $ 550 billion on public procurement of goods and services. Reportedly, India alone spends around 20 percent of its GDP on public procurement, which might be the highest in the world,” he stated. “Given the high volume of spending on account of public procurement in the region, it merits consideration to have a regional forum to deal with Public Procurement matters,” he said.

 

Affirming that a clear roadmap on grievance redressal mechanism, including dispute settlement process, can help improve efficiency in public procurement, he said, “At the regional level, we have established the SAARC Arbitration Council (SARCO) to provide a legal framework within the region for fair and efficient settlement of commercial, industrial, trade, banking, investment, and such other disputes.”

 

The Secretary General also briefed the participants of the Conference about the South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO). SARSO was established in 2014 as a specialized body of SAARC with the aim to develop harmonized standards for the region to facilitate intra-regional trade as well as to have access in the global market.

 

The Conference that opened in Thimphu today was organized by the Kingdom of Bhutan in collaboration with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It will conclude on 25 April 2019.

Kathmandu, 22 April 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 “Regional Consultation on Fish Culture in Cages and Pens in Reservoirs, Lakes, Rivers and Marine Waters for Aquaculture Diversification in South Asia” in Pokhara this morning.

 

The Regional Consultation, which was organized by the SAARC Agriculture Centre in collaboration with the Government of Nepal, was attended by the representatives of all the Member States.

 

In his address, the Secretary General said, “The domain of ‘food and nutrition security’ is complex and multidimensional. It cannot be looked at merely in terms of augmenting production and distribution of crops. It also implies increasing production and productivity of non-crops like fisheries, livestock and horticulture.”

 

“South Asia is home to around a quarter of the global population. Ensuring food and nutrition security for such a huge population is indeed an enormous challenge, despite the fact that our region is endowed with vast agricultural landmass and unmatched agricultural diversity,” he said. “Although agriculture continues to be the mainstay of the South Asian economies, the agricultural sector in the region encounters massive challenges, which include, inter alia, increasing population, shrinking arable lands and farm sizes, rapid urbanization, and impact of climate change and natural disasters.”

 

The Secretary General said that with increasing global population, the demand on fisheries for food and nutrition security has substantially increased and that Asia is the largest contributor to world aquaculture. In 2016, 85 percent of the global population engaged in fisheries and aquaculture belonged to Asia, with India and Bangladesh ranking the second and fifth largest in aquaculture production.

 

He expressed the confidence that the Regional Consultation will provide a welcome opportunity to the participants to share the best practices and experiences in aquaculture to help meet the challenges of the Member States.

In his address, the Secretary General also referred to the “SAARC Agriculture Vision 2020”, which, he said, showed the way forward for enhanced regional engagement in the field of agriculture and allied sectors. He appreciated the important role being played by the SAARC Agricultural Centre in carrying forward this vision.

 

Kathmandu, 17 April 2019


“Established in 1985, SAARC is a people-centric organization aimed at promoting welfare of the peoples of South Asia and improving their quality of life through accelerated economic growth and social progress,” 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 Round-Table on Asian Regional Cooperation Organizations in Boao, Hainan Province of China, on 28 March 2019.

 

The Secretary General said that the institution of a number of legal instruments in diverse fields demonstrates the political will of the Member States to promote regional cooperation, including economic integration. “With nearly a quarter of the global population and abundant natural resources, South Asia has a vast potential for economic integration. Therefore, as envisioned by the SAARC leaders, our ultimate goal is to create South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) in a phased and planned manner through a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union.”

 

The Secretary General briefed the participants about the SAARC Social Charter, which identifies a number of targets to be achieved in a number of areas. “Poverty Alleviation has been declared as the over-arching goal of SAARC. Having observed 2006-2015 as the SAARC Decade on Poverty Alleviation, a Plan of Action on Poverty Alleviation is being pursued vigorously to reduce the incidence of poverty across the region,” the Secretary General said.

 

“Improved intra-regional connectivity is the sine qua non for effective regional integration. SAARC’s quest for strengthening connectivity is manifest in the declaration of 2010-2020, as the ‘SAARC Decade of Intraregional Connectivity’,” the Secretary General said. “Endowed with vast hydropower, natural gas, solar, wind and bio-fuel resources, South Asia offers tremendous potential for regional cooperation in energy generation, transmission and trade.”

 

In his address, the Secretary General touched upon the regional initiatives aimed at, among others, promoting people-to-people contacts; ensuring food and nutrition security for the region; bringing women into the mainstream of development; and making South Asia an attractive common tourist destination. He also spoke about SAARC’s engagement with regional and international organizations, including its Observers.

 

Organized by China Institute of International Studies, a think tank of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, the Round-Table was devoted to the theme, Opportunities and Challenges of Asian Regional Cooperation and was attended by Heads of Regional Organizations in Asia, including ASEAN-China Centre (ACC); Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD); Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS); and Asian Financial Cooperation Association (AFCA).

 

Moderated by Ambassador Qi Zhenhong, President of China Institute of International Studies, the Round-Table was a component of Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2019 convened under the auspices of Boao Forum for Asia.


H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), addressed the Opening Session of the South Asian Regional Conference “Weaving the Web” in Kathmandu this morning. He was a Special Guest at the event.

 

The Conference, which was organized by Sankalpa – Women’s Alliance for Peace, Justice and Democracy – brought together eminent women representatives from the South Asian countries to discuss measures to promote the welfare of women in order to bring them into the mainstream of socio-economic development.

 

Addressing the Opening Session of the Conference, the Secretary General said, “Since the promotion of women’s welfare and empowerment is at the forefront of SAARC’s agenda, we greatly value the holding of this Conference to strengthen partnerships among women in the region.”

 

The Secretary General said that SAARC is a regional organization created primarily to promote the welfare of the peoples of this region. As women constitute almost 50% of the region’s population, since the inception of SAARC, the South Asian leaders have underscored the need to bring them into the mainstream of socio-economic development. Their unequivocal resolve to empower women culminated in the adoption of the SAARC Social Charter, which incorporates a broad range of targets to be achieved for women’s social and economic emancipation, he added.

 

Besides the SAARC Social Charter, the Secretary General shed light on SAARC’s several other inter-governmental mechanisms dealing with the promotion of the status of women. They include Ministerial Meetings on Women; Technical Committee on Women, Youth and Children; SAARC Gender Policy Advocacy Group; and Regional Convention to combat trafficking of women and children for prostitution. He stated that SAARC also collaborates with several UN Specialized Agencies, including UNWomen, in promoting women’s welfare and empowerment.

 

Highlighting the importance of education in empowering women, the Secretary General said, “The first and foremost pre-requisite is the education of our girls that will certainly be a catalyst for socio-economic development, improvement in the quality of life and reducing poverty.” He said that educated women will be able to play even greater role in all walks of life, including at senior policy-making levels. “The powerful tool of education will help in mainstreaming of women and making them economically empowered and financially independent.”

 

Concluding his remarks at the Opening Session, he said, “This Conference is a good initiative to bring together a large number of women advocates from the region to contemplate measures to collectively address the challenges that women face.”

 

Kathmandu, 25 January 2019