18th SAARC Summit issued Kathmandu Declaration
18th SAARC Summit concluded in Kathmandu, Nepal with Kathmandu Declaration. 19th Summit of SAARC will be held at Islamabad, Pakistan in 2016.
Eighteenth Summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was held in Kathmandu, Nepal from 26 to 27 November 2014. The 18th SAARC summit was the 30th Year of the SAARC.
The summit concluded on 27 November 2014 with Kathmandu Declaration. Theme of the summit was Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity.
In Kathmandu Declaration SAARC leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the principles and objectives of SAARC for ensuring the welfare and quality of life of the peoples of South Asia and recognized to reinvigorate SAARC’s regional cooperation and revitalize SAARC as an effective vehicle to fulfill the developmental aspirations of the peoples of South Asia.
Observer participants of the 18th SAARC summit were Australia, China, Iran, Japan, Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, the US and the European Union.
The leaders agreed to hold the Nineteenth Summit of SAARC in Islamabad, Pakistan in 2016.
Main highlights of Kathmandu Declaration
• Regional Cooperation: SAARC leaders determined to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia by intensifying cooperation in a prioritized, result-oriented and time-bound manner
• South Asian Economic Union (SAEU): SAARC leaders committed to achieve South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) in a phased and planed manner, through Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union. In context of the Least Developed, Land-locked, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) member states, they agreed to effectively implement the existing preferential facilities under SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) and SATIS (SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services)
• SAFTA and Trade Facilitation: Free trade in goods and services operations will be simplified and transparent of origin; implementation of trade facilitation measures, harmonization of standards relating to Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures
• SAARC Development Fund (SDF): Agreed to strengthen Social Window of the SDF and operationalise its Economic Window and Infrastructure Window at the earliest for effective implementation of regional and sub-regional projects
• Connectivity: In context of connectivity, the leaders made significant progress towards finalization of the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and SAARC Regional Railways Agreement. They agreed to hold a Meeting of the Transport Ministers within three months in order to finalize the Agreements for approval.
• Energy: Leaders welcomed the signing of the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity) and directed the relevant SAARC bodies and mechanisms to identify regional and sub-regional projects in the area of power generation, transmission and power trade and implement them with high priority with a view to meeting the increasing demand for power in the region
• Poverty Alleviation: Leaders agreed to free South Asia from poverty and directed the Ministerial and Secretary-level mechanisms on poverty alleviation to review the progress. They also directed to revisit the SAARC Plan of Action and its effective implementation, also taking into account the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
• Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals: On this SAARC leaders agreed to initiate Inter-Governmental process to appropriately contextualize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the regional level
• Agriculture and Food Security: Leaders agreed to eliminate the threshold criteria from the SAARC Food Bank Agreement and constitute the Seed Bank Board. They also agreed to finalise establishment of Regional Vaccine Bank and Regional Livestock Gene Bank.
• Environment: relevant authorities were directed to effectively implement SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Thimphu Statement on Climate Change. They also agreed to establish the SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre
• Blue Energy: They recognized the manifold contributions of ocean-based Blue Economy in the SAARC Region and the need for collaboration and partnership in this area
• Health: Importance of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) was recognised. Male’ resolution on Regional Health Issues adopted at the Fourth Meeting of the SAARC Health Ministers was endorsed. Aim to end AIDS epidemic in the region by 2030 was urged and also directed to complete all necessary processes for upgrading the SAARC TB Reference Laboratory at SAARC TB and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC), Kathmandu to Supra-national Reference Laboratory with necessary funding from SDF.
• Education: Agreed to eliminate illiteracy from the region in line with global goal of education for all ensuring quality education in all institutions by reforming curricula, teaching methods and evaluation systems adequately supported by physical, technical and other facilities.
• Youth: The Leaders welcomed the declaration of 15 July as the World Youth Skills Day at the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly and agreed to commemorate, as appropriate, the said event by SAARC
• Science and Technology: The Leaders agreed to develop capacity of the Member States to apply space technology for socio-economic development and the welfare of the peoples through experience sharing among themselves. In this context, they welcomed the offer of India to develop and launch a satellite dedicated to SAARC Countries
• Culture: Leaders declared the year 2016 as the SAARC Year of Cultural Heritage and tasked the relevant bodies to develop an action plan for its success. They also agreed to develop a cultural trail linking major Buddhist historical sites in the region. The Leaders further agreed to facilitate access of persons visiting prominent and holy sites of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and all other major religions in South Asia.
• Combating Terrorism and trans-national Crimes: The Respective authorities have been directed to ensure full and effective implementation of the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol, including enacting necessary legislations at national level to root out terrorism. The leaders agreed to take effective measures to combat illicit trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances, arms smuggling, money laundering, counterfeit currency and other transnational crimes. They also agreed to establish a cyber crime monitoring desk.
• Governance: The leaders agreed on the need for cooperation and collaboration within SAARC on issues of common interest and concern to Member States.
• Strengthening SAARC processes: To strengthen SAARC processes, the leaders of SAARC nations agreed to hold henceforth the meetings of the SAARC Summit every two years or earlier, if necessary, the Council of Ministers once a year, the Standing Committee at least once a year, and the Programming Committee at least twice a year. They also agreed to make the Programming Committee a Charter body of SAARC Strengthening SAARC processes.