SAARC members vow to promote connectivity

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The 17th SAARC Summit concluded on Friday adopting a promising 20-point agenda reaffirming its commitment to peace, confidence building, liberty, dignity, democracy, mutual respect, good governance and protection of human rights.
The summit, which was attended by eight member countries and nine representatives from observer states, also renewed its firm commitment to alleviate poverty and reduce income inequalities within the societies and reaffirmed its resolve to improve the quality of life and well-being of their people through people-centred sustainable development. The summit through the “Addu Declaration” also expressed its deep concern about the continuing threat of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, transnational organised crimes, especially illegal trafficking in narcotics drugs, and trafficking in persons and small arms, and increased incidents of maritime piracy in the region and reiterated its resolve to fight all such menaces. The summit also expressed concern on the environmental degradation and vulnerabilities of the region to the threat of climate change.
The summit also emphasised the need to further strengthen the institutional mechanism of SAARC in order to bolster and enhance regional cooperation. The summit welcomed the signing of SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, SAARC Seed Bank, SAARC Agreement on Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment and the SAARC Agreement on Implementation of Regional Standards.
Through the declaration, the summit recognised the importance of the full implementation of SAFTA as a measure towards the creation of an enabling economic environment in the region. The summit appreciated the representatives from the observers, including Australia, China, Iran, Japan, Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, the United States of America and European Union. Through the declaration, the summit asked the SAARC finance ministers to prepare a proposal that would allow greater flow of financial capital and intra-regional long term investment. The member states also emphasised the need to conclude Regional Railways Agreement and to convene the Export Group Meeting on the Motor Vehicles Agreement before the next session of Council of Ministers and conduct a demonstration run of a container train among Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
The declaration also directed the member states to conclude the inter-governmental framework agreement for energy cooperation and the study on regional power exchange concept. The summit also decided to make efforts to resolve the operational issues related to the SAARC Food Bank by the next session of Council of Ministers with a view to ensuring its effective functioning. The summit also recommended to make efforts for the finalisation of work on elaboration of the SAARC Regional Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in women and children for prostitution with a view to its adoption by the next summit. The 17th Summit also agreed to expedite the work on mutual recognition of academic and professional degrees and harmonization of academic standards, and establishment of long term linkages among universities, research institutions and think tanks in the region.