My Cabinet Colleagues,
Cabinet Secretaries from SAARC Member States
His Excellency SAARC Secretary General,
Friends from Media
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is indeed a great pleasure to address the inaugural session of the Fourth Meeting of Cabinet Secretaries of SAARC Member States.
Earlier this year in March, I had the opportunity to address the inaugural session of the 37th meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers in Pokhara. This is yet another high-level meeting being held in Nepal during our chairmanship of SAARC.
At the outset, I wish to extend a very warm welcome to all of you in Kathmandu. Some of you may be visiting Kathmandu for the first time. I hope you will find sometime to go around the city and enjoy natural beauties and cultural richness of our country.
Excellencies and distinguished delegates,
SAARC has already crossed three-decade of its journey. During this period, several institutions, mechanisms and processes have been put in place to guide the process of various regional cooperation. The period of three decades is not a short period in a rapidly changing world.
Against this backdrop, I have no hesitation to acknowledge that progress made so far by SAARC remains below our expectation compared to other regional groupings as well as in view of its vast potential.
Slow evolution and low progress put SAARC’s credibility at stake. This must be a matter of concern for all of us. However, there is no alternative to regional cooperation in an interdependent and interconnected globalized world.
Therefore, SAARC’s profile needs to be enhanced and it must deliver tangible outcomes.
Its activities and programmes must touch the life and wellbeing of its ordinary citizens.
This can only be done by sincerely and effectively implementing the decisions reached till to date.
Since you are at the helm of administrative leadership in charge of ensuring good governance and effective service delivery, you are in a unique position to play an active role in ensuring that SAARC programmes, and activities are effectively coordinated, implemented and followed up for intended results.
In recent years, South Asia has emerged as a locus of economic dynamism, a growth pole. But on the other side, South Asia remains the least economically integrated region. It is mired in poverty, illiteracy, and backwardness. This contradiction must be brought to an end by transforming the development landscape of the region. Our collective commitment and concerted actions are critical to transform this development outlook.
South Asia must advance development with human face.
Allow me to highlight some of the key areas that I deem important for promoting regional cooperation under SAARC. These areas need our immediate priority attention.
Our experience tells us that SAARC is in need of making massive investment in core economic areas. Without focused and prioritized investment, realizing structural transformation in South Asia will remain a distant dream. The good news is: we have already embarked on the rationalization and streamlining of SAARC mechanisms and processes for this purpose.
Connectivity is critical for sustained progress in every sphere. Connectivity in the areas of transport infrastructure, ICT and energy is a key enabler for rapid economic growth and robust regional cooperation. We underline that intra-regional connectivity and its uninterrupted operation is the critical foundation for enhancing productive capacity of our economies in order to accelerate the momentum in the regional cooperation and bring much needed dynamism in the region.
In the context of South Asia, this could amount to a game changer.
To give a powerful boost to our regional efforts towards building connectivity, the economic and infrastructure windows under SAARC Development Fund should be developed as regional investment architecture and should be made operational with priority.
Trade is widely recognized as an engine of economic prosperity. However, our intra-regional traderemainsvery little as compared other regions. We must make faster progress in SAFTA and SATIS. Such doable core instrumentscan be the steppingstone towards realizing the vision of South Asia Economic Union at an early date.
Our region frequently faces merciless blows of nature in the form of earthquakes and floods as well as disproportionate adverse consequences of climate change. We experienced enormous devastation in the wake of earthquakes all across the region including the Earthquakes in Nepal in April and May last year. This calls for collective preparedness and collaborative and robust response at the regional level and building a long-term resilience.
People-centric regional actions remain at the centre of all SAARC activities. The youth of this region are the critical assets and an important pillar in this regard. This demographic dividend must be fully leveraged to accelerate the process of development. However, our youth have no choice but to have recourse to out-migration due to the lack of enough employment opportunities at home. This trend is not a good sign for our long-term progress and this must be reversed .
Our cooperation framework should help create an enabling environment for generating productive job opportunities for the growing youth.
Most importantly, SAARC should draw on its own vision for its future. We should set our new development goals in terms of SAARC Development Goals. We also need to contextualize the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 in line with unique features of our region.
This matter merits our priority action.
I have highlighted a few key priorities. Regional integration cannot advance in the absence of genuine political will. We must be able to muster our collective political will to advance the process of regional cooperation in such a way that generates win-win situation for everyone.
Principles of equality and mutuality of benefit must underpin regional integration enterprise.
Concentration rather than proliferation; deepening rather than widening; implementation rather than expansion should inform our vision, commitment and action in the context of regional integration in South Asia.
This is the time to act. And act decisively.
This is the time to deliver results.Time to win the confidence of the people through tangible outcomes.
This is the time to embrace regionalism as a shared goal. Time to project a collective South Asian identity.
This is the time to prosper together. Time to make a difference.
Last year we had promulgated our constitution, bringing into a logical end of constitution making process. This was such a process, which was lingering since nearly 7 decades. As the world has witnessed, this Statute was promulgated following every step of democratic norms.
Our most inclusive Constituent Assembly, itself was elected very democratically, thoroughly ratify each and every clauses of the draft beginning from preamble to the annexure with signature of above 92% CA members. It is possible, someone perhaps had overlooked our cumbersome exercises; however,entire Nepal from all walks of life involved in the process, made their contribution during the writing of our constitution.
Let me point here distinguished guest, the promulgation of our Constitution was neither hastily declared all of sudden; nor it was declared excluding people of any segment of our society; it was an outcome of collective efforts of nearly six years tireless exercises!
I am very delighted to share that the Constitution has strengthened our plural and competitive democratic polity with a parliamentary system inFederal Republican setup.
The Republican Constitution, which embracesall fundamentalsof a justifiable society along with protection and promotion of social and cultural solidarity, co-existence, harmony, and unity in diversity. Thirty-one clauses related to universally-accept all fundamental rights of the people are well placed. This constitutionis committed to ending all forms of discrimination.
I can, thus proudly say, this is one of the best Constitutions in the world!
Witha conclusion ofprolonged political transition, now Nepal is all prepared for a big socio-economic transformation. This is indeed to assure the economic dividends and dignified life to all Nepali citizens.
To this end, I firmly believe, the mechanism of SAARC, apart many others, will serve as an instrument in our common pursuit for attaining development goals.
Before I conclude, I would like to reiterate our full commitment to the ideals, principles and objectives of the Organization for achievingprogress, prosperity and wellbeing for our people. I call upon all of you present here to keep the SAARC spirit alive forour friendship, solidarity and the betterment of our people.
It is my firm belief that the Fourth Meeting of SAARC Cabinet Secretaries will exchange views on the best practices in the area of governance system in the region and will come up with concrete action plan for institutional strengthening and capacity building.
I wish you productive deliberations and look forward to fruitful outcome of the meeting.
Wishing all the delegates a pleasant stay in Nepal,I thank you very much!
(Inaugural Address by the Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr.K P Sharma Oli at the FourthMeeting of SAARC Cabinet Secretaries, Kathmandu, 9 June 2016)
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