Achievements of SAARC?

South Asian Free Trade Area

Over the years, the SAARC members have expressed their unwillingness on signing a free trade agreement. Though India has several trade pacts with Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, similar trade agreements with Pakistan and Bangladesh have been stalled due to political and economic concerns on both sides. In 1993, SAARC countries signed an agreement to gradually lower tariffs within the region, in Dhaka. Eleven years later, at the 12th SAARC Summit at Islamabad, SAARC countries devised the South Asia Free Trade Agreement which created a framework for the establishment of a free trade area covering 1.6 billion people. This agreement went into force on January 1, 2008. Under this agreement, SAARC members will bring their duties down to 20 per cent by 2009.

ENVIRONMENT

1. A SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC) was established in New Delhi in October 2006. The SDMC provides policy advice and facilitates capacity building including strategic learning, research, training, system development, expertise promotion and exchange of information for effective disaster risk reduction and management.

2. Regional Centers such as the SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre in the Maldives, the SAARC Forestry Centre in Bhutan, the SAARC Disaster Management Centre in India and the SAARC Meteorological Research Centre in Bangladesh constitute a framework of SAARC Institutions which address diverse aspects of environment, climate change and natural disasters.

3. Sixteenth SAARC Summit, Thimphu, 28-29 April 2010

Climate Change was the theme of the Sixteenth SAARC Summit (Thimphu, 28-29 April 2010) and, among others, the Heads of State or Government of SAARC adopted the Thimphu Statement on Climate Change which outlines a number of important initiatives at the national and regional levels to strengthen and intensity regional cooperation to address the adverse effects of climate change in a focused manner. The Inter-governmental Expert Group on Climate Change (IGEG.CC), established by the Thimphu Statement, is scheduled to meet in Sri Lanka in 2011. The IGEG.CC is required to monitor, review progress and make recommendations to facilitate the implementation of the Thimphu Statement. The IGEG.CC will report to the SAARC Environment Ministers.

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

At the Thirteenth SAARC Summit held in November 2005 in Dhaka, India proposed to create a Centre of Excellence, in the form of a South Asian University, which can provide world class facilities and professional faculty to students and researchers drawn from every country of the region.

POVERTY ALLEVIATION

Recognizing the imperative to address poverty related issues and to suggest strategies and measures to alleviate poverty in the region, the SAARC Leaders at their Sixth Summit (Colombo, 1991) established an Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation (ISACPA).

TOURISM

The Tourism Ministers who met at Cox's Bazar (Bangladesh) in May 2006, adopted the Cox's Bazar SAARC Action Plan on Tourism.