The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a conference on Regional Economic Integration where the areas of concern- poverty, disease, environmental degradation, etc. were discussed and strategies were planned to minimize these issues at a faster pace.
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is an intergovernmental organization for the development of economic and regional integration. The organization has the support of different countries known as member-state.
The topic is important for IAS Exam for GS-II and Essay.
SAARC comprises the following member states:
- Sri Lanka
SAARC was founded by seven states in 1985. In 2005, Afghanistan requested its accession to SAARC and formally applied for membership on the same year.
This organization was formed in Dhaka on December 8, 1985, and its secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
SAARC Observer States
- European union
- United States
SAARC Potential Future Members
Myanmar has requested its status up-gradation from Observer to a unified member state. Similarly, Turkey and Russia have also applied for membership.
The idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was first initiated in May 1980. The Foreign Secretaries of the then seven countries met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981. Five key areas for regional cooperation were identified and with time other important areas were added later.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was set up when its Charter was formally adopted on 8 December 1985 by the Heads of State or Government of India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The main motto of the organization is work towards a common goal of achieving social, cultural, economic growth for all the people belonging to the above regions.
The Regional Integrated Programme of Action covers the following aspects:
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Women, Youth and Children
- Health and Population Activities
- Science and Technology and Meteorology
- Environment and Forestry
- Human Resource Development, and
Working Groups have also been established in the following areas:
- Information and Communications Technology
- Intellectual Property Rights
Structure of SAARC
SAARC has the following structure:
- Council – It is the apex policy-making body. The council is represented by government heads of the respective member countries.
- Council of Ministers – The Council of Ministers comprises the foreign ministers and they meet generally two times annually.
Functions of the Council of Ministers
- Policy formulation
- Reviewing the progress of regional cooperation
- Identifying newer areas of cooperation, and
- Setting up additional mechanisms as required
3. Standing Committee – It comprises the foreign secretariat of the member countries.
The major functions of the standing committee are stated below:
- To monitor and coordinate the programs
- To deal with modalities of financing
- To mobilize cooperation within and outside the region
4. Programming Committee – It comprises senior officials of the member governments.
The major functions of this committee are as follows:
- Finalizing the annual meet schedule
- Budget scrutinization
- External activities assigned by the standing committee
5. Technical Committee- It consists of representatives of the member nations.
The major functions of the committee are as follows:
- To formulate projects and monitor the same
- To submit reports
6. Secretariat – It is headed by Secretary-general appointed by the Council of Ministers.
The main functions of the Secretariat are as follows:
- Coordination and execution of activities conducted by SAARC
- Monitoring the SAARC meetings
- Work as a communication link between SAARC and other international summits and forums.
SAARC Regional Centres
Regional Centres established in Member Countries are the supporting pillars to the secretariat for promoting regional cooperation. These Regional Centres are managed by respective Governing entities comprising representatives from Member States, SAARC Secretary-General and the Ministry of Foreign/External Affairs of the host government.
SAARC Specialized Bodies
The specialized bodies are created by the member states and their structure is different from the regional centres. The management is taken care of by the representatives of the member states, ministry of foreign affairs of the host government.
The different SAARC specialized bodies are given below:
- SAARC Arbitration Council (SARCO) – Pakistan
- SAARC Development Fund (SDF) – Bhutan
- South Asian University (SAU) – India
- South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) – Dhaka