The Secretary General of SAARC,
Allow me to extend, on behalf of the Maldivian Government, a very warm welcome to Your Excellencies, to this Informal Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers in New York.
Before I proceed, let me share with you information about a tragic incident that took place in the Maldives last night. A sitting Member of Parliament, Dr Afrasheem Ali was brutally assassinated. The Government of Maldives has declared a state of mourning for three days. I pray eternal peace for the departed soul. I request Your Excellencies and distinguished delegates to join me in observing a minute of silence.
While this is my first meeting of SAARC that I am chairing as the Chairperson of SAARC Council of Ministers, it gives me great pleasure to meet my fellow Foreign Ministers from our neighboring countries. I am also pleased to note that we have made much progress since the Seventeenth Summit in Addu City of Maldives in November last year.
The Maldives notes with satisfaction the successful convening of two important Ministerial Meetings in Maldives since the Seventeenth SAARC Summit; the Fourth Meeting of SAARC Health Ministers and Fifth Meeting of SAARC Interior/Home Ministers. In addition to these, we have also held a number of technical level meetings of SAARC during the year, where issues of vital importance and relevance to the region have been deliberated and constructive recommendations made.
The Maldives recognizes the common health challenges in our region, and therefore welcomes the adoption of the ‘Male’ Resolution on Regional Health Issues’ at the Fourth Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Health, which called upon Member States for speedy implementation of recommendations, in order to bring tangible benefits to the people of this region.
The recently concluded Meeting of Home/Interior Ministers in Maldives, last month discussed matters of extreme importance to peace and security in the region, including the growing threats of terrorism and organized crime. The meeting also focused on addressing threats posed by maritime piracy, human trafficking and illegal drug trade, and discussed the idea of establishing a SAARC Immigration Liaison Network. Furthermore, the Ministers highlighted the need to address Cybercrime in South Asia comprehensively.
We must now engage ourselves to follow-up and coordinate our efforts to implement decisions of these important Meetings. We must strengthen our cooperation and improve on information-sharing mechanisms and gain the necessary knowledge and skills to focus on growth and security of the region.
The Maldives notes the importance of timely hosting of the Council of Ministers Meeting to provide guidance and policy directives for SAARC and its mechanism. In this regard, the Maldives, as current Chair of SAARC looks forward to hosting the Inter-Summit Session in the latter half of March 2013.
SAARC’s declarations and recommendations of meetings also underline the need for continued engagement with Observers. As per the decision taken at the Thirty Ninth Session of the Standing Committee, a Special Session of the Standing Committee will be convened prior to the Inter-Summit Session, to discuss all matters relating to SAARC’s engagement with Observers, which will undoubtedly help facilitate closer cooperation with them.
The Maldives believes that the South Asia Forum could be a significant platform for the finest minds of South Asia, to discuss and exchange ideas on South Asia and its future. The Maldivian government is currently consulting with key stakeholders including think tanks, non-governmental, and private sector, to discuss details of hosting this Forum under a public private partnership. We request assistance of Member States in our preparations by extending support in developing technical papers and forwarding timely nominations.
The Maldives sees strengthened regional economic relations and integration as a significant component of SAARC’s efforts, and we therefore believe that SAARC Trade Fairs could play an important role in achieving this end. Furthermore, with tourism being a common strength of the region, the SAARC Travel and Tourism Fair could become a vital platform for the region to promote itself globally as ‘Destination South Asia’. The Maldivian government will announce dates for the Twelfth SAARC Trade and Travel Fair in the near future.
In conclusion, let me express my appreciation to the Leaders of the region for their progressive thinking to lead our region through democratic systems of governance, keeping unity, peace and prosperity at the forefront. Only by working together closely and through coordinated efforts, can we excel in our attempt to improve the lives of our people and secure a vibrant and prosperous future for our region.