SAARC Informal Meeting

Statement by

His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Asim, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the  Maldives

21 September 2017



Distinguished Ministers, Secretary General of SAARC,

Distinguished delegations,

Assalaamu alaikum wa-rahmathullahi wa-barakaathuhu,good afternoon,

Please allow me to express my profound gratitude to the Chair, His Excellency Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, for hosting this Informal session of SAARC Council of Ministers on the sidelines of the 72nd session of UNGA.  I also wish to take this opportunity to congratulate and welcome the new Secretary General of SAARC Mr. Amjad Hussain Sial and thank him for his comprehensive report, and his dedicated efforts to assist our work.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

In the past few months, many of the countries in our region have been severely affected by excessive flooding and landslides, taking the lives of many and causing extensive damage and destruction. Let me take this opportunity to convey to you Ministers and the people, the sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathies, on behalf of the Government of Maldives and its people.


Our region is a vast, densely populated area, characterized by social and cultural diversity. There is enormous potential that we can explore to further promote the common interests of all our countries as well as the objectives inscribed by our leaders in the SAARC Charter. Despite political drawbacks over the past three decades, SAARC has succeeded in creating opportunities where we were able to amicably agree and move forward. The Maldives calls for renewed effort to foster meaningful cooperation, to deliver, for the betterment of our region and for the welfare of our peoples.


Education is essential for the eradication of poverty, and for promoting sustainable development. Numerous international instruments have been adopted including the Agenda 2030 that recognize the importance of inclusive and quality education. Undoubtedly Education is a powerful medium that can unleash the true potential of the SAARC region., However, limited progress has been made in the field of Education since the Second Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Education/Higher Education held in October 2014. While we are pleased to have hosted the Eleventh Meeting of Heads of University Grants Commission/Equivalent Bodies of SAARC Member States earlier this year, we were unfortunately not able to hold the Third Meeting of SAARC Education Ministers which was originally planned for August this year due to limited confirmations. This meeting has now been re-scheduled for 18 to 19 December this year and we request the support of all Member States to convene this important meeting.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

People-to-people contacts are vital in regional economic integration. Although the SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme has been launched to promote the South Asian cross-border movement, it is much more difficult to travel within the region than to visit foreign countries from a Member State. Similarly, intra-regional trade accounts for only five percent of total trade of SAARC Member States. Despite the great potential offered by SAFTA, we are yet to utilize all the opportunities it offers. It is necessary to exploit the possibility of using SAFTA as a vector of economic integration and growth in the region. Because, Excellencies, trade is the engine for sustainable development, and our path to prosperity.

It is important to highlight that all member states have duly ratified the SAARC Agreement on 'Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment' (MARCA) aimed to facilitate the Parties to accept results of Conformity Assessment with a view to eliminate Technical Barriers to Trade within SAARC. In order to expedite this matter, it is important that member states nominate candidates to the Board for Conformity Assessment (BCA), who would be responsible for the planning, coordinating and monitoring of all conformity assessment work to further facilitate regional trade.

In recent years, due to the relatively open domestic economic policies, SAARC region experienced stable and rapid economic development - in some countries more than the others. This is a turning point in clearing the barriers for regional economic integration. Once we leap forward, the positive results of regional cooperation will generate virtuous impulses in support of cooperation and integration. These are not only favourable to South Asia, but will also benefit the rest of the world. With our large population, our market could be one of the main drivers of global growth and prosperity in the coming years.


The impact of non-communicable diseases (NCD) on the health of the global population is growing. This is a challenge for SAARC countries and other developing countries. Maldives have successfully eradicated lymphatic filarial, malaria and polio. However, risk factors still exist. Therefore, the Maldives welcomes the Colombo Declaration - calling for accelerated action on major regional health problems.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

For SAARC to make progress as a region, and as a regional organisation that delivers the results we, the Member States, want, we need to make the SAARC Secretariat more result-oriented, effective and efficient.  The Secretariat should not only be a channel of communication, but should also enhance its ability to provide technical support in the implementation and monitoring of directives of our leaders. We need to streamline, and make the organisation more effective and output oriented in supporting us in delivering the vision we have set for ourselves.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

Through thick and thin, through the hard times and the happy times, it is to our neighbours, that we first call for support. It is our neighbours that we turn to for support. This is certainly the principle under which Maldives has approached our neighbours – as partners, without question, without hesitation. It is in this hope that we now ask for your support in our bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the term 2019-2020, elections for which will be held in June 2018. And we are confident of your support, not only as you cast your vote, but in working with us, in making our election a win for our region, and our shared destiny.

Thank you.