Informal Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers
H.E. Ms Dunya Maumoon, Minister of Foreign Affairs
New York, 30 September 2015
Honourable Foreign Ministers,
Secretary-General of SAARC,
Assalaamu Alaikum and Good Afternoon,
One year has passed since we met last in November 2014, during the 18th SAARC Summit. The past year has brought much anguish and distress to the region as a whole. Some have been affected more than others. But as neighbours and friendly countries, we have stood together.
Let me convey my appreciation to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, for organizing this informal session of the Council of Ministers. It is timely and necessary to meet and share our thoughts on issues of importance to our organisation. I also wish to thank the Secretary General for his comprehensive report and commend him for his dedicated efforts to assist our work.
I would like to convey deep condolences of my government and the people of Maldives to the government and people of Nepal on the devastating earthquake that caused loss of many lives and immense destruction to the country. As one of the most densely populated regions, we in south Asia, remain vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters.
The relevance of SAARC has grown far greater than ever. The decisions that we make touch the lives of millions who struggle for a better life and greater opportunity. Despite many setbacks, we have moved ahead. Yet, we are far from the aspirations we have set out for ourselves. We need to move ahead with far greater speed and will. We need to be more focused and efficient in realizing our goals and aspirations.
The Maldives fully supports the reform of SAARC processes and mechanisms that we have embarked upon. The closure and merger of identified Regional Centers will be complete end of this year. It is our hope that the host of the new SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre will be decided soon, and the smooth transfer of the work of those centerswill come together to the new Center.
Early this month, the Maldives hosted the Eighth Board meeting of the SAARC Food Bank. The meeting reiterated the importance of regional food security and collective effort to address challenges that we face today. Issues discussed included eliminating the threshold limit to draw food grains and facilitate easy access to food during emergencies. It is my wish that the decisions taken at the meeting are implemented in a timely manner.
Time and again, we have discussed trade liberalization within the SAARC region to fully realize the true potential of trade within the region and its benefits. Although the Special meeting of the SAFTA Committee of Experts in July this year further discussed on making headway in reducing sensitive lists, we still stand far from achieving real progress in this area.
The issue of climate change has become a pivotal one for the region as a whole. The impacts may be felt differently, but surely affects us all. The shared challenges and trans-boundary nature of climate change cannot be ignored. It is important that the climate change negotiations produce a legally binding agreement in Paris this December. We must stay focussed to coordinate our efforts towards this objective.
Let me express deep appreciation to our Leaders for their guidance in protecting and promoting welfare of our people. I am confident that through SAARC mechanisms and its coordinated efforts, the region and our people can achieve a more secure and prosperous future.
I also wish to assure full support and cooperation of the Government of Maldives to the Government of Pakistan in hosting a successful Summit next year.