Begum Khaleda Zia
Minister of the People�s Republic of Bangladesh
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
(In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent and the
Ladies and Gentlemen,
delighted to return to beautiful Kathmandu. This
SAARC Summit has a special relevance. We seek to
forge together a common vision for a new century.
The serene majesty of the Himalayas serves, as
always, to inspire and stimulate our creative
impulses. I hope that within this special
ambiance, the spirit of SAARC will be renewed and
congratulate you on your assumption of the Chair.
I am confident that under your able leadership
SAARC will flourish as a force for the good of our
peoples. I also extend my tributes to President
Chandrika Kumaratunga for steering the course of
SAARC so capably in such challenging times.
Summits represent both continuity and change. It
is a time to welcome new faces and renew old ties.
I extend warm greetings to President Pervez
Musharraf and, in turn, thank all of you for so
warmly welcoming me back into this regional fold.
Secretary General, Ambassador Nehal Rodrigo, has
completed his tenure with distinction and
dedication. He deserves our praise. I welcome his
successor Ambassador Q.A.M.A. Rahim and wish him
thank the government and the people of Nepal for
their warm reception, gracious hospitality and for
the wonderful arrangements made for this meeting.
has a special place in my heart. Its guiding
motivation is rooted in the wisdom of its founder
and chief architect, late President Ziaur Rahman.
This was to improve the quality of life of the
common people of South Asia in an environment of
peach. SAARC�s strength lies in striving to
achieve what is attainable, to advance cooperation
wherever possible and to concentrate on what
unites rather than what divides us. This vision
remains as relevant today as it was when President
Zia envisaged this forum.
looking towards SAARC�s future directions, we must
candidly evaluate its limitations and strengths.
SAARC has become a bystander, and not a catalytic
agent of change. Five constraints are flagged in
SAARC is yet to formulate, let alone
implement, a single regional project.
National self-assertion still impedes regional
SAARC has made no dent in alleviating poverty.
International developments impinge little on
SAARC�s progress SAARC does not work closely
with similar organizations.
Decision-making in SAARC is slow.
above list of shortcomings is meant for remedial
action and not as a measure of despair. Indeed,
our achievements cannot either be discounted.
has attained a structured, institutional shape.
We have, to some extent, closed the critical
information and communication gaps separating
us. People to people contact has grown and
produced a real sense of South Asian identity.
substantively, our cooperation through the
Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) has
created a web of interaction in new and
Instruments such as Independent Commissions,
Task Forces and Groups of Eminent Persons have
proved useful, cost-efficient ways to
concentrate on key issues of importance to
SAARC. Pioneering studies have been carried
out on poverty alleviation, disaster
management, environment, trade, manufactures
SAARC leaders have devised mechanisms such as
annual meetings of Finance, Planning and
Commerce Ministers in order to engage in
dialogues on macro-economic policies and to
share experiences and ideas.
SAARC has moved considerably forward in
signing various Conventions, Treaties and
Agreements including those on drugs, terrorism
and preferential trading. Several proposals
are underway for new instruments or additions
in all these areas.
Meanwhile, SAARC has taken several
initiatives, for example, consolidating the
common position of member-states in various
international fora; strengthening linkages
among professional groups; liberalizing the
intra-regional movement of people,
establishing long-range focus on children
through such measures as the Decade for the
Girl Child (the 1990s) and Decade for the
Rights of the Child (The first decade of the
bottom line in summing up SAARC�s achievements
consists of three factors :
consolidate our past gains.
move firmly towards the implementation of
SAARC initiatives, keeping in mind the need
for a regional focus and orientation.
find the resolve to take new decisions.
shortcomings and successes outlined above allow us
to focus on certain fundamental priorities.
Poverty Alleviation :
goal is to reduce poverty. SAARC�s pledge to
eradicate poverty by the year 2002 is unlikely.
However, the agenda remains valid. Underpinning it
are certain key perceptions-that poverty reduction
is the center-piece of development; that the poor
are efficient and that though economic growth is
essential to reduce poverty, the pattern of growth
is as important as its rate.
Strategies moulded by these perceptions assume
three major dimensions - social mobilization,
decentralization and most important of all, human
resources development. I call this as the �Dal
Bhaat� approach. This is to ensure food security,
basic education especially for girls, primary
health care, safe drinking water, sanitation,
shelter, voluntary family planning and the
protection of women and children.
In implementing this
agenda, SAARC must pool together information and
data and share its rich experience. This is
especially so in the transfer of labour intensive
technology, grass-roots participation in
self-employment schemes, micro-credit programmes,
local development and empowerment of the poor.
Attention must also be focused on urban poverty in
view of the rapid unbanisation in South Asia in
recent years. Finally, as part of poverty
alleviation, special emphasis should be laid on
ensuring the rights of women and children.
Trade Liberalization :
poverty needs a high growth rate. SAARC�s success
will depend on how we cooperate in core economic
areas of trade and investment. Negotiations for
tariff reduction under the SAPTA have taught us
some valuable lessons. We are now aware how
inadequate they are, if we exclude commodities of
interest to all countries and if tariff
concessions do not extend to actively traded
commodities. Trade promotion calls for dismantling
of non-tariff barriers. It must also reduce value
added requirements under the rules of origin.
Failure to redress these impediments will affect
the creation of region-wide trading space.
Bangladesh remains committed to encourage SAARC
trade. However, we also equally believe that all
future SAARC trade initiatives should reduce
assymetry in trade exchanges and bilateral trade
imbalances. This calls for decisive steps to
encourage trade where opportunities already exist
especially to promote trade creating investments
and other facilitating measures. This includes
greater interaction among our business people and
investors and cooperation among financial
third priority is dealing with globalization.
Globalization has profound implications, both
positive and negative. Globalization entails
greater mobility of capital, labour and technology
that transcends national frontiers. The benefits
are obvious-faster growth, better living standards
and new opportunities. However, the downside is
that the benefits are unequally distributed and
ignore social objectives. They also involve
dangers of drugs, terrorism, pollution, diseases
and arms and movements of people that invade all
societies and respect no border. Therefore, our
effort should be directed towards an inclusive
globalization from below which will benefit common
people through new ideas, opportunities and
Sustainable Development :
critical priority remains that of sustainable
development. We cannot continue to squander and
pollute our non-renewable resources without
affecting future generations. We are rapidly
approaching the threshold of irreversible
depletion. Implementation of important
recommendations of the two SAARC studies on
environment and SAARC Plan of Action on
Environment adopted by the meeting of SAARC
Environment Ministers in Male must, therefore, be
given due priority.
of the issues and challenges raised above, I would
like to propose the following specific eight-point