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Last modified on: 12/30/2010 11:37:52 PM Terrorism & Global Financial meltdown: twin challenges before SAARC today - President

Terrorism & Global Financial meltdown: twin challenges before SAARC today - President

"We need to re-double our efforts to combat this menace individually and collectively. We cannot shy away from taking firm and forceful action to combat terrorism, including internationally..... The instability caused by [the global financial] crisis can be considered quite similar to the threat caused by terrorism to our societies and to our region. The effects of synchronised slow-down in developed economies, can reach us sooner than later. And, as the crisis deepens in the developed world, it is likely that protectionist sentiments can spread and even take root." said President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the SAARC Foreign Ministers Conference in Colombo today.

President Rajapaksa said: "Our societies bear the brunt of the evil force of terrorism. But, we cannot and should not allow even a single citizen of South Asia to suffer as a result of the brutal violence un-leashed by terrorists. Therefore, we need to re-double our efforts to combat this menace individually and collectively. We cannot shy away from taking firm and forceful action to combat terrorism, including internationally. We, among other measures, should uphold democracy, support each other's democracies and make it a vehicle towards defeating terrorism."

On the global financial melt down, President Rajapaksa said: "The depression in the commodity market is adversely affecting most of us, even negating the gains resulting from the declining oil prices. Trade flows, production lines and the service sector are suffering from the domino effect of this crisis and there are looming liquidity problems.

"Unless definite counter measures are taken, this downward spiral has the potential to adversely affect our economies and impact on the living standards of our people. While we in South Asia can take comfort that economies of our countries are so far functioning well, and financial sectors have been well-regulated and stable, we cannot take for granted that we are fully insulated from the on-going global economic crisis."

Here is the text of the President's Address:

Your Excellencies

Distinguished delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honoured to have this opportunity to speak at the inauguration of the Thirty First Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers commencing today following the Fifteenth SAARC Summit held in Colombo last year.

The presence of Ministers from all SAARC Member States and the Secretary General of SAARC on this occasion, provides us with an invaluable opportunity to review the implementation of the content of the 15th SAARC Summit Declaration and to discuss modalities for making further progress including on matters of current concern.

Excellencies,

Regional Cooperation in South Asia has matured. Our eight Member States of SAARC, as manifested at the last Summit, are fully committed to work together and are conscious of our potential, but we must stand together. We have agreed that it is time that we broad base the activities of SAARC. Therefore the Colombo Declaration was aptly titled "Partnership for Growth for Our People".

This partnership with our people must continue in such a manner that we reach out to the people in the remotest villages of our countries. There is untapped strength and vigour in the villages that can become a catalytic force for greater regional cooperation. The villages where most of our people live cannot be left behind as they have a lot more to offer to national and regional development.

At the last Summit, we focused, among others, on several key issues of importance for our region such as Energy, Environment, Water Resources, Poverty Reduction, ICT Development, Science and Technology, Tourism, Education, Women and Children, and most importantly, terrorism.

We signed the Charter of the SAARC Development Fund which is a landmark achievement to underpin our efforts towards regional development. We emphasised the importance of SAFTA and trade facilitation, as well as trade in services for greater integration of our economies. We agreed on the imperative to make steady progress on the implementation of the SAARC Social Charter to promote social well-being of our people. In all these efforts, we have highlighted the importance of connectivity at all levels, so that we can work as one SAARC family.

Excellencies,

I thank you for your efforts in implementing the content of the fifteenth Summit Declaration. And, I wish to place on record my appreciation for the special efforts taken by all of you in taking steps to accelerate the implementation of the Colombo Statement on Food Security, including making the SAARC Food Bank a reality.

I am confident that as we meet at this mid-point of Sri Lanka's chairmanship of our regional organisation, you will review and re-evaluate as to how best we could implement our agreed programme of action, in accordance with the ideals and objectives of SAARC. In this regard, let me express my profound appreciation of the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu and Secretary General, Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma for co-ordinating the efforts of all our member States, with a view to promoting greater cohesion and more meaningful regional initiatives.

Excellencies

We, in the region of South Asia, today face several common challenges. Common challenges require collective responses. Terrorism is such a challenge and it requires our immediate and united attention due to the impact it has on all of us, in one way or another.

Our societies bear the brunt of the evil force of terrorism. But, we cannot and should not allow even a single citizen of South Asia to suffer as a result of the brutal violence un-leashed by terrorists. Therefore, we need to re-double our efforts to combat this menace individually and collectively. We cannot shy away from taking firm and forceful action to combat terrorism, including internationally. We, among other measures, should uphold democracy, support each other's democracies and make it a vehicle towards defeating terrorism.

In this regard, I recognise that in the SAARC region, and in multi-lateral fora like the United Nations, we have agreed on a series of measures as to how to combat terrorism in line with accepted universal values and standards. The time has come to re-dedicate ourselves to fully implement such agreed measures. We must not hesitate to go further towards taking innovative action in combating terrorism to make our societies, our cities, and our villages safe for our people to live in. Our rich cultures cannot be allowed to be riddled by the curse of terrorism. I hope this ministerial meeting will be able to give further direction on this important current issue for people in this region.

Excellencies

Let me now address another common challenge to our region and to the world. It has now become clear that the financial melt-down that began in the sub-prime market in the US will have a profound trickle-down effect in our economies as a result of our increasing links with the global financial and economic system. Lack of confidence in the global financial system is affecting financial and non-financial institutions, both directly and indirectly. The depression in the commodity market is adversely affecting most of us, even negating the gains resulting from the declining oil prices. Trade flows, production lines and the service sector are suffering from the domino effect of this crisis and there are looming liquidity problems.

Unless definite counter measures are taken, this downward spiral has the potential to adversely affect our economies and impact on the living standards of our people. While we in South Asia can take comfort that economies of our countries are so far functioning well, and financial sectors have been well-regulated and stable, we cannot take for granted that we are fully insulated from the on-going global economic crisis.

In fact, the instability caused by this crisis can be considered quite similar to the threat caused by terrorism to our societies and to our region. The effects of synchronised slow-down in developed economies, can reach us sooner than later. And, as the crisis deepens in the developed world, it is likely that protectionist sentiments can spread and even take root.

Therefore, it is imperative that we think regionally as to how we could help each other. We need to strengthen the regional economies and consolidate our bilateral trade and our financial systems, so that as a region, we remain strong. Such an approach will not only promote the economic well-being of our people, but will also help us to bring about and sustain peace and stability in the region.

Therefore, at this point in time, we need to explore how we could provide a stable economic environment for our people in the face of this global challenge. For this purpose, I re-emphasise the importance of regional initiatives. And in this regard, I am reminded of the success in our adjacent region, East Asia, which during the East Asian financial crisis, created a network of bilateral swap arrangements and have now created a reserve fund to address liquidity problems in the region.

We should look for global solutions as well. And for this purpose, let our collective voice be heard at international financial fora, seeking positive responses from multi-lateral agencies and international financial institutions to support our efforts through special proactive initiatives, such as stand still arrangements for at least one year. Such arrangements could also be flexible enough so that at the end of one year, these could be reviewed and extended if the global financial crisis would still exist.

Our region, which is home to one fifth of the world population richly deserves such consideration by the international and multi-lateral financial institutions so that developmental initiatives towards reducing poverty and improving quality of life of our people will not have to be abruptly stopped.

Distinguished delegates

I hope you will discuss these two common challenges and concerns during your important meeting and come up with suggestions and ideas that not only we can adopt locally and regionally, but take them forward internationally as well. The outcome of your efforts will add value to your mandated tasks at the inter-sessional meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers. People in our region expect nothing less and I am sure you will answer their call.

Excellencies,

SAARC is an organization with great potential. We need to use this vehicle to collectively marshal latent forces in the region for our progress which is after all our common goal. As a region that is heir to several great civilizations that had led human social and economic advancement in the past, taking collective action for the greater good of our region is not beyond our reach. But, we have to muster the necessary political will, which I am sure is within our reach.

I wish all of you success in your deliberations and a pleasant stay in Sri Lanka.

May the Noble Triple Gem Bless you all.

Thank you.

Courtesy : www.info.gov.lk

 

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