Foreign Relations | Speeches

Commitment to Strengthening SAARC

17th Anniversary of the Signing of the Charter of SAARC

Colombo, Sri Lanka

December 8, 2002

It gives me great pleasure to send this message on the happy occasion of SAARC Charter Day, which falls on December 8th.

Seventeen years ago on 8th December 1985, the Heads of State of the Seven South Asian Countries signed a Charter to establish the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), to promote peace, stability, amity and progress in the region through regional cooperation. The past seventeen years have witnessed the steady growth of SAARC from an organization which focused on technical issues into one that is now negotiating a South Asian Free Trade Area. Member States have recognized that the alleviation of poverty, a subject brought to regional attention by Sri Lanka over a decade ago, remains the overarching goal of SAARC, for which sustained collective action is required. In this connection, Sri Lanka will host the third tier of regional consultations on poverty alleviation next year.

The Member States of SAARC took a decision at the 11th SAARC Summit, in Kathmandu, to redouble efforts, collectively as well as individually, to prevent and suppress terrorism, Sri Lanka will continue its leadership role on this issue by hosting a meeting of Senior Officials and Legal Experts to prepare an additional Protocol to the SAARC Regional Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, in 2003.

Member States are in the process of drafting a SAARC Social Charter, I am pleased to note that Sri Lanka's national consultations were recently concluded in on inclusive participatory process. A number of SAARC Regional Centres have been established and are furthering regional cooperation in key areas. The South Asia Cultural Centre will be established in Sri Lanka, in the near future.

Sri Lanka is deeply committed to the development and strengthening of the SAARC Process. I look forward to the next SAARC Summit in Islamabad to focus on Additional measures to give a strong impetus to regional cooperation, for the benefit of all the countries and peoples of South Asia.
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga