Opening Remarks by H.E. Dr. Mariyam Shakeela, Minister of Environment and Energy and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Informal Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers

(on the sidelines of the Sixty-Eighth Session of the United Nations General Assembly)

Excellencies, The Secretary General of SAARC, Hon. Foreign Ministers and distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government of Maldives, I wish to extend a very warm welcome to Your Excellencies and distinguished delegates from our neighboring countries, to this Informal Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers in New York.

As this is my first interaction with the Council as the Chair, I wish to extend my compliments on the great work done by the Council in ensuring SAARC process move ahead. Nevertheless we did face challenges since Addu Summit which I am sure we will be able to overcome with combined and committed efforts.


As per the Addu Declaration, the Maldives hosted two important Ministerial meetings: the Fourth Meeting of SAARC Health Ministers and Fifth Meeting of SAARC Interior/Home Ministers. During this year the Maldives hosted a Meeting on Women and Gender Equality in a view to establish a Regional Mechanism for Empowerment of Women and Gender Equality. Maldives also notes with appreciation the convening of the Poverty Alleviation Ministers Meeting, Finance Minister’s meeting and SAFTA Ministerial Council as well as a number of other technical level meetings of SAARC during the year. Maldives is confident that the platform provided by these meetings had enabled the technical experts from member states to deliberate on priority issues and also assisted in strengthening existing cooperation and identify areas of further cooperation.


The Maldives understands the importance of timely hosting of the Inter-Summit Session of Council of Ministers, to provide guidance and policy directives for SAARC and its mechanism following the Summit. The Maldives notes with regret that in spite of Maldives having announced eight different sets of dates, each attempt to hold the Session has failed due to conflicting commitments by Member States. As the current Chair of SAARC, Maldives wishes to host the Inter-Summit Session as early as convenient to all Member States. Hence Maldives wishes to propose 17 to 20 February next year as new dates and we hope that all Member States could extend full cooperation on convening the Session without further delay. We appreciate your continued support and cooperation in this regard.

The Maldives believes that the SAARC’s engagements with observers are eminent in order to identify areas of interest to establish mutually beneficial links and interactions between SAARC and observer States / Organisation.  For this reason during the Addu Summit Maldives proposed to host a Special Session of the Standing Committee prior to the Inter-Summit Session, to discuss comprehensive review of all matters relating to SAARC’s engagement with Observers. However due to previously mentioned reason we were unable to hold the Inter- Summit and hence the special session of the Standing Committee did not occur.


The Maldives also proposed to host 2nd South Asia Forum this year that is 2013; however unexpected delays occurred due to events such as the Presidential Election that was scheduled for this year causing the events to be postponed until 2014.  The initial plan was to host this event under public private partnership, and we still plan to do so. To facilitate that the government has organized several rounds of consultations with key stakeholders including think tanks, non-governmental, and private sector, to discuss details of this forum. We also would like to request assistance and support of Member States in our preparations and may seek potential sponsors of events during 2nd South Asia Forum.

The Maldives supports improving and intensifying intra-regional trade and economic cooperation within the SAARC region. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and to appreciate the works carried out by Member States to regulate trade activities to reflect SAFTA goals and to boost the intra-trade, economic and financial cooperation in the region. We believe that this could be achieved through full and effective implementation of SAFTA by all Member States. Furthermore, Maldives reiterates its willingness to host the Twelfth SAARC trade and Travel Fair in the near future.

In conclusion, let me express my appreciation to our Leaders for their enduring efforts supporting and leading democratic systems of governance and progress through protection of sovereignty and self-respect. I believe that through SAARC mechanisms and its coordinated efforts, the region and its people can achieve and secure a prosperous future.

Thank you.