SAARC commitment to poverty reduction
The SAARC was established with the aim of promoting the welfare of
the people of the region through accelerated economic growth, social
progress and cultural development.
It has been pursuing collaboration in the area of agriculture and
rural development, health and population activities, women, youth and
children, education and environment among others. In this way, the
objectives of the SAARC are to promote the welfare of the people of this
region through the fulfilment of the SAARC Development Goals (SDG).
SAARC leaders during their retreat in Parliament yesterday with
the Speaker. Picture by Sudath Silva
The SAARC Development Goals are clear and achievable if they are
implemented with full commitment by the member states. The South Asian
region has enormous development potential. Yet, in many ways, its
ability to address the problem of poverty has been limited.
Creating opportunities to reduce poverty is a key issue. It has been
recognised that without sustainable growth, we would be following a road
that leads to the redistribution of poverty.
Our efforts, therefore, should be aimed at broadening and deepening
the development process in ways that enlarge the basis of achieving a
high rate of economic growth with a combination of mutually reinforcing
The poor in our region not only have few income opportunities, they
also lack access to basic human needs such as education, health, clean
drinking water, sanitation and a clean environment. Limited access to
these facilities limits their ability to secure gainful employment, and
earn a respectable social status.
The problem tends to worsen when institutions of governance tend to
ignore the true dimensions of poverty, and in the process do very little
to address the issue.
The most important target of this development framework is to reduce
the percentage of the population living below the food poverty line by
one half by 2015 as set out by the Millennium Development Goals.
This can be accomplished through increased economic opportunities for
the poor, implementation of policies regarding their empowerment,
improved access to physical and social assets and social safety nets for
those who are too weak to participate in the market-based growth
The SAARC Development Goals in conjunction with the Millennium
Development Goals would support our efforts and serve as a general
backdrop for providing opportunities for poverty reduction in the
region. The SAARC Development Goals are a step in the right direction.
However, there is no massive awareness about the SDGs even among the
conscious segment of the society. The lack of awareness about regional
and global goals is also because of the failure of the policymakers and
officials to use the media as a tool.
It demands that a new approach in development be adopted.
Furthermore, a renewed commitment for a collective approach would be a
driving force for this. The leaders who have gathered in Colombo this
week should make firm commitments for the fruitful and timely
achievements of the main over-arching goal of poverty alleviation.