The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the formal adoption of SAARC by the Heads of State or Government of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka on December 8, 1985. SAARC provides a platform for the peoples of South Asia to co-operate and work together in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding. It aims to accelerate the process of economic and social development. Afghanistan joined in 2007 as the eighth Member of SAARC. H.E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial assumed his duties as the 13th Secretary General of SAARC on 01 March 2017, upon completion of term of Mr. Mr. Arjun Bahadhur Thapa on 28 February 2017.
SAARC Regional Centres are established in Member States to promote regional cooperation in different areas assigned to them. Each Centre is managed by a Governing Board, which comprises representatives of Member States, SAARC Secretary General and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the host country. SAARC had 11 regional Centres operating from different Member States of SAARC, acting as implementation arms of SAARC. As mandated by the 40th Session of the Standing Committee, the 46th Session of the Programming Committee held from 29-30 August 2014, recommended closure of SHRDC, SIC and SDC and the transfer of the relevant mandates to the SAARC Secretariat and other SAARC mechanisms. The Committee also recommended the merger of SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre (SCZMC), SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), SAARC Forestry Centre (SFC) and SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC) as ‘SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre’ (SEDMC) and agreed on the draft mandate and functional modalities of the new Center. Currently there are 4 Regional Centres and they are;
- SAARC Agriculture Centre (Dhaka, 1988)
- SAARC Tuberculosis & HIV/AIDS Centre (Kathmandu, 1994)
- SAARC Energy Centre (Islamabad, 2006)
- SAARC Cultural Centre (Colombo, 2009)
There are nine observers namely Australia, China, European Union, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar and United States of America. SAARC’s engagement with its Observers is governed by the Guidelines for Cooperation with Observers adopted by the Fifteenth SAARC Summit (Colombo, 2-3 August 2008). The Eighteenth SAARC Summit (Kathmandu, 26-27 November 2014) has decided to engage the SAARC Observers in productive, demand-driven and objective project-based cooperation in seven priority areas:
(i) Communication; (ii) Connectivity; (iii) Agriculture; (iv) Public Health; (v) Energy; (vi) Environment; and (vii) Economic Cooperation.
SAARC Division of the Ministry is responsible for coordinating implementation of SAARC activities in Maldives and formulating national policies related to SAARC. The most important responsibility of SAARC Division is to coordinate and liaise with various government agencies regarding preparations and follow-ups of SAARC Meetings particularly Council of Ministers Meetings including its informal sessions, Standing Committee Meetings including its special sessions, Programming Committee meetings and Sectoral Meetings.
SAARC Division also liaise with the President’s Office to prepare for Summit meetings, including logistical arrangements and preparation of briefing and research papers and act as an intermediate between the SAARC Secretariat and line Ministries to coordinate Maldives participation in SAARC activities held in SAARC Member States.
Furthermore, the Division coordinate SAARC meetings and major SAARC events held in Maldives and follow-up on the progress in implementation of decisions of various SAARC Summits and high level meetings.