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Greater coordination of Saarc states in 3 areas stressed

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Staff Reporter
Speakers at a conference in Kathmandu on Tuesday urged leaders of the South Asian countries to reaffirm their commitments and pledges at the upcoming 18th SAARC summit, for a coordinated regional response to meet the interdependent challenges of climate change, disasters and food insecurity.
They said a coordinated regional response is a must to meet the challenges of climate change, disasters and food insecurity. Any delay in implementing the SAARC agreements would fail millions of South Asians to survive through hazardous impacts of climate change.
They were speaking at the concluding day of a two-day Regional Policy Forum on Disasters, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security jointly organized by Oxfam and its partners in Katmandu, according to a message received here.
Parliamentarians, civil society leaders, academia and government officials from four South Asian countries -- Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- attended the Forum.
SAARC has already signed an agreement to establish SAARC Food Bank and Seed Bank in 2004, the Thimpu Statement on Climate Change in 2010, Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, and the SAARC Comprehensive Framework on Disaster Management in 2011.
However there is still the need to implement them and making them legally binding.
The speakers shared best practices from respective countries but were of the view that coordination at regional level is somehow weak. Without binding commitments and formal reporting requirements, the implementation record has been poor.
Oxfam Deputy Regional Director Lillian Mercado said there are enough treaties and agreements in place - it is now time to implement them.
Executive Director of Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) Dr Atiq Rahman referred to climate change as one of the greatest threats to human rights and termed it an issue of “climate justice”.
In the face of growing climate and disaster risk, political buy-in and appropriate budget allocations are essential for effective implementation of policies and legislation, he added.
Chair of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal Subhash Chandra Nembang said: “We need to change our behaviors. Let’s not get to the point of no return”.
Deputy Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament Advocate Fazle Rabbi Mia also made a commitment to raise awareness amongst fellow parliamentarians and other government officials to prioritize regional cooperation on these issues.
Disaster Management
The speakers recommended prioritizing information sharing on expected rains and water flows ahead of floods and develop gender sensitive disaster risk reduction plans at community level and strengthening the SAARC Secretariat and Disaster Management Center to improve collaboration with policy research institutions.
The government should form special parliamentary committees on disaster management and climate change adaptation responsible for oversight of disaster management authorities. The parliamentary committees of all SAARC member states should establish regular coordination mechanisms.
The SAARC countries must integrate DRR-CCA through sectoral development plans at national, district and local levels - such as Agriculture and Food Security, Education, Health, Urban Planning and Environment, Water and Sanitation, the speakers observed.
Climate Change
The conference suggested reinvigorating the Inter-Governmental Expert Group on Climate Change established under the Thimphu Statement to develop clear policy direction and guidance for regional cooperation and prioritizing the development of hydropower potential and reducing carbon-fuel dependency for energy generation.
It says the SAARC should jointly push rich countries for increasing their contribution to the Green Climate Fund so that South Asia can benefit to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Regional Food Security
The discussants said making the SAARC Food and Seed Banks operational should be made a priority by simplifying triggers and procedures for access and removing barriers to their use. The capacity of the SAARC Agriculture Center must be enhanced to support regional agricultural collaboration and research and development.
Mechanisms should be institutionalized to include the concerns of small-holder farmers, particularly women farmers, in the operations of the SAARC Seed and Food Banks, they said.