The Leaders of the Member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held a Video Conference on 15 March 2020 to discuss measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
H.E. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, who proposed the Video Conference, delivered the opening remarks. He called upon SAARC Leaders to work collectively to fight the spread of the pandemic in the region. He said that all Member States must prepare, act and succeed together. The Prime Minister also proposed the creation of a COVID-19 Emergency Fund with voluntary contributions from all Member States, and pledged an amount of US$ 10 million as an initial contribution from India.
All the Heads of State or Government or their representative addressed the Conference. In their remarks, the Leaders appreciated this timely initiative of the Prime Minister of India.
The Leaders shared country situations and experiences in the aftermath of the outbreak of COVID-19, as well as measures taken by them to control the spread of the virus. They recognized the unprecedented threat posed by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the urgency with which the Member States needed to work together to prevent and contain the spread of the virus. They also recognized the need to analyze and address the long-term economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
Among the proposals shared by the Leaders included continuing the consultation process through meetings at the ministerial and experts’ level; identifying the Nodal Experts to take further action on the proposals discussed during the Conference; and formulating a comprehensive regional strategy against COVID-19 through the SAARC process and other appropriate mechanisms.
The Video Conference of the SAARC Leaders was attended by H. E. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; H. E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; H. E. Dr. Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Bhutan; H. E. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India; H. E. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of the Republic of Maldives; Rt. Hon. KP Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal; H. E. Dr. Zafar Mirza, State Minister for Health of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; and H. E. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
H.E. Mr. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary General of SAARC, attended the Conference. The Conference was also attended by Mr. P. K. Taneja, Director, SAARC Disaster Management Centre (Interim Unit).