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Sixth South Asia Economic Summit

The 6th South Asia Economic Summit (SAES) was held in Colombo on 2–4 September 2013. The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) was the main organizer of the 6th SAES and SAWTEE was a core partner. Dr Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman; Mr Puspa Sharma, Research Director; and Mr Kamalesh Adhikari, Director (on study leave) and currently a Phd scholar at the Australian National University, represented SAWTEE at the 6th SAES.

The theme of the 6th SAES was “Towards a Stronger, Dynamic and Inclusive South Asia”. Overall, the Summit discussed the needs of South Asian nations to strengthen their economic growth prospects while managing risks and challenges in building a stronger region. The main issues that were discussed at the 6th SAES were under four broad themes: Harnessing Human Capital Potential; Managing Climate Change, Water Resources and Food Security; Addressing Intra-country Growth Disparities; and Building Competitiveness of the Private Sector. 

SAWTEE prepared the theme paper on “Managing Climate Change, Water Resources and Food Security in South Asia”. Presenting the theme paper in one of the plenary sessions, Dr Pandey said that South Asia is highly vulnerable to climate change. Its impact on water and food security will affect the socio-economic condition of the region, and its impact will be felt more by low-income and rural population. Therefore, there is a need to take initiatives at the national level by all South Asian countries to address climate change. However, recognizing the transboundary nature of climate effects and river systems, national level initiatives should be complemented by regional actions.

Dr Pandey was also a panelist in the parallel session “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend”. Putting forth his views, he argued that South Asia needs a new policy direction to capture the benefits of demographic dividend. He emphasized the need to break the low growth trap, create more and better jobs, increase investments in education and health and empower women, reduce gender disparities, and increase female employment. He cautioned that if South Asian countries fail to take the right policy at the right time, there is increasing risk of turning the “demographic dividend” into a “demographic debt”.

Mr Sharma was a panelist in the plenary session “Road to Bali: South Asian Position for the Ninth WTO Ministerial”. He suggested that South Asian governments should meet before the Ninth WTO Ministerial and prepare collective negotiating agenda for the Ministerial on issues of common interest to all the countries. They could take cues for the common issues that they need to take to the negotiating tables collectively from the resolution that was adopted at the regional consultation that SAWTEE, in collaboration with IPS, UNESCAP, Oxfam and the Commonwealth Secretariat, had organized in Marawila, Sri Lanka, on 2-3 July 2013. He also suggested that if a comprehensive outcome will not be possible at Bali, South Asian countries should collectively agree and assert for an LDC package, as that, among other things, will help save the Doha Round, which is essential to safeguard South Asian countries’ interests in global trade.Mr Sharma also spoke as a panelist in the parallel session “Towards a Green Growth Path”, of which SAWTEE was the session partner. He said that in the contemporary global discourse on green economy, South Asian countries should understand what this entails and how they can grow by following a green path. He also presented the outcomes and the identified research agendas of the regional discussion programme on green economy that SAWTEE, in collaboration with IDRC, Canada, had organized in Kathmandu on 23-24 June 2013. 

Mr Adhikari was invited as a panelist in the parallel session “Meeting the Food Security Challenge”. He emphasized that the region should focus not only on the liberalization of trade in food items but also on seeds. He explained how the SAARC Seed Bank Agreement has failed to create linkages with community seed banks, mainly in relation to their efforts to conserve and sustainably use local and indigenous seeds and knowledge. He said, “SAARC needs to develop common strategies to promote agriculture research, breeding, exchange and use of seeds, and protect farmers’ rights as these are vital for the region’s food and seed security and enhanced climate change adaptation.” He also highlighted that SAARC governments should work towards developing a Regional Commons Management Strategy, mainly focusing on transboundary and common nature of resources such as water and genetic resources.

Further details of the 6th SAES are available at www.ips.lk/saes2013/