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13th Summit and 22ndCouncil of Ministers (COM) Meeting of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Islamabad-Pakistan, February 26-28, 2017

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The 13th ECO Summit was held on 1 March 2017 in Islamabad, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Heads of State and Government and high level officials from the 10 ECO Member States and Specialized Agencies attended the Meeting hosted and chaired by H.E. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  High level officials and representatives from the ECO observers as well as regional and international organizations, government of China and United Nations also attended the Event. ECO Science Foundation (ECOSF) was represented by Prof. Dr. Manzoor H. Soomro, President ECOSF. The leadership of ECO Region reiterated their political will and strong commitment for realizing the aims and objectives of the Organization for economic development, common prosperity, regional integration and peace and stability in the ECO Region.

The 22ndMeeting of the Council of Ministers (COM) of ECO was held in Islamabad, Islamic Republic of Pakistan on 28 February 2017. It was preceded by the Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) on 26-27 February 2017. The meeting was attended by the delegations of all the member states, viz., the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Turkey, Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan. The delegations from specialized agencies and institutions also attended both the meetings.

A three member delegation from ECOSF led by the President ECOSF Prof. Dr. Manzoor H. Soomro participated in the meetings.

In his inaugural remarks during the SOM, the Secretary General ECO Ambassador Halil Ibrahim Akca thanked the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for making the excellent arrangements for the 22nd COM and 13th Summit. He also welcomed and appreciated the delegates from Member States and ECO institutions for attending the Meetings.

Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Foreign Secretary of Government of Pakistan who was elected as Chairman of SOM, welcomed the delegates from ECO Member States to Islamic Republic of Pakistan and wished them a pleasant stay in Islamabad. Acknowledging the valuable contributions by the ECO Member States and Institutions, he underlined Pakistan’s support to ECO’s objectives in the areas of regional free trade, connectivity and energy market. He also said that there is strong need for creation of a world class logistics infrastructure within the ECO Region for speedy movement of goods and people at a reduced cost that stimulate investment and growth and highlighted that potential of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a major initiative which would serve for socio-economic development in the ECO Region. He hoped that the ECO Vision-2025 will define the roadmap for the ECO activities and agendas.

The COM was opened by the outgoing Chairman of the COM Meeting H.E. Mr. Jawad Zarif, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran with his welcoming remarks.

H.E. Mr. Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs of Pakistan was unanimously elected as the new Chairman of the COM. After assuming the Charge as Chairman, H.E. Mr. Sartaj Aziz thanked the Members of the Council for reposing confidence in him and outlined his vision for further enhancing economic cooperation in the region. He reiterated that Pakistan will continue to provide support to the projects, enhanced trade and investment opportunities, regional connectivity and infrastructure development, regional energy markets, oil and gas pipelines and trans-regional socio-economic development projects which will act as catalyst for transforming ECO into a prosperous trading bloc that stimulates and promotes industrial growth to promote free trade through operationalization of ECOTA within the region and becomes a factor of global peace, stability and prosperity. He further stressed the need for taking collective and coherent steps to give priority to certain areas of cooperation of the Organization for effective implementation of ECO Vision-2025 to make ECO more effective, dynamic and vibrant.

The ECOSF statement was presented by the President Prof. Manzoor Soomro. He expressed his gratitude to all the member states and ECO Secretariat for their continuous support to the Foundation. In his statement, he especially mentioned the gratefulness to the Government of Pakistan for patronizing the ECOSF through the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Science & Technology, and Pakistan Science Foundation. In his statement, he reported that since the 21st COM Meeting, the 2nd and 3rd Meetings of Board of Trustees of ECOSF were held on 11 August 2015 and 18 August 2016 respectively in Islamabad. Both the meetings were co-sponsored and hosted by the Government of Pakistan. During the meetings, the Financial Regulations of ECOSF and the Priority Research Areas for funding by the Foundation were approved by the Board. The approved Priority Research Areas are: Energy, Water, Food Security and Health with some overarching areas including Climate Change, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and Migration. Subsequently the Foundation has formally launched the program by inviting the concept proposals and last date for submission is 31st March 2017. National Science Funding Agencies can also join hands by synergizing their programmes with ECOSF for joint funding.

He further said that the Government of Pakistan has been transferring budgetary contributions since 2012 to the Foundation and Iran has paid for 2012 and partially for 2013 and requested member countries to pay budgetary contribution regularly so that the Foundation can perform at its fullest possible manner. President ECOSF urged the non-ratifying member states to ratify the ECOSF Charter and its Additional Protocol so that the Foundation functions at full strength and the members can benefit from its programs.To pursue common goals, ECOSF has developed good collaboration with numerous International Organizations including; UNESCO, ISTIC, KISTIP, FEIAP, TWESCO, LAMAP France and IAP, he said.

Dr. Soomro shared with august forum that the Foundation has launched a program of youth engagement and connectivity called “AppIdea2R” (Application Idea to Reality) which aims to develop software applications, broadly available to the public and related to one or more of the SDGs. The AppIdea2R Contest is an open opportunity for university students all over ECO Member States. Better engineering qualification standards in ECO region are also being upgraded as per FEIAP standards. For the STEM education, an Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE) programme was initiated in 2015 in the region from Astana, Kazakhstan and has successfully been continued in other member countries.

A range of main scientific activities performed by the Foundation since 21st COM was also shared with Forum.

At the end, President ECOSF also requested the august Forum to emphasize upon the member states for the following actions to be taken by them in order to smoothly run the business of the Foundation for the betterment of the ECO region:

  1. Nominations of most relevant and active Focal Points and Members of Executive Committee and Board of Trustees;
  2. Regular Payment of mandatory budget contributions;
  3. Payment of voluntary contributions to “ECOSF S&T Fund” by all ECO member states;
  4. Ratification of ECOSF Charter by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan; 

After the untiring efforts and hard work, the recommendations based on views/comments of representative from Member States and Islamabad Communiqué were prepared by the Senior Officials for the approval of COM Meeting and the Summit.

On 28 February 2017, 22nd Meeting of COM was held and the recommendations prepared by the Senior Officials of all ECO Member States along with Islamabad Communiqué were approved to be implemented.

A dinner was also hosted by the new Chairman of COM in the honour of the honourable delegates/participants on 28 February 2017. A cultural show representing Pakistani Culture and music was also arranged for the guests at Pakistan National Council of Art which was amazing and well appreciated by the foreign guests.

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