26th Meeting of ECO Regional Planning Council (RPC) held in Tehran-Iran, December 13-17, 2015

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The 26th Meeting of the Regional Planning Council (RPC) of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was held on 13–17 December, 2015 at the ECO Secretariat, Tehran. After the Opening and Plenary sessions, the Sectoral Committee meetings were also held and their outcomes converged in the Closing Plenary on 17 December; wherein, the final RPC report was presented and adopted with consensus.

The Meeting was attended by the delegations of all the 10 Member States, the Observers; the Turkish Cypriot State and the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States; as well as by the ECO Specialized Agencies, Regional Institutions and Affiliated Bodies.

The ECO Secretary General H.E. Ambassador Halil Ibrahim Akça, in his opening remarks, welcomed the visiting delegations to the 26th RPC Meeting and presented a comprehensive overview of the main activities of the Organization during 2015. He said that RPC is a forum and a decision making body, where the Organization finds out its main directions. The Secretary General highlighted major achievements and progress made in various key areas, including trade, investment, transport, communications, energy, environment, agricultural, industry, tourism, economic research, statistics, human development, disaster risk reduction, against the spread of drugs and organized crimes, and the international relations. He impressed upon the Member States to put ECOTA on fast-track and complete its procedural requirements without further delay. The Secretary General mentioned the need in the field of trade and investment for expeditious signing and ratification of already development agreements as the challenges need special consideration of the Member States to translate the efforts into socio-economic sustainable development for the betterment of the people of the region. He requested the Member States to play a proactive role to host the ECO meetings/events in their countries. He also emphasized the importance of the 26th RPC Meeting keeping in view the implementation of the EPG recommendations and the need to formulate a new ECO Vision for the upcoming decade.  He said that the Secretariat has initiated preparation of a roster list of the experts and training facilities available with the ECO Region for capacity building and training of the officials on issues related to drugs and organized crimes. The Secretary General urged the ECO Member States to actively participate in the ECO meetings.

The Meeting was inaugurated by His Excellency Dr. Seyed Abbas ARAGHCHI, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In his inaugural address he on his behalf and also on behalf of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran warmly welcomed the distinguished delegates of the ECO Member States. He said that the ECO has achieved many important milestones in its work for regional development through common efforts, building on the Member States’ close cultural ties, shared historical past and joint plans for the future.  

With this the opening sessions ended; in the subsequent Plenary Session, the heads of delegations of member counties shared their statements/progress on behalf of their countries on the decisions taken in last RPC Meeting. The heads of Observers and specialized agencies' delegations also made their statements.

The President ECOSF Prof. Dr. Manzoor H. Soomro made statement on behalf of Foundation. In his statement, he thanked the ECO Secretariat for organizing the meeting amicably and shared the progress on activities/achievements of the Foundation carried out throughout the year of 2015. Prof. Soomro in his statement urged the member states to fully support ECOSF so that the objectives of the Foundation can be achieved through its various scientific activities. President ECOSF expressed deep gratitude to all the Member States and ECO Secretariat for their continuous support to the Foundation and special thanks to the Government of Pakistan for patronizing ECOSF through its Ministries of Science & Technology and Foreign Affairs. President ECOSF also appreciated the Government of Pakistan – Ministry of Science and Technology for official allocation of a rent-free Office Space to the Foundation in its newly constructed building.

Prof. Soomro urged the concerned member states to ratify the ECOSF charter so as to benefit from its programs and let the Foundation function at its fullest strength. He also mentioned in his statement that ECOSF is cognizant of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and all ECOSF current and future programmes have been tuned to SDGs. He further mentioned that ECOSF would be pleased to assist member states in pursuing their SDGs particularly of S&T research, Education, Gender and Environment. In this regard, the Foundation has submitted its recommendations to the ECO Secretariat for developing the ECO Vision for next decade.

The President ECOSF reported in the statement that ECOSF initiated the first scientific research collaboration agreed upon between two ECO member states; Pakistan and Tajikistan. It is among the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) of the University of Karachi- Pakistan and the Academy of Sciences of Republic of Tajikistan through its Institute of Chemistry and Botany. The collaboration was coordinated and co-sponsored by ECOSF and the institutes have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for joint research projects as well as exchange of scientists and students among them under the auspices and patronage of ECO Science Foundation. The ICCBS has offered 10 fellowships/scholarships (local hospitality only) to Tajikistan under the MoU. Similar interactions are being promoted among other member states as well and the Foundation would welcome proposals.

The meeting was informed that ECOSF has developed good interaction with numerous international science and technology organizations and Donors including UNESCO, International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre (ISTIC), Kuala Lumpur- Malaysia, the La main a la pate Foundation of France, the European Union, ISESCO, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), COMSATS, EvK2CNR Foundation of Italy, Science Education Programme (SEP) of Inter-Academy Panel (IAP), ISTC Astana- Kazakhstan as well as many Pakistani institutions and has received in-kind technical support from them for programs of the Foundation.

The President ECOSF updated the meeting that with the support of Foundation’s international collaborators, a very successful International Capacity Building workshop on "Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE)" was jointly organized by ECOSF and the Committee of Science under the Ministry of Education and Science, Government of Republic of Kazakhstan on 22-25 June, 2015 at Astana-Kazakhstan. Follow-up activities of this initiative are planned in Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. The activities carried out during the year were also briefly described in the statement.

During the five-day RPC meeting, various Sectoral Committees were formulated on  trade, investment, transport, communications, energy, environment, agricultural, industry, tourism,  economic research, statistics, human development, disaster risk reduction , drugs and organized crimes and the international relations. The Sectoral Committees thoroughly discussed the ongoing programmes and projects as well as the areas of future cooperation, including those reflected in the Working Papers prepared by the ECO Secretariat and proposed the sectoral Annual Work Programme/Calendar of Events to the RPC Plenary Session for approval. The Council noted, with appreciation, the work of the Sectoral Committees as well as the ECO Secretariat for the proposed ECO Work Programmes and Calendar of Events for 2016-2017.

Two separate sessions on ECO Specialized Agencies/Regional Institutions/Affiliated Bodies including ECOSF were also held during the meeting, wherein, the progress/achievements of the agencies/institutions were discussed in detail. The Council appreciated the activities and initiatives of the Foundation for developing and promoting cooperation among the Member States in the field of science and technology and for the promotion of scientific research in the Region.

An exclusive brainstorming session on ECO Vision – 2025 was arranged by ECO Secretariat on 15 December 2015. The session was attended by the Ambassadors, Head of Delegations and Experts of ECO region and all participants of the session were invited to present their ideas. On behalf of ECOSF, the President joined the session and actively contributed, with emphasis on UN SDGs and Cooperation & Collaboration" among the organizations and institutions. Finally, a variety of ideas were collected and qualitative ideas were picked up which will be used for ECO Vision – 2025.

At the end of the RPC meeting, on behalf of all the participating delegation, the Council expressed its appreciation and thanks to the ECO Secretariat for making excellent arrangements for this important meeting. The Council concluded with a vote of thanks to the Chair for conducting the deliberations of the meeting in a smooth and efficient manner. The Council also thanked the Chairmen of various Sectoral Committees for successfully conducting the business of their respective Committees.  It also appreciated the efforts made by the Secretary General and his staff for preparing comprehensive Working Papers and other documents for the Council. The Council decided to organize the next 27th RPC Meeting in early December 2016.

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