ECO Regional Planning Council (22nd RPC) Opens in Tehran
(09-11 July, 2012,Tehran, Iran)
by H.E. Mr. M. Yahya Maroofi, the ECO Secretary General on the Occasion of 22nd Meeting of the ECO Regional Planning Council (RPC)
(Tehran, July 9-12, 2012)
Your Excellency Mr. Mohammad Akhondzadeh, Deputy Minister for Legal and International Affairs of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran and Chairman
Your Excellency the Director of the Strategic Planning and Economic Development Institute
Distinguished Heads of ECO Delegations
Heads of ECO Specialized Agencies/Regional Institutions
Ladies & Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to extend very warm welcome to the distinguished delegates for the 22nd session of the ECO Regional Planning Council being held in this beautiful city of Tehran. I would also like to thank the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for their generous hospitality and impeccable arrangements made for the event.
Sound planning is the basis of success and the way to realization of our noble objectives. In this regard, the RPC Meetings hold extraordinary significance. RPC, while considering our prior performance, sets goals and provide strategies, fresh guidance and dynamism.
In fact, a successful plan needs clear cut targets and commitments. As Peter Drucker said “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate (or evolve) into hard work.” Therefore, our humble request from the distinguished audience is that lets work together with more dedication to realize our plans for the welfare of our people. We have to work harder. As commanded in the Holy Quran by meaning “And there is nothing for men except what he strives for.”
A detailed Working Paper covering all aspects of ECO’s progress has already been circulated. You will find the details of developments and our achievements during the last year in the full text of my statement. Here, I would like to briefly summarize the most important key developments.
ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA) which envisages 8 years trade liberalization programme is now in the implementation phase. As we all know, its full scale implementation would help enhancing intra regional trade, reaching economies of scale and improving competition in the region and constitute a major step forward towards establishing a Free Trade Area in the region by the year 2015 as envisaged by ECO Vision 2015.
But unfortunately in the implementation of ECOTA, we are facing various impediments due to discrepancies in stances vis a vis the agreement and substantial level of differences in trade regimes. In line with the directives of our presidents and ministers we have to overcome these difficulties. If we can not realize concessional trade in our region, our targets for regional integration and deeper cooperation would remain an unfulfilled dream. As a humble contribution to the process, we have established ECOTA Implementation Fund last year through which we will organize the meetings of the Cooperation Council regularly and extend technical assistance to the contracting parties wherever needed. We will organize the 3rd Meeting of ECOTA Cooperation Council soon in Ankara, Turkey. We are optimistic that in this meeting we can reach substantial progress in this most important agreement of ECO. We would like to request your kind assistance and guidance for expediting the full-fledged implementation of ECOTA to constitute a major development in the history of ECO.
ECO Trade and Development Bank (ECO-TDB), as a major achievement of ECO, continues its operations with a paid-in capital of more than 450 million US$. I. R. of Afghanistan has signed the Articles of Agreement on March 12, 2012 to join the Bank. Republic of Azerbaijan will also sign it soon. The completion of the process for full membership of Afghanistan and Azerbaijan before the 12th ECO Summit to be held in Azerbaijan will constitute a concrete progress to be reported to our Presidents and Ministers. With these new memberships, the Bank will further expand its outreach and financing capacity. Moreover, we are of the opinion that we have to augment the resource base of the Bank through increasing its paid-up capital to have a broader regional impact.
In the field of agriculture, there are concrete developments in the implementation of ECO Regional Programme for Food Security (ECO-RPFS). ECO/FAO-SEC Project on Seed Sector Development in the region within the scope of FAO-Turkey Partnership Programme (FTPP) with an amount of 400.000 USD was signed in January 2012 by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock of the Republic of Turkey, ECO and FAO-SEC in Istanbul, Turkey is expected to be launched soon. In the meantime, studies and preparations for operationalization of ECO Veterinary Commission (ECO-VECO), the Regional Coordination Centre (RCC) on the implementation of the ECO-RPFS and ECO Regional Center for Risk Management of Natural Disasters (ECO-RCRM are at the final stages.
In the field of industry, establishment of ECO Regional Institute for Standardization, Conformity Assessment and Metrology (RISCAM) would constitute a concrete step towards enhancing cooperation in the field of standardization and accreditation. Seizing this opportunity, I would like to request all Member States to join to this new affiliated body of ECO by signing /ratifying its Statute.
With its natural beauties, rich history and culture, ECO region offers a tremendous potential in the field of tourism. To give momentum to this important sector, we would like to organize the 3rd Ministerial Meeting on tourism in the current year, operationalize the “ECO Promotion Fund”, organize the 2nd Youth Ministerial Meeting and conduct various cultural events and sports tournaments in cooperation with ECO Cultural Institute.
It is a matter of great satisfaction for ECO that finally, after an inordinate delay of more than a decade, the two core specialized agencies, ECO Science Foundation in Islamabad and ECO Educational Institute in Ankara have become operational in December, 2011 and April, 2012 respectively. 1st BOT of the ECO College of Insurance was also held last week in Tehran.
In the recent years, external relations of ECO have witnessed significant progress as efforts continued to consolidate and expand further close cooperative relations with the UN system and other regional and international organizations. The United Nations remained ECO’s key partner. A new Memorandum of Understanding was inked with the Developing-8 Organization in October, 2011 with the approval of the CPR.
Pursuant to the directive of the last RPC, the Secretariat initiated action to organize the 12th ASEAN-ECO Joint Ministerial Meeting in New York after a gap of five years which was consequently held successfully and took a number of important decisions. The two Organizations are set to hold their 12th joint ministerial session in Baku on the sidelines of the forthcoming ECO Summit this year. Cooperation with UNESCAP has also witnessed further growth. Moreover, in line with the recommendation of the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Enhancing ECO’s External Relations, the Contact Groups in Vienna, Rome and New York have been activated successfully.
In the field of Transport, tangible progress has been made in most of the activities recommended by the 21st RPC. The Demonstration Run of Bandar Abass-Almaty Container Train was successfully launched on 17 October 2011 from Bandar Abbas on the sidelines of the ECO/UNCTAD/UNECE/IRU international conference on logistic and transit transport. The return run of train is being organized for June 2012. The ECO Container Train on Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul Route has continued its regular operation and High Level Working Group Meeting of enroute countries have been organized regularly to consider the smooth movement of train.
The Secretariat is in contact with the Member States to expedite the construction of other railway projects, namely a) Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran and b) Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran routes. Comprehensive investment plan for development of the ECO Railway network has been prepared by the Secretariat, which will be considered by 11th Meeting of Heads of ECO Railway Authorities on 27-28 June 2012 in Istanbul.
The road, rail and insurance component of the ECO/IDB Joint Project on TTFA are being finalized and their final report will be published shortly. As per recommendation of 21 RPC for outsourcing the Custom Transit Trade related provisions of the TTFA to UNCTAD, the final draft of the joint project has been prepared and the study is due to start on July 2012.
The 5th Transit Transport Coordination Council (TTCC) and its auxiliary technical committees, Road, Railway, Insurance and Transit Trade on 17-20 April 2012 in Islamabad took concrete measures to assure implementation of the provisions of TTFA.
ECO project for monitoring of regular run of trucks in partnership with IRU was launched on the sidelines of the 8th Meeting of the ECO Ministers of Transport, which was held on 29th June 2011 in Ashgabat. The final report of the project will be published soon.
In 2012, the Secretariat in cooperation with the Member States initiated an operational project to develop two road transport corridors between Iran-Afghanistan-Tajikistan-the Kyrgyz Republic and Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul. The Meetings of enroute countries on February 2012in Heart and on April 2012 in Islamabad have adopted time-bound action plans for establishment of the corridors.
The ECO unified visa Sticker for drivers has been prepared and is due to be considered by the Senior Consular Officials meeting to be held soon.
Subsequent to the first ECO\IRU Regional Conference on TIR Convention on May 2011, in Istanbul concrete measures were adopted to enhance the implementation of the TIR Convention in the ECO region, with an emphasis on Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the same context, on 23 February 2012, for the first time in the history of Afghanistan, a test run of two Afghan trucks under the coverage of the TIR was launched to Iran on the sidelines of the ECO/IRU meeting on TIR in Herat. We are now planning to conduct more test runs for Afghan trucks with involvement of Iran, Turkey and other ECO Member States. A pilot project has also been approved to prepare Pakistan for accession to the TIR. These and other issues related to transit by road and TIR have further been discussed during the 2nd ECO/IRU Conference held on 29-30 June 2012 in Istanbul.
We are following up an action plan for implementation of ECO White Card (Motor Vehicle Third Party Liability insurance), which was approved in recent Insurance Committee in Islamabad, with emphasis on the already established ECO Road Corridors.
The statute of the ECO Logistic Provider Associations Federation (ECOLPAF) was finalized by the third preparatory Meeting of ECOLPAF in Tehran in November 2011 and the Federation will be established after holding of its General Assembly of ECOLPAF by Pakistan in 2012, as main step to enhance public-private partnerships in the development of transport in the ECO region.
The ECO online money order system through Postal Services has also been developed. To this effect, Azerbaijan, Iran, the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkey have already agreed to join the system. Other member states are considering to join the system in due course. Tangible progress is expected in this regard before the 14th Meeting of Heads of Telecommunications Authorities and 6th Meeting of ECO Postal Authorities scheduled for September 2012 in Tehran.
Energy is a lifeline in the development of any country, therefore to enhance cooperation in Energy and Petroleum; we have conducted number of workshops and training courses to share the experience to build the capacity of the relevant institutes of the Member States.
We have also arranged Workshop on "Clean Coal Technology" on 8-10 December, 2011 in Antalya hosted by the Turkey Coal Enterprises of the Republic of Turkey in collaboration with TIKA and ECO Secretariat.
Also the Islamic Republic of Iran has established "Oil and Gas Training Centre for ECO" for holding specialized training courses in the fields of Oil, Gas and Petrochemistry. It is expected that the Islamic Republic of Iran will approach the Secretariat with the details of the activities of the Center and propose training courses.
All Member States are kindly requested to update their National Focal Points on Energy in order to speed up and facilitate communication between ECO Secretariat and concerned Ministry of the Member States.
Our endeavours to develop potentials in the field of Geology, Mineral and Geometric Engineering shall continue. We have planned some events during this year. Your participation in these events will facilitate to achieve the desired objectives.
The campaign against drugs, terrorism and trans-national organized crime are among ECO priority. We have a clear set agenda of support for coordinated efforts to eradicate these forces and reducing their negative effects on the development of regional economies by means of implementing a joint regional strategy on combating drugs, terrorism and trans-national organized crime. In this regard, a series of meetings have also been organized so far by ECO to create awareness and establishing cooperative mechanism among the Member States on peace, security and stability of our people’s life.
We are also moving in a cohesive manner towards the implementation of a project titled “Fight Against Trafficking from/to Afghanistan with the ECO Member States”. This project is being implemented by a consortium of German International Cooperation Agency, Interpol, UNODC, German Federal Criminal Police and in coordination with the ECO-Drug and Organized Crime Coordination Unit. Efforts are also underway to establish the ECOPOL for coordination against transnational crime through intelligence sharing, harmonization of policies and operations as also a Regional Center for Cooperation among the Anti Corruption Agencies and Ombudsmen of the ECO Member States.
In the health sector, we have a great potential to expand cooperation among the Member States. The 1st ECO Health Ministers Meeting held in Baku, Azerbaijan has outlined ways towards cooperation in the health sector and I do hope that the 2nd Ministerial Meeting, scheduled for October 2013/2014 in Kazakhstan, would further strengthen cooperation among the Member States in this field. It is worthy to mention that we are also working on establishing ECO Blood Safety Network and Drug Regulatory Network. Cooperation in the field of health related Millennium Development Goals is also among our priorities in the health sector.
Human Resource is the most important and vital factor of Economic Development and the leverage point where we can make significant differences in our lives, careers, and organizations. To develop the cooperation in this specific field, High Level Expert Group Meeting on Human Resource Development held on 21-22 November 2011 in Tehran which resulted to identify the priority areas for cooperation in this filed and planning to organize the First ECO Ministerial Meeting on this topic in November 2012.
The issue of natural Disaster has become more relevant to the ECO region than any other. Most countries in the ECO region are highly vulnerable to disasters, which accentuates the need of effective practical measures at the regional level.
The role of statistics and economic research is crucial for policy making in the Organization. Forecasts and economic and statistical data are central for all calculations, measurements and defining future trends in the development of the Organization. Similarly, monitoring of development activities, including projects and programmes is indispensable to ensure development effectiveness and compliance with policies and economic governance.
To facilitate project implementation in ECO, the Project Monitoring Group (PMG) was established in December 2010 at Secretariat. Its main objective is to ensure effective inter-agency coordination between ECO and its project partners. The PMG is holding its regular meetings on quarterly basis at Secretariat and informs the Member States about progress in project implementation, accordingly. Based on proposals of Departments in the Secretariat, the PMG has amended its policies through ECO Project Guidelines and is preparing to organize a project fund raising arrangement in 2012-2013.
To ensure knowledge sharing on project management in the member states, the Secretariat in collaboration with the Islamic Research Training Institute (IRTI) from Islamic Development Bank Group organized two training workshops on "Project Risk Management" in the first half of 2012.
Since official launch of the ECO Statistical Network (ECOSTAT) in February 2012, this website is being updated by the ECO Secretariat in joint cooperation with the Statistical Centre of Iran. In this regard, the Secretariat has frequently requested Member States to utilize ECOSTAT as the main statistical network in the region and keep it updated through their contribution on regular provision of updated data, statistics and information.
To monitor implementation of The ECO Joint Economic Research Programme, the Permanent Steering Committee on Economic Research was set up on 3 May 2011 at its first meeting in Astana. The 2nd meeting of the Committee will be held in 7-8 November 2012 in Baku. The Meeting will see to implementation of ECO Plan of Action on Economic Research, Terms of Reference of the Committee. With UNFPA, the Secretariat has signed a contract agreement on joint economic research. One with SESRIC is yet under consideration, for which feedback is being awaited.
Annual Economic Report for 2010 has already been pasted on ECO Web. The Report for 2011 is currently being compiled based on statistical indicators and economic data submitted by Member States.
Effective cooperation with international organizations has been followed by PERS Directorate, such as implementation of the FAO Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) for implementation and development of CountryStat in the region, organizing training workshop on Indicator-based Monitoring of Regional Integrated Statistical System in joint cooperation with United Nations University (UNU), conducting training workshop on R&D and Innovation Statistics with UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), holding regional workshop on Inter-institutional Capacity Building in ECO and EU regions with EuroStat and organizing training workshop on implementation of the System of National Accounts (2008) for ECO countries United Nations statistics division (UNSD).
I have given you an overview of our performance since 21st RPC. We have not been able to utilize our potential fully because of certain constraints and bottlenecks but we still feel that we have achieved some milestones especially in transport and agriculture sectors during the last one year. We have the determination to produce better results and for that purpose we would require whole hearted support of our Member States.
At the end, I once again thank the delegates to attend the meeting in Tehran and I wish you all successful deliberation and a pleasant stay in Tehran.