Resolutions adopted by Chairpersons of South Asia Foundation Chapters on 15th December 2003, during the 3rd SAF General Conference in New Delhi - attended by Dr. Sayed Makhdoum Raheen (Afghanistan), Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral (India), Mr. Ibrahim Hussain Zaki (Maldives), Dr. Rita Thapa (Nepal), Mrs. Salima Hashmi (Pakistan), and Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar (Sri Lanka). Mr. Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup (Bhutan) was unable to attend the meeting because of a national emergency in his country and Dr. Kamal Hossain (Bangladesh) could not reach New Delhi on time.
1 - Presided over by SAF-India chairman Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral, the SAF chairpersons heartily welcomed Dr. Sayed Makhdoum Raheen for having been personally nominated by his country's President, Hamid Karzai, as the chairman of SAF-Afghanistan. It was a follow-up of the visit to Afghanistan by Mr. Madanjeet Singh from 23rd to 29th October 2003, in conformity with the Resolution adopted by SAF Chairpersons at their annual meeting held in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France on 10th April 2002, which stated:
"The Chairpersons felt that as Afghanistan is a part of South Asia, a way should be found to help the country which is in need of dire assistance as a result of the devastation caused by war. They decided to set up a committee comprising Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral, Dr. Kamal Hossain and SAF founder, Madanjeet Singh, to study the feasibility of incorporating Afghanistan as South Asia Foundations eighth Chapter."
2. Mr. Madanjeet Singh, briefed the chairpersons of the rapid strides which SAF has taken since they last met at Colombo on 19th February 2002, during the 2nd SAF General Conference in Sri Lanka. In particular, they greatly appreciated the remarkable progress made by the SAF Distance Learning programme and the cooperative manner in which all the South Asian Open Univrsities/ institutions jointly designed in such a short time a post-graduate diploma course in Environment and Sustainable Development (PGD-ESD), with optional courses on Information and Communication technology. They were pleased as well with the decision of the SAF Academic Council that Teacher's Training would be the next course which wili be similarly designed during the year 2004.
3. Equally satisfactory have been the resuits of the number of specialized educational projects of group scholarships undertaken during the previous year - SAF group scholarships programme at the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ),Chennai, India, and at the School of Visual Arts of the Beaconhouse National University (BNU), Lahore, Pakistan. Similar programmes are now being developed in Bangladesh (South Asian studies), Nepal (health) and Sri Lanka (water management) and the respective SAF Chairpersons reported that these projects will be launched during the year 2004.
4. Encouraged by the success of a SAF training programme at Thimphu in 2002, under which 58 teachers learned to use computers and have since trained hundreds of other teachers who are spreading out to schools all over Bhutan, SAF is now using this experience to expand its vocational training programmes, especially for women. SAF Chairpersons were pleased to learn that in a pilot project of the Kashmir University, 33 girls selected from the remote villages are being given a nine-month pre-primary teachers training course, before they go back home to start schools of their own. Similarly, the Jammu University has recruited 30 girls who are being trained to make a variety of handicrafts at the KCS Polytechnic in Jammu, India.
5. The first SAF-SOS vocational camp at Malpotha, Sri Lanka, was a singular success in which 40 young boys and girls from seven SAARC countries participated from 12th - 21st August 2003. Besides living and working together in a rural environment to learn organic farming, they realized the merits of regional cooperation.
SAF Chairpersons approved the proposal that in future SAF-SOS vocational training camps be held annually in each of the eight South Asian countries and the next vocational camp be organized in Bangladesh in conformity with the MoU dated 12th November 2003, between South Asia Foundation and the SOS-Kinderdorf International (attachment).
6. SAF chairpersons also endorsed the continuation of the annual event of holding SAF-Scouts Friendship Camps. "Regional Cooperation" was the theme of the first SAF- Scouts Friendship Camp in Bhutan (21st - 26th February 2002), in which a total of 550 girls and boys from the seven SAARC countries participated.
An equally successful Second SAF-Scout Friendship Camp with "Protection of the Environment" as its theme was held in Maldives (15th - 22th February 2003). It provided 180 youngsters the rare treat of camping in Feydhoo Finolhu, a beautiful island in the lndian ocean. Both the camps were almost entirely funded by South Asia Foundation.
7. Against this background, SAF Chairpersons approved the MoU dated 22th November 2003, between South Asia Foundation and the Chief Commissioners of National Scout Organizations in South Asia (attachment). The agreement reaffirms the principle that the costs and responsibilities must be equally shared between the two parties in conformity with the resolution adopted by SAF Chairpersons at a meeting held on 11th April 2002, at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France.
8. Above all, the Chairpersons were delighted to approve the unprecedented, landmark decision taken by the SAF Academic Council to offer additional 10,000 SAF Madanjeet Singh scholarships in vocational training and higher education to the marginalized students with social and economic disadvantages from the South Asian countries.
As regional cooperation is SAF's cardinal objective, the Chairpersons requested Mr. Madanjeet Singh to revise the draft proposed by the Steering Committee of the SAF Academic Council so that the recipients of scholarships are adequately made aware of the merits of regional cooperation. Accordingly, the initial draft submitted to SAF Chairpersons by Prof. Uma Coomaraswamy, the newly nominated Scholarships Coordinator, has been modified (attachment).
9. SAF Chairpersons also decided that participation in various SAF activities and winning scholarships shall be subject to SAF membership which is free of cost. All that the young people will have to do would be to sign a pledge which states that a dynamic South Asian culture of peace and democracy can emerge only through the promotion of regional cooperation, nourished with the energy and idealism of Youth.
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
Founder, South Asia Foundation