By BR Research
Published Date: Nov 23, 2016
Climate change: a SAARCastic approach
Earlier this week, Islamabad-based think tank Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) held a seminar titled SAARC-Challenges and Opportunities in Changing Regional Dynamics.
The panellists spoke about regional issues that transcend borders and should become part of the SAARC agenda. Mainly, this included climate change, disaster management, and water security. Given the threat of climate change-induced disasters in South Asia, the panel deemed it imperative for the governments of all countries to enhance cooperation at the SAARC level to evolve mechanisms to protect the lives and agriculture across the region.
The panellists stressed the need for exchanging data and information, coordination between disaster management authorities, and the joint management of resources. As Sanjay Vashist, Director Climate Action Network (CAN) South Asia said, South Asian governments lack capacity to respond to such challenges while working in isolation and must join hands to find solutions. Dr. Imran Khalid of SDPI added that the nature of the disasters in South Asian countries such as floods and draughts prevailed across the region and thus could be responded to by collaborated mechanisms.
However, we might just be jumping the gun here. We know that trade among SAARC countries under SAFTA is around five percent of the total trade; we know there are non-tariff barriers and no free movement of people; and we know all too well of the trust deficit and tense relations between certain member countries. If SAARC countries cant even trade, how can they come together on more complex issues like climate change?
BR Research spoke Dr. Viqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director of SDPI, who confirmed that people-to-people exchanges and trade are definitely the "low-hanging fruit" and are a prerequisite for the type of regional cooperation being debated. Without trust, these things will remain a fantasy.
Another industry source confirmed the same; greater economic interdependence leads to the waning of political boundaries and can enhance cooperation. Dr. Viqar added that a SAARC Disaster Management Framework was adopted, but negotiations went cold when it came down to data-sharing between countries.
This data includes water inflows, glacial melting, and other indicators. This clearly indicates the trust deficit between member states.
One thing is true, however: issues like climate change and water definitely transcend borders and call for a globally unified approach.
They pertain to the planet, and not countries. The smog seen earlier this year also reminded us that what happens in one country can indubitably affect the other. So, we are all for making climate change a part of the SAARC agenda, provided that the SAARC agenda actually means something!