Knowledge sharing and learning best practices to deal with pandemics like COVID-19 would be significantly important for the South Asian countries in the future.
The platform of South Asian Association of Regional Corporation (SAARC), despite all the challenges, could be used effectively at least by applying a sectoral approach, especially in the areas of health, food security, social sector development and climate change in the region.
The experts from South Asia and Pacific region said this while sharing views with the audience at an online policy dialogue titled: ‘COVID-19 and regional cooperation in South Asia’ organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Tuesday. Experts from South Asia and Pacific region, including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal as well as one from Australia participated in the dialogue.
Deakin University, Australia, Research Fellow Dr Zahid Shahab Ahmed said that COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to revive regional cooperation between the SAARC countries. He said that the priorities need be changed and the post-COVID-19 cooperation could be more focused on food supply chain, livelihood and vaccination. The idea of SAARC Virtual Summit needs to be worked upon to revive cooperation on such urgent matters.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri while highlighting different aspects of the SAARC functioning, said that the pandemic signifies the importance of changing the mindset as the insecurities that people in the region face today are beyond the physical security. He said that the insecurities appeared as a result of the pandemic, climate change and food chain could only be responded by working together.
“How to keep our food chain intact and creating a balance between saving the lives and ensuring livelihoods are some of the critical questions to ponder over in the post pandemic world,” Dr Suleri observed.
Dhaka University’s Dr Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir said that South Asia is the least integrated region in the world.
The coronavirus has exposed our development models that need to be made people-centric now, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2020.