Foreign secretaries of all eight Saarc member states began meeting in Kathmandu on Sunday to find out ways to make the three decade old regional body more effective.
The two-day 41st session of the Saarc standing committee began with Ali Naseer Mohamed, foreign secretary of Maldives, handing over the chair to Shanker Das Bairagi, acting foreign secretary of Nepal.
"There is a growing realization that the Saarc mechanism, including the secretariat and all its institutions has to be made more efficient, effective and result oriented," Bairagi said in his opening remarks.
On Saturday, the Saarc programming committee had suggested closure and merger of several regional centres - bringing the total figure down to five from the existing 11 - to make them more effective.
"Implementation of past declarations has been slow and this needs to be overcome. We will review the progress made in various areas of cooperation since the last summit," he said.
The standing committee will discuss the secretary general's analytical report, country reports from member states, economic and financial cooperation and the Saarc development fund.
Poverty alleviation, technology, transport, energy, agriculture, food security, environment, climate change, health, education, terrorism, biotechnology and strengthening of Saarc mechanisms are among other issues that will be discussed by the foreign secretaries.
"Despite our persistent efforts a quarter of our populations still live in poverty and hunger. Redoubling of our efforts is absolutely necessary to eradicate poverty and hunger from the regional landscape," said Bairagi.
Enhanced connectivity for deeper integration, effective implementation of Safta, cooperation to overcome energy deficit and coordinated and concerted efforts to fight terrorism will also figure in the agenda.
The foreign secretaries will fine tune the agenda for the summit meeting set to begin on November 26 and also prepare the Kathmandu Declaration to be released at the end.
The standing committee will submit its report to the Saarc council of ministers which will be held on November 24, a day ahead of the meeting of the heads of states and governments of member states.
"I hope our deliberations will be fruitful and we will make concrete recommendations to the Saarc council of ministers," he said.