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The 27th Meeting of the Regional Planning Council (RPC) of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was held on 5–8 December, 2016 at the ECO Secretariat, Tehran. After the Opening and Plenary sessions, the Sectoral Committee meetings were also held and their outcomes converged in the Closing Plenary on 8 December; wherein, the final RPC report was presented and adopted with consensus.

The Meeting was attended by the delegations of all the 10 Member States, the Observers; the Turkish Cypriot State and the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States; as well as by the ECO Specialized Agencies, Regional Institutions and Affiliated Bodies.

In the opening session, held in the Tehran Espinas Palace Hotel, the ECO Secretary General H.E. Ambassador Halil Ibrahim Akça, in his opening remarks, welcomed the visiting delegations to the 27th RPC Meeting and presented a comprehensive overview of the main activities of the Organization during 2016. He said that the Secretariat is fully involved in the process of evolving its new vision for next ten years which should set priorities of the Organization in the light of regional emerging needs and realities. He said after the plenary session of 27th RPC, a special session on “ECO Vision-2025” is being held for more deliberation/recommendations in which all the Heads of delegation and the Ambassadors/Permanent Representatives of Member States are participating. He said that the ECO Secretariat has made efforts to realize the objectives of the Work Programme in 2016. The Secretary General briefly shared the trade profile of the region stating that early operationalization of the ECO/IDB Feasibility Study on Customs Related Provision of TTFA has been successfully completed. The Secretary General said that accession of Pakistan to TIR Convention has resulted in bringing all Member States under the TIR System. The Secretary General in his statement further mentioned about different projects and sectors being pursued with vigor by the Secretariat such as: energy, environment, agriculture, Tourism and Health etc. The Secretary General reiterated the importance of the RPC Meeting and its approach towards future. 

The Meeting was formally inaugurated by His Excellency Dr. Nasrollah Jahangard, Deputy Minister of Communication and Information Technology of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He warmly welcomed the distinguished delegates of the ECO Member States on behalf of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said that the ECO has achieved many important milestones in its work for regional development through common efforts, building on the Member States’ close cultural ties, shared historical past and joint plans for the future. The Chief Guest wished this very important gathering, live and productive discussions and outcome based deliberations.

With this the opening sessions ended; in the subsequent Plenary Session, the heads of delegations of member counties shared their statements/progress on behalf of their countries on the decisions taken in last RPC Meeting. The heads of Observers and specialized agencies' delegations also made their statements.

The President ECOSF Prof. Dr. Manzoor H. Soomro made statement on behalf of Foundation. In his statement, he thanked the ECO Secretariat for organizing the meeting amicably and shared the progress on activities/achievements of the Foundation carried out throughout the year of 2016. Prof. Soomro in his statement urged the member states to fully support ECOSF so that the objectives of the Foundation can be achieved through its various scientific activities. President ECOSF expressed deep gratitude to all the Member States and ECO Secretariat for their continuous support to the Foundation and special thanks to the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan for patronizing ECOSF through its Ministries of Science & Technology and Foreign Affairs. President ECOSF also appreciated the Government of Pakistan – Ministry of Science and Technology for official allocation of Office Space to the Foundation in its newly constructed building.

Prof. Soomro urged the concerned member states to ratify the ECOSF charter so as to benefit from its programs and let the Foundation function at its fullest strength. He also mentioned in his statement that ECOSF is cognizant of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and all ECOSF current and future programmes have been tuned to SDGs. He further mentioned that ECOSF would be pleased to assist member states in pursuing their SDGs particularly of S&T research, Education, Gender and Environment. In this regard, the Foundation has submitted its recommendations to the ECO Secretariat for developing the ECO Vision for next decade.

The President ECOSF reported in the statement that the Foundation is keen to expand its scientific research collaboration between the Member States. To this affect the Foundation after successfully initiating the collaboration between Pakistan and Tajikistan through Academy of Sciences of Republic of Tajikistan and International Center of Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) of University of Karachi - Pakistan, also initiated partnership with IDB in its two Reverse Linkages Projects in ECO Member States for capacity building at a total cost of US$ 1,434,400/- (ECOSF Share (US$ 50,000/-). Moreover the Foundation signed MoU with IDB this year for broader cooperation for promotion of S&T research and capacity building of the ECO Member States. Collaboration with IDB has been approved by the ECOSF Board in its 3rd Meeting. It is pertinent to mention here that IDB is initiating another project between Ministry of Agriculture of Kyrgyzstan and University of Ankara on Water Use Efficiency and Technologies. ECOSF and IDB are negotiating for collaboration on the project but the main hurdle is availability and the fact that the Kyrgyz Republic has yet to ratify the ECOSF Charter, at cost of US$ 900,000/-..

The meeting was informed that ECOSF has developed good interaction with numerous international science and technology organizations and Donors including; International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation under the Auspices of UNESCO (ISTIC), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; La main a la pate Foundation, France; Ev-K2-CNR Foundation- Italy; Korea Institute of Science & Technology Evaluation and Planning (KISTEP), UNESCO, Islamic Development Bank, International Science and Technology Centre (ISTC), Astana-Kazakhstan and many national organizations in member states and we continue to do so. Member States are requested to further enhance their support to the Foundation for strengthening the linkages within Member States.

The President ECOSF briefed the forum that the Foundation is of the view that Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE) is the foundation of S&T Development anywhere; therefore we need to work together today for our future generations so that they could lead us on the basis of real indigenous scientific and technological progress leading to economic development. In this respect, it is great pleasure to report that after successful launch of IBSE in Astana 2015, with the support of our international collaborators a very successful Capacity Building workshop for Master Trainers was jointly organized by ECOSF and Pakistan Science Foundation under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan on 5-9 Sep, 2016 at Islamabad- Pakistan as a follow-up activity. More activities of this initiative are planned in 2017 for Iran (Jan 2017), Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. The activities carried out during the year were also briefly described in the statement.

During the four-day RPC meeting, various Sectoral Committees were formulated on  trade, investment, transport, communications, energy, environment, agricultural, industry, tourism,  economic research, statistics, human development, disaster risk reduction , drugs and organized crimes and the international relations. The Sectoral Committees thoroughly discussed the ongoing programmes and projects as well as the areas of future cooperation, including those reflected in the Working Papers prepared by the ECO Secretariat and proposed the sectoral Annual Work Programme/Calendar of Events to the RPC Plenary Session for approval. The Council noted, with appreciation, the work of the Sectoral Committees as well as the ECO Secretariat for the proposed ECO Work Programmes and Calendar of Events for 2017-2018.

Two separate sessions on ECO Specialized Agencies/Regional Institutions/Affiliated Bodies including ECOSF were also held during the meeting, wherein, the progress/achievements of the agencies/institutions were discussed in detail. The Council appreciated the activities and initiatives of the Foundation for developing and promoting cooperation among the Member States in the field of science, technology and Innovation (STI) and for the promotion of scientific research in the Region.

At the end of the RPC meeting, on behalf of all the participating delegation, the Council expressed its appreciation and thanks to the ECO Secretariat for making excellent arrangements for this important meeting. The Council concluded with a vote of thanks to the Chair for conducting the deliberations of the meeting in a smooth and efficient manner. The Council also thanked the Chairmen of various Sectoral Committees for successfully conducting the business of their respective Committees.  It also appreciated the efforts made by the Secretary General and his staff for preparing comprehensive Working Papers and other documents for the Council. The Council decided to organize the next 28th RPC Meeting in November / December 2017.

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