31st Meeting of ECO Regional Planning Council (RPC) held virtually

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The 31st Meeting of the ECO Regional Planning Council (RPC) was held virtually from January 12-21, 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic. During the meeting, various sectoral committees discussed and considered their specific areas for making appropriate recommendations to the 31st Meeting of RPC. It is pertinent to mention that this year, the format of the meeting was changed and aligned as per virtual requirement, thus, meeting prolonged to two weeks.

The meeting was attended by the delegations from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. The Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot State and the Turkic Council attended the Meeting in the capacity of Observer. The delegation from ECO Secretariat headed by Secretary General also participated in the event. The Representatives of ECO Specialized Agencies, Regional Institutions and Affiliated Bodies also took part in the Meeting. President ECOSF Prof. Manzoor H. Soomro headed the delegation of ECOSF in the meeting.

H.E. Dr. Hadi Soleimanpour ECO Secretary General, while welcoming the participants highlighted that this important ECO event convened annually to review the past activities of the organization, as well as consider and evolve some fresh programs and projects to be executed from ECO’s platform for continuing the developmental process in our region. He underscored that the COVID crunch, like most parts of the world, has not spared our region, hampering regular developmental activities which were perceived to be made in consideration of the ECO Work Program and Calendar of Events for 2020 endorsed by the 30th Meeting of RPC.

The Secretary General further informed that one of the organization's experiences in the time of crisis was resorting to the virtual modes of working which proved to be efficient, cost-effective and fast-track. In the given context he underlined that the Secretariat conducted several ECO meetings virtually in the pursuit of organization’s goals as per ECO Vision 2025 that included ministerial and High Level Working Group meetings. Holding the 31st meeting of RPC online is a continuation of such virtual approach which has been globally adopted in the aftermath of the pandemic, he added.

As per ECO’s rules and procedures, the Chair of ECO Council of Ministers (COM) and the host of the meeting Republic of Turkey was elected to chair the RPC meeting. Mr. Fatih ÜNLÜ, Director General of the Strategy and Budget of the Presidency of Turkey then led and chaired the Meeting. Mr. Fatih ÜNLÜ, expressing gratitude for the confidence bestowed upon him by the participating Member States, appreciated the ECO Secretariat for excellent preparation of this virtual meeting of RPC. He reiterated the importance that the Republic of Turkey attaches for expanded and deepened relations amongst the member countries in the larger interest of the region. He also highlighted the importance of cooperation and acting in unison for attaining synergies and better coping with the emerging regional and global challenges.

The Heads of delegations of the ECO Member States delivered their statements in alphabetical order outlining their countries' policies and views on the programmes and activities of the Organization. They also highlighted the progress made on the implementation of the decisions taken during the 30th Meeting of the RPC. The Heads of delegations of the ECO Specialized Agencies, Regional Institutions and Affiliated Bodies presented their statements/reports highlighting their activities and progress made since last RPC’s meeting.

Prof. Soomro made the statement of ECOSF in the meeting. In his statement, he said that the year 2020 has been extremely challenging for the entire world. The COVID-19 has been a tough test and has not raised the expectations in science but emphasized the fact of stronger collaboration & cooperation among nations to develop scientific solutions towards this global challenge. He shared that ECOSF has conducted the impact assessment, and hosted several virtual events by engaging scientists, researchers and policy experts towards health sciences and practices among the scientists and research community of the ECO region to respond to COVID-19. Pandemic has transformed entire businesses around the world. Thus, during the pandemic year, we had to adopt digital technologies to keep pace with moving world and organized numerous strategic events virtually..

He further shared that ECOSF encouraged colleagues in ECO member countries to contribute to an international book entitled; “Communicating Science- A Global Perspective” published by the Australian National University (ANU) Press in 2020. Colleagues from Iran and Turkey contributed chapters on science communication in their countries whereas; the ECOSF team contributed the chapter on science communication in Pakistan.

Prof. Soomro told that the Foundation in 2020 joined hands with Beijing Technology and Business University (BTBU) and launched the The Joint Center is funded by the Government of China. “BTBU-ECOSF Joint Training Center on Scientific, Technological and Economic Cooperation” under the Belt and Road Initiative. Under the initiative, we organized the first virtual training on “Management and Development of Special Economic Zones” in December 2020. Objective of this training was to build the capacity of professionals of the ECO region and beyond on significance of special economic zones especially in the context of industrial development and sustainable economic growth. Over 150 participants from all ECO countries and a good number of Chinese participants benefitted from this training. It is pertinent to mention that this training served as a strategic resource for the ECO member countries in developing effective and adequate policies for infrastructure development pertaining to the economic zones.

President ECOSF further told that the Foundation has been working very closely with China Association of Science and Technology- CAST since 2017 and has been facilitating young students and teachers/coordinators/officials from Member Countries in the Belt and Road programmes.He concluded that ECOSF is making all possible efforts to promote science, technology, innovation and scientific education activities in the region with the collaboration and support of International Organizations.

At the end, the Council appreciated and thanked the ECO Secretary General and his team for making necessary arrangements for successful holding the online meeting of the RPC and preparation of relevant documents. The Council concluded the meeting with a vote of thanks to the Chair for managing the meeting in a proactive, smooth and efficient manner.   The Council also acknowledged and thanked the Chairpersons of various Sectoral Committees for successfully conducting their tasks.

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