The member countries of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) have agreed to join hands in tackling the adverse impact of climate change by establishing a working group and promoting tourism in the region.
In the Kathmandu Declaration adopted during the two-day summit here, the member states expressed their serious concerns over environmental degradation, adverse impact of climate change and global warming on the fragile Himalayan and mountain eco-systems and their inter-linkages with the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean and resolved to strengthen cooperation to protect and preserve the environment to address climate change on the lives and livelihoods of the people.
They also agreed to explore the possibility to establish an inter-governmental expert group to develop a plan of action for collective response to climate change for the region, reaffirmed their commitments to operationalise the Paris Agreement, in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, taking into account different national circumstances and equity.
In the tourism">tourism sector, the BIMSTEC countries agreed to take concrete steps to promote intra-BIMSTEC tourism">tourism and tasked the relevant authorities to devise strategies, considering the emerging opportunities and building on the past initiatives including the "Plan of Action for Tourism Development and Promotion for the BIMSTEC Region" adopted in Kolkata in 2005 and reinforced by the 2nd BIMSTEC Tourism Ministers Round Table and Workshop in Kathmandu in 2006.
They agreed to take concrete measures to facilitate tourism">tourism by ensuring safety and security of tourists, and smooth transport connectivity; reaffirm their commitment to developing and promoting Buddhist Tourist Circuit, Temple Tourist Circuit, ancient cities trail, eco-tourism">tourism and medical tourism">tourism. The member states also welcomed Nepal's offer to host a BIMSTEC tourism">tourism conclave in Nepal in 2020, coinciding with the Visit Nepal Year 2020.
On cultural cooperation and people-to-people contacts, the member countries agreed to resolve to build a deeper understanding and trust among member states and promote people-to-people contacts at various levels. They also expressed satisfaction of the activities of the BIMSTEC Network of Policy Think Tanks (BNPTT) in enhancing public awareness about BIMSTEC and directed the relevant agencies to finalize the terms of reference (ToR) of BNPTT.
The statement said, "(We) agree to explore the possibility of establishing appropriate BIMSTEC forums for parliamentarians, universities, academia, research institutes, cultural organizations and media community to expand the scope of people-to-people contacts."
The BIMSTEC countries emphasised the need to enhance cultural exchange among the member states, to further strengthen the historic cultural ties among the people, promote mutual respect and tolerance for cultural diversity, underscore the importance of Buddhism as a connecting thread in the region and remained committed to giving a clear manifestation by establishing a Buddhist Circuit.
They also agreed to hold meetings of BIMSTEC Cultural Ministers and BIMSTEC Cultural Festival at regular intervals, welcomed Bangladesh's offer to hold the 2nd BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on Culture and 1st BIMSTEC Cultural Festival and strongly encouraged their respective cultural ministers to participate in these two important events.
On energy, the member states recognised the high potentials of energy resources in the region, particularly renewable and clean energy sources, and agreed to expedite efforts to develop a comprehensive plan for energy cooperation by working closely with each other within the region and decided to constitute an intergovernmental group of experts to enhance energy cooperation including in hydro-power and other sources of renewable energy.
They remained committed to provide an uninterrupted and affordable power supply for the economic development of the people, including through energy and trade. The BIMSTEC countries also welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection and instructed the relevant agencies to take concrete measures to initiate harmonisation of technical, planning and operational standards for removing barriers to grid interconnections.
They also ensured the early establishment of a BIMSTEC Grid and call for an early operationalisation of the BIMSTEC Energy Centre in order to strengthen energy cooperation in the region.
In the agriculture sector, the BIMSTEC member nations decided to deepen cooperation in the agricultural and allied fields, including crops, livestock and horticulture, farm machinery and harvest management so as to increase productivity and profitability of agricultural produce in a sustainable manner. They have tasked the relevant authorities to intensify cooperation to attain food and nutritional security, and preserve and promote knowledge about traditional farming by appropriately linking both traditional and modern farming and reducing costs.
The member countries also called for enhancing income and mitigating risks for farming communities, with the objective of facilitating agricultural trade among member countries and making contributions to the poverty alleviation, job creation, and improvement of the quality of life of the masses in our nations. They welcomed Myanmar's offer to host the 1st BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture by 2019 and India's offer to host the BIMSTEC Seminar on Climate Smart Farming Systems in 2019.
On public health, the member states agreed to expand cooperation in their efforts to address non-communicable diseases as well as trans-national public health issues that threaten the economic and social progress of the people of BIMSTEC region, including HIV and AIDS, malaria, dengue, tuberculosis, viral influenza-including avian and swine influenza and other emerging public health threats.
They noted the progress in traditional medicine cooperation and remained committed to continuing the collaborative activities. The BIMSTEC countries encouraged active cooperation among concerned agencies including in the area of traditional medicine through the exchange of information, sharing of experience, training of personnel and other concrete programmes to prevent and contain them and expressed appreciation to Thailand for their efforts for cooperation in traditional medicine.
The member countries also underscored the necessity of making concrete efforts to ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their bio-diversity in order to support sustainable development. They welcomed the concept note on promoting mountain economies in BIMSTEC nations developed by Nepal to promote cooperation and decided to establish an inter-governmental expert group to develop an action plan.
Lastly, the BIMSTEC member states emphasised the importance of the blue economy and agreed to cooperate for the sustainable development in the region and decided to establish an inter-governmental expert group to develop an action plan on the blue economy, keeping in mind the special needs and circumstances of the landlocked member states.
They also expressed satisfaction with the hosting of International Blue Economy Conference in Bangladesh in 2017 that also saw the participation of government representatives from the region.