SAARC Agenda for Culture


The Thirteenth SAARC Summit held in Dhaka in November 2005 recognized “the crucial role of culture in bringing the peoples of South Asia closer”.  At the Meeting of the Senior Officials Preparatory to the Second Meeting of the SAARC Ministries of Culture held in Colombo on 30th October 2006 the SAARC Agenda for Culture was presented by Sri Lanka as the Agenda Item No. 11.  The SAARC Agenda for Culture was accepted by the Heads of State in the “Declaration of the Fourteenth SAARC Summit” held in New Delhi, India from 3rd to 4th April 2007 and launched the SAARC Agenda for Culture as item 19 of the Declaration.

SAARC Agenda for Culture
The Heads of State or Government at the Thirteenth SAARC Summit held in Dhaka in November 2005 recognized “the crucial role of culture in bringing the peoples of South Asia closer”.  Culture could play a major role in further promoting relations and understanding among South Asian countries.  Few regions have as rich and varied a cultural heritage as South Asia.  Moreover, South Asian culture in its true sense is not an elite manifestation or something to be confined to museums, art galleries and other repositories.  While acknowledging its deep roots in the past, culture in South Asia is a living expression of the creative impetus inherent in the peoples of the region in their daily lives.

We need to accept the fact that different civilizations and cultures nurture each other.  Differences in culture need to be acknowledged as varied experiences are reflected in the richness of national expression.  Such differences need to be understood in proper perspective and tolerance and concord must be developed among cultures and civilization.

Many religions of South Asia, some of which in fact have their origin in the region, have inspired some of the finest manifestations of architecture, literature, sculpture, painting and music in the world.  The plurality of the religions traditions and practices of South Asia must be respected, appreciated and protected throughout the region.  Where national cultural policies are being articulated at high political levels in the individual SAARC countries, it is important to recall the Colombo Summit’s assertion that the region is “heir to a profound civilization continuum of great antiquity … for sustaining harmonious relations” among South Asians.

With this backdrop Sri Lanka would like to propose the following programme of action to elaborate on SAARC Agenda for Culture.

1. Promotion of SAARC Cultural online: Launching of a SAARC Website on Culture.

  • Creation of Cultural heritage portal site
  • Digitalization of regional tangible and intangible cultural heritage details
  • Development of archives employing state of the art digital technology
  • Distribution of information – inventory of cultural heritage sites in the region
  • Direct links with websites of member countries
  • Create links with international institutes’ websites on culture

2. Development and introduction of a curriculum of SAARC culture for school education

  • To request the SAARC Secretariat to publish an illustrated book on the culture and arts of each member country with approved contributions from each member country.  The text of each country article should be discussed with all other countries and balanced coverage should be given for each member country.

3. A window on the proposed SAARC Fund to obtain sponsorship for cultural promotion

  • To recommend an institutional arrangement to receive financial contribution from the proposed SAARC Fund for cultural promotion in the region.

4. Cooperation with Dialogue/Observer partners/UNESCO and other UN and international agencies

  • Explore the possibility of an arrangement of cooperation between the SAARC Cultural Body and the Dialogue/Observer partners/UNESCO and other UN and international agencies to receive technical assistance for SAARC cultural promotion.

5. Economic development through connectivity and culture: Promotion of SAARC cultural and religious tourism

  • Develop a concept to promote heritage friendly tourism in the region
  • Connect the capitals and heritage cities by air/road
  • Inter-linking of cities of cultural importance among the SAARC countries (Eg. Creation of a SAARC Cultural Octagon of heritage cities)
  • Development of themes/brands, campaigns and tour packages
  • Printing of common SAARC brochures on heritage and religious sites in all member countries’ languages
  • Introduction of subsidized or special entry fee for SAARC tourists
  • Cooperation arrangements or special understanding with airlines for cultural promotion in SAARC countries
  • Visa free entry for SAARC tourists/Special identification or classification of SAARC tourists
  • Direct links between the institutions of culture and tourism in the member countries and create a Centre for jointly promoting and marketing SAARC cultural tourism to the world
  • Harmonization of local policies on the promotion of culture and arts and financing systems, and develop a SAARC common policy on selected areas of culture and arts
  • Participation of SAARC cultural troupes at international cultural festivals

6. Annual SAARC Festival to coincide with the SAARC Charter Day in December

  • Develop a programme to increase the profile and image of SAARC culture within and outside the region through festivals hosted in member countries on rotation basis
  • To reflect on all areas of art and culture and develop a theme for annual promotion

7. Production of a joint documentary film on SAARC culture for promotional purposes

  • A feasibility study to be undertaken to suggest themes taking into account the ground details in each member country for consideration
  • Promotion of member countries’ local culture and traditions while underpinning the spirit of an interrelated common SAARC culture

8. Cooperation in the field of product development and marketing of cultural products

  • Cooperation among the member countries on development of cultural enterprises, creative industries through product development, creation of market opportunities, exchange of information and networking arrangements.

9. SAARC Exchange Programme on Culture

  • Human resource development in the field of archaeological and cultural heritage
  • Short-term training programmes of areas of cultural interest
  • Research programmes
  • Exchange of expertise, information and technology on archaeological excavation, preservation of artifacts, protection of heritage sites etc.

10. Holding of a SAARC Sculpture Symposium

  • To provide an opportunity to showcase the skills and talents of the SAARC sculptors and to accord regional recognition to their works of art. This will also be an opening to forge cooperation among the artists to share the techniques and know-how as well as their common concern and interest to promote the art of sculpture on a regional basis.