SAARC Ministers of Social Development to meet

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New Delhi, Mar 5: The second meeting of the Forum of Ministers of Social Development from South Asia will begin here today. The Ministers of Social Development of South Asian countries, members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation-SAARC (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) will participate in the meeting.

The two-day meet, which will be opened by Indian Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, is being co-organized by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the Indian National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO and UNESCO. Initiated in 2006 in Bhurban (Pakistan), the Forum of Ministers of Social Development from South Asia is the third such regional forum in the series of four such forums established so far under the initiative of UNESCO's most programme.

As is the case with preceding two Forums established for Latin America and Africa and the fourth established last year in the Arab region, it aims at reinforcing linkages between the research and policy-making communities by encouraging regional cooperation and exchange of experiences and best practices on national policies.

For two days, participants will discuss the social sciences research policy linkage and in particular the contribution that social sciences can provide to the policy-making process, within the framework of the theme selected for the Second Forum, Transparency, Right to information and Social Development.

On the first day, following the presentation of the Indian experience, where the law on the Right to Information (RTI 2005) recognizes the right of every citizen to access information and the obligation it represents for the Indian Government, the participants, including the Ministers, Members of Parliaments, social sciences scholars, representatives of public institutions, UN Agencies and civil society will be invited to share their views during an open session.

The opening session will be chaired by three panelists, Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Comissioner, Aruna Roy, well-known Indian political and social activist and Shekhar Singh, founder member, National Campaign for People's Right to Information. There will be several presentations during the course of the meeting.

These will include Ministerial presentations and presentations by experts on various topics spread over four main sessions. They are "Transparency, Right to Information and Social Development"; "Introduction to Social Science Research-Policy Linkage"; From Research to Policy : Itinerary of an Indian Legislation, the Right to Information Act" and "Regional Forum of Ministers of Social Development : The way Forward".

The participants will also be taken on a field visit to have experience of the Bhagidari Projects initiated by the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi under Citizenship-Government Partnership by the Munirka Vihar Welfare Association, New Delhi.

Similar to the Bhurban Declaration in which the participating Ministers committed themselves towards making this Forum a means for permanent dialogue, a Declaration will be adopted by the participants in the New Delhi conference in order to formalize their common involvement in the consolidation of the Forum in the South Asian region, define cooperation perspectives and decide on the next chair of the Third Forum of Ministers of Social Development.

ANI

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