The fourth South Asian Speakers’ Summit kicked off in the Maldives capital on Sunday with the secretary general of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and senior lawmakers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Hosted at the People’s Majlis building in Malé, the two-day meeting focuses on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The annual summit was organised jointly by the IPU and the Maldives parliament.
In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed observed that the biggest challenge faced by centrist politicians in the region was balancing climate change mitigation and economic development.
“I think the key question that will dominate the next few decades is, can we find ways to slash greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to higher temperatures while also generating inclusive economic growth,” the former president suggested.
Nasheed backed solar power as a viable source of renewable energy and noted that a “solar-battery hybrid system” could now produce electricity cheaper than diesel. “If batteries follow solar panels in falling price then the distributed energy system could be transformed. This will be hugely relevant, especially for developing countries that don’t have big electricity grids,” he added.
He went on praise Asian countries that were leading the shift to electric cars and called for the use of new methods such as city farming and vertical farming.
“These changes should make for excellent policies in our election manifestos,” he said, adding that “low-carbon development strategies” would appeal to voters.
A plenary session chaired by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong followed Nasheed’s remarks, during which speakers presented and discussed what their parliaments have done to advance work on the SDGs as well as the issues identified in the Colombo Declaration adopted in 2018.
The rest of the agenda includes panel discussions on equal pay, youth employment, nutrition, food security and the regional agenda on delivering the Paris Agreement on climate change. The summit is due to end with the adoption of the Malé Declaration – a brief document with a summary of conclusions and recommendations – on Monday afternoon and a field visit to the island of Rasdhoo in Alif Alif atoll.