Make ECO effective

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PRIME Minister Imran Khan on Thursday called upon the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) to devise a joint strategy for ensuring equitable access and distribution of Covid-19 vaccine for the public good.

The Premier, in his address to the virtual 14th ECO Summit themed ‘Regional Economic Cooperation in the aftermath of Covid-19’, stressed the need for mobilizing the resources of ECO countries to fight the pandemic effectively.

The focus of the ECO summit was understandably on discussing ways and means to strengthen cooperation to address the challenges posed by Covid-19 as the virus has affected not just the member countries but almost the entire world.

It is, however, regrettable that nothing moves beyond declaration of intentions from the platforms that have been established to foster cooperation among Islamic countries (OIC), a group of Islamic states (ECO or Arab League) or a group of some regional countries like SAARC.

Members of these countries are resourceful in terms of money and manpower and, therefore, development of an affordable vaccine should not have been a problem but none of them did anything worthwhile and are looking towards others as clients to procure the vaccine which is in high demand.

Leaving the issue of cooperation in fighting Coronavirus aside, ECO has so far issued numerous declarations envisaging multi-dimensional cooperation in different fields but there is hardly anything substantial on ground to tell to the people what this organization has achieved to promote collective welfare of the people of the region.

The region could accelerate its march on the road to progress if plans are firmed up and implemented speedily to promote regional connectivity that could ultimately contribute towards fostering regional trade and investment.

Similarly, ECO is necessarily an economic bloc but it can assert its position by harmonizing policies and approaches at regional and global forums.

Like the proposal presented at the UN by Pakistan, Turkey and OIC for the annual observance of an international day to combat Islamophobia, ECO and OIC can work together to safeguard interests of the Ummah in a highly polarized world.