72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
General Debate of the Second Committee
H.E. Dr. A. Rohan Perera, Ambassador &
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
The Sri Lanka delegation joins all other delegations in congratulating you and the other members of the Bureau on your election and to extend our support to ensure a successful outcome for this Committee’s deliberations.
My delegation associates itself with the statement delivered by the distinguished representative of Ecuador on behalf of the G-77 and China.
The overall theme of the 72nd UNGA encourages us to strive for peace and to ensure “a decent life for all on a sustainable planet,” a theme that is vital for the work of the Second Committee.
Two years ago, we adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals that have the potential to transform the lives of millions across the globe and usher in prosperity for all.
Now is time for us to focus on the successful implementation of these SDGs. It is heartening to note that many countries have already begun to incorporate these goals into their national agendas and achieve progress. However, we still face considerable challenges in operationalizing these goals and must look for innovative solutions in order to realize these SDGs within the next 13 years.
The political leadership of Sri Lanka has given strong support for the implementation of the SDGs. Sri Lanka was the first country in the Asia Pacific to establish a separate Ministry for Sustainable Development in 2015 and in July this year, tabled the Sustainable Development Act in Parliament. The Act will pave the way for the creation of a Sustainable Development Council that will oversee the implementation of the SDGs at national level and monitor their progress.
Furthermore, a Parliamentary Select Committee was established in October 2016 to make recommendations to ensure that the UN 2030 Agenda for SDGs is achieved in Sri Lanka.
Sustainable development is the chosen pathway for development and this cannot be achieved without the eradication of poverty, which is a serious challenge throughout the world, including for Sri Lanka.
Despite experiencing several natural disasters and a decades-long conflict in the past, Sri Lanka has made significant strides towards alleviating poverty in the country. One of the core objectives of the Government of Sri Lanka is to promote inclusive economic growth, especially in the rural areas and to ensure a decent and prosperous life for all. Sri Lanka has a history of initiatives to eradicate poverty and the Government’s commitment to this cause has led to the year 2017 being declared the Year of Freedom from Poverty.
The alleviation of poverty is largely linked to education. Sri Lanka has a long history of education and the Constitution of the country guarantees education as a fundamental right. In 1945, Sri Lanka implemented the free education policy, where all children between the ages of 5 and 16, are entitled to free education.
This policy has benefited generations of children and helped Sri Lanka achieve near-universal access to primary education, with high rates of school attendance. Sri Lanka has also achieved gender equality at all levels of education and possess one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
As Sri Lanka enters in to the post conflict reconciliation phase, the Government will introduce a programme titled “Think Equal”, a comprehensive social and emotional learning programme for 3-5 year olds, from January 2018. The programme aims to introduce transformative change in the education sector, in order to end discriminatory mindsets and a cycle of violence.
In addition, ICT education is a high priority for Sri Lanka, in its vision to create knowledge based economy based on just social principles.
As with education, Sri Lanka also provides universal free healthcare as a national priority. As a result, we have succeeded in achieving a remarkable reduction of child and maternal mortality as well as addressing infectious diseases. Sri Lanka also gives the highest priority to combating HIV/AIDS.
In 2016, the country was declared Malaria free and, due a very successful eradication programme, has been polio free since 1993. However, Sri Lanka continues to address several challenges, including non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer and financing the free healthcare system.
Sri Lanka is a biological hotspot, home to several endemic flora and fauna, which have been threatened by several natural disasters, including floods, droughts and a devastating Tsunami. We are only too aware of the importance of protecting this planet from the effects of climate change.
One of the unique and pioneering initiatives launched by Sri Lanka to combat climate change is the national project to protect and preserve all of the island’s mangrove forests, which can sequester up to five times more carbon than other kind of forest. The great success of this project led to the opening of the first mangrove museum in the world in Chilaw, in the northwestern province of Sri Lanka.
Conscious of our responsibility to combat climate change, the President of Sri Lanka deposited the instrument of Ratification of the Paris Agreement at the Special Event at the United Nations last year. This is the expression of the highest political will to support all global efforts to combat climate change.
We are all committed to the vision of transforming our world through the achievement of the 2030 Development Agenda. While many of us have successfully launched national initiatives to implement the SDGs, it is a fact that several obstacles still hinder progress, including the challenge of financing and creating an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development.
Unless we have the political will to address these challenges and take immediate and collective action, our dream of achieving a transformed world, will always remain, just a dream. Sri Lanka stands ready to join all collective efforts to this end, to ensure a sustainable and prosperous world for all.