75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)
Statement by the Sri Lanka Delegation
7th October 2020
Congratulations on your election to the helm of this Committee, and felicitations to the other members of the Bureau on their appointments. Please be assured of my delegations full cooperation for the work on our agenda. The efforts taken by both the Bureau and the Secretariat in preparing for this year’s session under the extraordinary circumstances faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic are noteworthy.
Sri Lanka aligns herself with the statement delivered by Guyana on behalf of the G77 and China.
At a time when even the most powerful countries in the world were facing substantial challenges in the wake of the COVID – 19 pandemic, Sri Lanka was able to successfully face the challenge by containing the spread of COVID-19, thanks to a well-coordinated mechanism of preventive measures at the national level assisted by a robust local healthcare system. While successfully containing the spread of COVID-19 through a balanced, multi-sectoral approach, and despite this challenge, the Government of Sri Lanka held its commitment to the democratic processes, and conducted Parliamentary elections successfully and peacefully.
The universal health policy of the country entitles all citizens to free healthcare at Government hospitals, and indeed it is this robust system together with a series of inclusive, non-discriminatory and holistic measures taken by the Government, under the guidance of H.E. the President that allowed for the containment of the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country. The WHO has commended Sri Lanka’s efforts to control the pandemic effectively with modest means. It is also notable that Sri Lanka was among the first countries in South Asia to re-open schools which has been commended by UNICEF. The World Travel and Tourism Council has also recently declared Sri Lanka as a safe destination for tourists.
In November last year, the people of Sri Lanka gave a resounding mandate to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to pursue a policy framework aimed at achieving the fourfold outcome of “a productive citizenry, a contented family, a disciplined and just society and a prosperous nation.” In August this year, the Government was elected with an overwhelming majority, which is a clear signal of the support of the people of Sri Lanka for a path forward for the country that will safeguard the people and protect the sovereignty of the country without succumbing to any force.
The Government’s Policy Framework (“Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”), is based on three main pillars of its vision for the future, that is national security, friendly, non-aligned foreign policy and people-centric economic development.
Investment in people is essential to develop human capacity and well-designed social protection systems that help the poor and vulnerable families, are key to sustainable social development.
In line with the above vision, a number of measures have been taken to uplift the rural economies, address socio-economic issues at ground level, including protecting the people against social evils such as organized crime and the drug menace, as follows:
- The Presidential Task Force in charge of Economic Revival and Poverty Eradication was established with the objective to create a production economy through the formulation of a unique economic structure based on novel initiatives, implementation of joint operations to establish a people-centric economy which will promote domestic industrialists and entrepreneurs and taking measures to distribute products in liaising with all the institutes while paying attention to the activities undertaken by the health and education task forces to maintain normalcy in the civilian life.
- The Presidential Task Force to build a Secure Country, Disciplined, Virtuous and Lawful Society was established in line with the most prominent responsibility of the government to give priority to National Security and to create a virtuous, disciplined and lawful society which respects the rule of law and justice, recognizing the security of the country is a key factor in establishing economic strategies aimed at the development of a country emphasizing the equal protection of the law.
- In line with the utmost priority to address poverty and inequality, a programme to provide employment for 100,000 persons representing the most underprivileged families in the country from all communities has been set in motion. Simultaneously, plans are being implemented to provide job opportunities to 60,000 graduates and train them to render their services efficiently.
- With the objective of having people-centric economy for the economic revival, when forming ministries, special attention was given in assigning their subjects and tasks to cover fields such as agriculture, plantations, fisheries, traditional industries and promotion of self-employed job opportunities which affect most of the people in the country.
- As human resource development has been identified as a priority, the subject of education has been brought under one Ministry and four State Ministers were appointed for different responsibilities therein. Separate State Ministries for Pre-School, Education Reforms, Skills Development as well as Dhamma School and Bhikku Education have been set up due to their importance.
This year is pivotal for advancing gender equality, with the global community celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action last week, the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security and the 5 year milestone towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Empowered women contribute immensely to the family and while gender equality is a fundamental right of all women and girls, it is also an indispensable tool for advancing development and reducing poverty. They are not only a goal in itself, but a means for achieving all other objectives on the global agenda, as evidenced by its cross-cutting nature through most of the SDGs. As such it is disheartening that discrimination against women and girls-including gender based violence, economic discrimination and health inequities continue to threaten the very foundation of the global socio-economic fabric.
Sri Lanka takes pride in having adopted a Women’s Charter two years before the “Beijing Platform for Action” and throughout the years, has demonstrated its commitment and political will to improve the circumstances for women in the country. Universal franchise was introduced to the country in 1931 and holds the distinction of having the world’s first female Prime Minister in 1960. Sri Lanka strongly condemns all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual harassment that constitutes a major impediment to their full and effective participation in society. In line with the
principle of zero tolerance on sexual and gender- based violence, a policy framework and National Plan of Action to address that social menace has been adopted.
Since as far back as 1996, many decisive steps to address and resolve issues faced by the disabled people have been taken. In this context, we are pleased that the Secretary-Generals’ Report A/75/187 has recognized the social protection schemes introduced by Sri Lanka for persons with disabilities.
As one of the early signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we remain deeply concerned that the situation of children in many parts of the world continue to be critical. Sri Lanka calls for concerted global effort to address challenges that threaten progress of children, including climate change, conflict, the spread of terrorism and violent extremism and cybercrime. Most recently, UNICEF has commended Sri Lanka for adopting 2 policy reforms that will increase the minimum age of labour and ensure that no child enters the adult prison system. Information and communications technologies are becoming an integral part of our everyday lives, including those of children, and while the benefits of these technologies need to be acknowledged, they also expose children to risks and harm. These issues transcend boundaries and close collaboration among all States is required for its effective countering and prevention.
The world drug problem continues to present challenges to the health, safety and well-being of all people. It remains a common and shared responsibility of all States and in order to effectively counter the multi-faceted challenges posed by it, a comprehensive and integrated approach that focuses on individuals, families and society as a whole is required. Sri Lanka remains deeply committed to addressing drug-related socio-economic issues and is extremely concerned about the increasing sophistication of transnational criminal groups engaged in illicit manufacture and trafficking of drugs. There is a need to enhance efforts to strengthen the prevention of drug abuse among children and youth, and ensure that educational settings are free of any harmful and addictive drugs. In order to address this, a Presidential Task Force has been appointed in the country to eradicate the drug menace, and create a safer and a more secure country, which has already produced tangible results.
While recognizing that vital steps have been taken by the global community towards combatting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, millions of people continue to be victims. There is an increase of radicalization and violent extremism, and Sri Lanka remains deeply concerned by the growing number of victims of diverse nationalities and faith, that fall prey to the recruitment drive of terrorist networks. Hateful and destructive views that promote these ideologies are enabled and amplified exponentially by digital technology, with the increase in misuse of social media and other internet platforms to spread the messages of hatred and intolerance.
Proactively tackling these issues and addressing the underlying factors that allows these challenges to manifest and propagate is an important aspect in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. If we are to truly leave no one behind, it is essential that principles of equality and non-discrimination that are encapsulated in the 2030 Agenda itself be given priority to create a future that is fully inclusive and equitable.
 H.E. the President’s Policy statement at the opening of the 9th Parliament on 20 August 2020