Informal meeting of the plenary
Briefing to the UN membership about the priorities of the President of the General Assembly for the resumed part of the 75th session of the General Assembly
Statement by H.E. Mohan Peiris,
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Thursday, 21 January 2021, 10:00 a.m. – 1: 00 p.m.
General Assembly Hall (in-person)
Thank you for the comprehensive briefing on your priorities for the resumed part of the 75th session of the General Assembly. We appreciate and commend the efforts you have taken to continue the work of the UN – in a modified format, in keeping with the current constraints posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the extra-ordinary circumstances that the pandemic has thrust upon the global community and the United Nations has amply demonstrated how interconnected we are and the importance of adapting and being prepared to face the vicissitudes and move in tandem with the emerging scenarios.
However, it occurs to ask the question whether we needed a pandemic to appreciate the fact of our interconnectivity or perhaps our lack of connectivity? Did it ever occur to us to ask ourselves the question as to what are connectivity was hitherto? Many have expressed the view Mr. President, that even if Governments are taking efficient action and individuals also do their share by staying at home and taking all the precautionary measures the corona crisis would still not be averted. It is opined that all stakeholders are socially connected to the injustices of our global order and have the capacity to do something about it. We need to, as you observed quite rightly, take action to address that injustice. We need therefore to adopt a forward looking responsibility that is required to address the issues post pandemic. Our right to liberty, our right to the freedom of movement, to education, to information, to food and shelter and to the eradication of poverty and health must come into focus as they have a potential to wreak havoc in all human activities.
COVID-19 is not only a challenge for the global health, economic and social systems, but it is also a test of our human spirit. You would agree, that recovery must lead to a more equal and just world and one that is more socially and economically stable and more resilient to future crises and in this regard, 2021 will be a pivotal year. In overcoming these contemporary issues, the reinvigorated pursuit of multilateralism in all its forms is, as you quite rightly observed, is absolutely essential. I would add that a multilateralism that is always for the good of the Planet’s inhabitants is what we must pursue. The UN stands at the helm of multilateralism will continue to play a significant role in this process and it is our duty to ensure that that this august assembly in its engagement along the spectrum of assistance and support it provides remains in conformity to the principles and objectives of its own Charter and respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.
Sri Lanka fully supports the priorities that you have outlined today and those when you assumed Office last year. We believe they are progressive and development orientated and are in consonance with our own national priorities. As a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multicultural country, Sri Lanka remains committed to usher in an era of sustainable peace and prosperity for all, within the national framework, overwhelmingly endorsed by the people during the recent Presidential and general elections. Institutional reforms, Mr. President, will be introduced where necessary, in a manner consistent with Sri Lanka’s commitments in keeping with the Constitution, including the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs). In fact, the country has already begun its transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society, with the 2030 Agenda at the core of our developmental policies.
Regrettably, the pandemic has compromised global efforts to invest in the implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda due to reductions in exports, remittances, travel and tourism revenue, foreign direct investment and capital outflow. As such, it is important that a conducive environment is formed for increased international financing, comprehensive debt relief and the correction of systemic inequalities in supply chains, and as you observed, an equitable policy for the distribution of the vaccine as an immediate measure.
As a country, that is no stranger to the adverse impacts of climate change, Sri Lanka continues to advocate for the provision of assistance to developing countries, in combating related challenges, including finance, technology transfer and capacity building. Climate related agreements need to be respected and upheld, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement undertakings, while adhering to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.
We take note of the related high-level meetings, as well as others, scheduled for the remaining part of the session and will participate and cooperate with you actively to ensure that the work of this august body contributes positively to alleviating the extra-ordinary challenges we face today, as a global community.