My delegation takes this opportunity to extend warm felicitations to you and the members of the Bureau on your election and assure our fullest support and cooperation during this session. My delegation aligns itself with the statement made by Pakistan on behalf of the G-77 and China.
The 60th Session of the Commission for Social Development is being convened at a juncture where the multiple impacts of the pandemic has been especially severe on the developing countries. The twin problems of access to vaccines and a reversal of development gains even in countries where the pandemic has been relatively well managed, has placed the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals at a considerable risk. Today, we find ourselves in a situation where poverty, unemployment and social exclusion continue to be rampant and unabated across the globe. This seems to be the new normal situation that we are forced to reckon with.
Despite the commitments made at the World Summit for Social Development in 1995, it is ominous that the progress achieved so far is below our expectations and many lacunas remain. The prevalent pandemic situation and the associated economic challenges poses a considerable threat to the progress of human well-being, transcending national boundaries and affecting the parameters of social development in all countries.
Loss of livelihoods of individuals due to the pandemic-induced economic downturn has been devastating. As a country that has dependent on the tourism industry, the Sri Lankan tourism industry was severely affected by the pandemic although it is heartening to witness early signs of a recovery now. While certain sectors have adapted with innovative strategies and other sectors such as the ICT sector have witnessed a sharp upturn, due to the new adaptations that have become necessary, many sectors, especially services have been negatively affected.
The Secretary General has presented to us ‘Our Common Agenda’ and in his briefing on the work of the organization, depth and substance of the issues that face us today. Successfully overcoming the triple issues of vaccine inequity, climate change and overhaul of the “morally bankrupt” international financial system are a a sine qua non if the new normal is going to be better than the old ways of the past. The fact that two of these issues fall under the ambit of this Commission makes the deliberations of this august assembly all the more relevant, especially as we focus on strengthening multilateral approaches to overcoming the current crises.
In this context, the two priority themes of “Inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 for sustainable livelihoods, well-being and dignity for all: eradicating poverty and hunger in all its forms and dimensions to achieve the 2030 Agenda” & “Strengthening multilateralism to deliver well-being are with regard to the first theme of recovery from the pandemic. We believe that vaccine equity is at the heart of all recovery efforts.
Assisted by our bilateral partners and the COVAX facility, Sri Lanka has been very successful in its vaccination program. By January 2022, Sri Lanka fully vaccinated over 90% of its eligible population, more than 63% of its total population and more than 22% of the vaccinated were administered with the third booster dose. Currently, we have started vaccinating the children aged 12 to 15 to face the looming threat of the omicron variant. Sri Lanka’s rapid progress of vaccinations was enabled by the coordinated efforts between healthcare workers, Armed forces and Police personnel, Government servants and elected officials.
As an attempt to share this experience, Sri Lanka intends to establish a Regional Knowledge Hub to facilitate exchange of lessons learnt from Covid-19 and support countries to recover better, in collaboration with the WHO.
Poverty and hunger are the other twin outcomes, of not just the pandemic situation and the new normal it has created but also of the inequities and power relations that continue to characterize our world today.
The failure to come together with the Common Agenda even at this late stage would endanger our common future.
Even as a developing country, Sri Lanka’s achievements on ensuring a high human and social development of its people is a well-known fact and has been acknowledged by many quarters. Its ranking in the UNDP Human Development Index, which currently stands at 72 out of 189 countries, is indicative of this achievement. Eradicating hunger and extreme poverty have been the focus of all governments since independence.
During the pandemic, the Government of Sri Lanka adhered to a number of measures to ensure a consistent food supply to its people. To achieve this target, expanding the social protection programs to protect people living in lockdown or isolated areas was a vital step. Sri Lanka had to provide cash and in-kind grants to the vulnerable groups and the most affected sectors of the economy during the lockdown period in addition to taking care of lactating and pregnant mothers by ensuring home delivery of goods. The Government also coordinated efforts with the World Food Program to provide take-home rations to the primary school children during the closure of the schools.
Sri Lanka considers sustainability as the cornerstone of its national policy framework. We believe that this experience would be a catalyst in boosting Sri Lanka’s confidence towards addressing the challenges to get on track for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Sri Lanka believes that a holistic policy approach with near to long-term strategies must be taken to ensure food security and eradicate poverty and to withstand future shocks. As we return to the new normal realities, it is imperative that we build resilience through hope. Sri Lanka remains committed to working together with the international community in a spirit of true cooperation, generosity, goodwill and mutual respect to foster a better and more sustainable future for all humanity. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out an ambitious global vision: to reach and empower all, including the under-privileged and vulnerable persons. Sri Lanka, Madam Chair, remains steadfast to realize this aspiration and to use social development as a tool to achieve this target.
I thank you Madam Chair.