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Statement delivered by Mrs. Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister, to the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment including Socio Economic Aspects, 29th July 2019

Monday, 29 July 2019
Mrs. Sonali Samarasinghe
Conference Room 2, UNHQ

Sri Lanka Statement

By Sonali Samarasinghe

Minister, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York

Ad Hoc Working Group on the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment including Socio-Economic Aspects

29 July 2019

CR2, UNHQ New York

Thank you, Co-chairs,

Good morning colleagues

Let me first thank the co-chairs for steering this process so successfully and for their stellar leadership. As a member of the Bureau is assured co-chairs of Sri Lanka’s support in your important work.  We also thank the Group of Experts and encourage more nominations to the pool of experts in keeping with gender and geographical balance to fill the gaps. We thank the National Focal Points for their support and cooperation and urge states that have not already done so, to appoint National Focal Points to the Regular Process.



Sri Lanka remains committed to the protection and conservation of the environment, the legal framework governing fisheries among others, and socio-economic development.

Developing countries are at the same time the most reliant on the oceans and the most vulnerable to ocean-related disasters. They are often the first responders to such disasters and serve as guardians of a significant proportion of coastal and marine environments. It is important therefore to work at community, national and regional levels to enhance awareness and capacity regarding marine issues.

Rising sea levels and coastal degradation threaten the viability of lives and livelihoods in low-lying areas. Island nations like Sri Lanka are particularly vulnerable to the impact of ocean environments and climate change. Our large coastal communities survive at ocean level. For us, pollution of the oceans, depletion of fish, rise of the seas and good coastal eco systems are not abstractions – they are at the core of our existence.

As coastal populations expand the demand for ocean resources has increased, human activities including dredging, mining, explorations, transportation, fishing, construction and blasting in the coastal and marine areas have increased as well. At present more than one billion people worldwide depend on fish as their primary protein source and as a result world fishing fleets and fishing efforts have increased dramatically during the past three decades.

The noise generated by this activity is adversely impacting marine species.

Marine Debris has increased exponentially, with a high prevalence of non-organic and non-biodegradable components particularly plastic. The quantity of plastic in the marine environment is expected to further increase, and the attention of the scientific community is needed to fill knowledge gaps, increase scientific knowledge, and develop research, not only in order to improve ocean health, but also to find affordable alternatives and substitutes for fishers and other communities, that engage in livelihoods that may contribute to the increase of marine debris, plastics and micro plastics.     

Sri Lanka has set up a specialized national authority to address the issue of marine pollution. We have undertaken policy reform in order to reduce marine debris.  We have already commenced partnerships with private sector and industry to improve infrastructure and encourage recycling.

Ocean warming and acidification have serious effects on the oceans, the results of these effects include loss of life, destruction of property, erosion of coastlines, migration of fish stocks, coral bleaching and other ecosystem degradation thus exacerbating challenges relating to food security, livelihoods and the development of communities. This in turn undermines the ability of States, in particular developing States, to achieve sustainable development and in some cases threatens the viability and survival of communities and even nations, in particular in low lying coastal countries.

To this end we have embarked on a series of environmental actions with the objective of creating awareness among the general public on the environment and blue green economy. We have begun programs to formulate and implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation measures, build resilience in vulnerable sectors and communities, and fulfill national commitments on multilateral environmental agreements.  

Sri Lanka, has developed a comprehensive coastal zone management program. Steps have been taken to develop necessary legal frameworks, formulate and implement a national coastal zone management plan, and implement restoration management of damaged coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, sand dunes, coastal lagoons and coral reefs. We have also tested innovative approaches to generate full scale ecosystems benefits both in tangible and intangible ways to local people aiming to strengthen their socio-economical resilience.

With regard to Capacity Building, Sri Lanka welcomes the efforts within the framework of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole to promote, facilitate and ensure capacity-building and transfer of technology, including marine technology, under a rule based international system and in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other applicable international instruments.

In this regard we also welcome the promotion of technical cooperation, including South-South cooperation in order to identify gaps and shared priorities to support capacity-building in marine monitoring and assessment. We particularly wish to commend the organizing of the Multi-Stakeholder and Capacity Building event held in January this year which we believe was a great success.  

We urge states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to continue to update information to the capacity-building inventory and thank those countries that hosted the second round of regional workshops enabling our experts to interact, share best practices, build partnerships, and learn from each other.

In Conclusion Co chairs, in his annual report on ‘Oceans and the Law of the Sea’, released in March 2019, the UN Secretary-General, underscored the cross-cutting role of ocean science in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This must be the fulcrum upon which our mandate rests.

Thank you