23rd October 2015, Trusteeship Council Chamber
At the outset, I extend my deep appreciation to you for convening this important informal meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter.
Signing of the United Nations Charter seventy years ago, undoubtedly marked an extremely significant milestone of humankind. The birth of the United Nations marked the emergence of a new international legal order that has been in existence for the past seventy years, replacing a world order that had premised itself on the realist notion ‘might is right’.
The Charter, which was enshrined with universal fundamental principles of non-intervention, non-violence, peaceful resolution of disputes, building consensus and peaceful co-existence as its cornerstones, epitomized the desire of the nations to establish a new global order based on sovereign equality of states and democratic governance.
Today, at the United Nations, what we engage in Mr. President, is “meet in harmony, discuss in harmony and rise in harmony” to solve our present problems and to advance humanity. In these wise words, referred to by sages of the past, one could trace the seeds of the contemporary principle of peaceful resolution of disputes.
The last seventy years have been of particular significance to mankind under the aegis of the United Nations. In keeping with the principles of the United Nations Charter, nations of the world have been able to achieve many a great achievement in many areas, though we have collectively failed in certain areas such as countering the growing violent conflict situations, both among and within states, together with the unrelenting spread of the phenomenon of terrorism. These have generated unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
Nevertheless, I prefer to be an optimist and see the positive side of things, Mr. President. Let us imagine the potential wars and conflicts that the world has averted by adhering to the principles of the Charter, the number of human lives saved and the number of people whose rights were upheld and protected, the number of people who were saved from starvation and poverty. These achievements, unfortunately, do not make the news headlines.
As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter, let us have a close look in retrospect with a view to making a better future for all humanity. We must do so in the context of the theme proposed by you, Mr. President for the present session of the General Assembly, “The United Nations at 70–A New Commitment to Action”.
I would be remiss if I do not choose to say few words about Sri Lanka’s involvement with the United Nations. As the United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, it is a matter of particular pride for us that Sri Lanka is celebrating the 60th anniversary of her admission to the United Nations along with several other states. Sri Lanka and the United Nations have always enjoyed a warm, mutually beneficial and interactive relationship.
We have been, since 1955, when we were admitted to the United Nations, an active Member State of the Organization and in turn the United Nations has contributed to the economic, social and cultural progress of Sri Lanka and its people.
Since my country gained membership we have not failed to attend every General Assembly session and chaired the session in 1976. We have been a non-permanent member of the Security Council during 1960-1961 and many Sri Lankans have held responsible positions in the United Nations system, including the Presidency of the historic Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, Conference on the Review/Extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chairmanship of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW), and the Chairmanship of the UN Ad Hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism. Distinguished Sri Lankan civil servants have also held high office in UN Outer-Space Division and the UNDP.
We are proud to have successfully proposed the Indian Ocean Peace Zone (IOPZ) in 1971, the Declaration of 1987 on the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless; and the 1999 resolution on the recognition of Vesak, a day of special significance to Buddhists all over the world, as a UN holiday, among others. Just last year, Sri Lanka’s proposal to designate a World Youth Skills Day received the overwhelming support of this august Assembly.
Sri Lanka is a signatory to key legal instruments in diverse fields such as human rights, disarmament and suppression of terrorism.
Sri Lanka has been contributing significantly to the United Nations Peacekeeping operations. Our highly professional and well-disciplined troops have been part of many an endeavour of the United Nations to maintain peace and security around the world. We will continue to engage in these operations, as the very nature of contemporary peacekeeping operations continue to evolve amidst new challenges, protection of the Civilian being at the core of these challenges.
At this important juncture when the United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary, we re-dedicate ourselves to the United Nations process with renewed vigour.
We are committed, once again, to building bridges and engaging positively with all Member States and the United Nations. We are committed to the ideal of decency and mutual respect in dealings among nations, to human rights and to the dignity of all people, irrespective of race, gender, color or creed.
I thank you.