71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly
General Debate of the Second Committee
H. E. Dr. A. Rohan Perera, Ambassador and
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
“The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world”
03rd October, 2016
At the outset, the delegation of Sri Lanka wishes to join all other delegations in congratulating you and the other members of the Bureau on your election.
My delegation associates itself with the statement delivered by the distinguished representative of the Kingdom of Thailand on behalf of the G-77 and China.
It is pertinent to focus our attention on the overall theme of the General Debate of the 71st Session, “The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world”, which we believe is extremely relevant to the work of the Second Committee. This theme provides our work in this Committee with a sound theoretical framework.
Last year, in September, we adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has the potential to transform the lives of billions of people on earth. The Sustainable Development Agenda we adopted was no doubt a visionary plan of action that would determine the path of progress of humanity and indeed a universal push to transform our world for the good.
We have now reached the implementation stage of the Sustainable Development Goals. Though ambitious in content and perhaps audacious in hope, I sincerely believe that if we as Member States, pledge to implement the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals in good faith, with commitment and purpose, it will serve to end poverty and hunger in all their forms and dimensions; protect the planet from degradation; and ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives.
As the first country in the Asia-Pacific Region to establish a separate Ministry for Sustainable Development, and as the current Chair of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, Sri Lanka is in a unique position to implement the Sustainable Development Goals at national level, to set a precedent for our region, and contribute to the universal efforts to transform our world.
I am extremely pleased to share with you the information that we are in the process of tabling in Parliament, a comprehensive National Sustainable Development Act in conformity with the Sustainable Development Goals. The objective of this new Act is to facilitate the formulating of a National Policy and Strategy on Sustainable Development and provide the necessary legal and institutional framework for developing and implementing it. The Act will mandate ministries, provincial councils, local governments and all public sector agencies to prepare sustainable development strategies and carry out audits and provide annual progress reports based on a set of sustainable development standards, guidelines and indicators.
The Ministry of Sustainable Development and Wildlife of Sri Lanka has also commenced formulating a “National Sustainable Development Roadmap” under the theme of “Planning for an Inclusive Transformation”. To ensure that no one if left behind we have launched the “National and Provincial Sustainable Development Engagement Platforms” bringing together representation from political, administrative, local government, civil society, academia, private sector, development agencies and women and youth.
An interdisciplinary team of experts and researchers coordinated by the Ministry of Sustainable Development has been developing a convergent systems linkages mapping process between and amongst the 169 targets and the 400 plus mandated implementing agencies in the country. This will help us define the roles and responsibilities of implementing the SDGs and assessing the capacity building and means of implementation. The ultimate goal of Sri Lanka is to create a model of implementing the SDGs in three phases; 2017 to 2020, 2020 to 2025, and 2025 to 2030.
Achieving Sustainable Development Goals is the only way to put an end to poverty. Poverty is presently a serious challenge throughout the world, including in Sri Lanka. We have made significant progress in poverty eradication by achieving the target of halving poverty at the national level, seven years before 2015. Despite these endeavours, poverty remains the greatest hindrance to our development.
We are cognizant of this serious challenge and, therefore have prioritized economic development to go hand in hand with sustainable development. The importance that we attach to the eradication of poverty is evident in Sri Lanka’s declaration of year 2017 as the Year of Freedom from Poverty.
Sustainable development cannot be achieved without peace. A nation must be at peace with itself and with other nations in order to achieve sustainable development.
The political transition in Sri Lanka in January last year brought about crucial peacebuilding opportunities in our country following a thirty-year conflict that left deep scars in the socio-ethnic fabric of our nation. Peacebuilding, therefore, is vital to prevent a recurrence of conflict and achieve sustainable development.
Achieving Sustainable Development Goals at national level is also impossible without good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights. The current political atmosphere in Sri Lanka, which promotes good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights, provides an enabling environment for the country to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
Owing to very early investments, Sri Lanka has almost achieved the universal primary education target andhas made progress in achieving gender equality at all levels of education. We have also been very successful over the years in remarkably reducing the child and maternal mortality rates due to improvements in free healthcare services.
Sri Lanka has given highest priority to combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases including the NCDs as well. I am pleased to state that on 5th September 2016, Sri Lanka was certified by WHO as having eliminated malaria, a life-threatening disease that affected our country for a long time.
Sri Lanka has met the target for the proportion of people with access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Our Carbon dioxide emissions stabilized after 2001 while the carbon footprint remains negligible at 0.6 tons per capita per year.
We must not forget that protecting our planet must be at the heart of all our efforts for development and economic prosperity. Planet Earth, of which we are only the custodians, must be the legacy that we leave behind for our future generations. Rising up to the challenge of climate change must be the priority in our endeavours to protect our planet. Cognizant of this, we signed the Paris Agreement, and our President deposited the Instrument of Ratification on 21st of September at the special event in the United Nations.
Two weeks ago, we jubilantly celebrated the 1st anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. Nevertheless, we cannot immerse ourselves forever in the euphoria created by the Sustainable Development Goals. It is true that we have an agreement on a universal push to transform our world. Unless we take concrete and immediate action to implement that agenda at the national level, it will not serve the purpose for which it was created.
I thank you.