Sri Lanka Statement
H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN
Open Debate on
“The impacts of climate related disasters on international peace and security”
United Nations Security Council - 25 January 2019
Three Minutes (3)
Allow me to congratulate the Dominican Republic not only for assuming the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of January but also for holding this open debate on one of the most pressing issues of our time - Climate Change. As an island nation severely impacted by natural disasters, Sri Lanka understands the challenges faced by all nations affected by climate change. We also thank the other briefers for their valuable contributions here today.
The World Meteorological Organization has observed that the past three to four years were the warmest on record. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to rise, increasing risk from heat waves, floods, droughts and wild fires.
Rising sea levels and coastal degradation threaten the viability of lives and livelihoods in low-lying areas. More frequent flooding and the risk of loss of territory to the sea increase the prevalence of displacement, migration, and social unrest. Island nations like Sri Lanka are particularly vulnerable to the impact of ocean environments and climate change. In the past decade or so, Sri Lanka has been devastated by nature driven tragedies such as floods, landslides, the massive Tsunami of 2004 and other disasters.
For Sri Lanka the Ocean and its resources are inextricably interwoven with the lives of our people. The Indian Ocean, in which we are located, provides employment, food and avenues of trade and commerce. Our large coastal communities survive at ocean level. For us, rise of the seas, pollution of the oceans, depletion of fish, good coastal eco systems are not abstractions – they are the core of our existence.
Only a global vision implemented through commitment and multilateral cooperation in keeping with the principle of sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of states, will halt the degradation of this planet and the resulting threat to peace and security. Therefore, solidarity in international relations is vital, not only in addressing this issue at all levels and stages - from prevention to post disaster management; but also, in providing disaster relief both long and short term. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals, among others, constitute the fundamental normative framework for systematically addressing climate change. Sri Lanka continues to strongly endorse the Paris Agreement. Indeed we stand behind every significant international environmental agreement. It is our hope that the collective interest embodied in these instruments will be the basis for global consensus on climate change and its global impact.
The nexus between Climate Change and international peace and security, becomes evident in several areas. Among them:
Multiplication of threat
1. Climate change multiplies threat as it creates scarcity of some of the most essential natural resources. If resilience is low then communities may be internally displaced, increasing exploitation by extremist elements. The added tension of competition over diminishing natural resources could add fuel to existing conflicts.
Rise in migration and refugee movements and internal shifts in population
2. Environmental degradation together with political, economic and social insecurity is also one of the main drivers of migration and refugee movements. This phenomenon has caused panic leading some states to double down on anti-immigrant rhetoric and resort to seal off borders, exacerbating international tensions.
Local resource competition
3. According to media reports Global warming claims some 400,000 lives each year worldwide - many due to extreme weather events but most due to climate change-induced hunger and disease. Natural resource competition and food shortages can contribute to regional instability or civil conflicts.
International Response to extreme weather events and disasters
How governments and the international community respond to natural disasters could increase or mitigate the risk of conflict. The need to respect the inherent human dignity of the person and the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and non-discrimination in providing disaster relief, embodies the underpinning of third State conduct regarding a natural disaster that takes place in another State. Departure from these principles, could lead to international tension and possible threats to international peace and security.
The principle of impartiality is of particular importance in order to ensure that those providing disaster relief carry out their activities with the sole aim of responding to the disaster in accordance with humanitarian principles and not for the purpose of interfering in the domestic affairs of the affected States.
In this background, it is essential to keep in mind that international cooperation must not diminish the primary role of the affected State in the direction, control, coordination and supervision of relief assistance. International cooperation must always be complementary to the overriding duty of the affected States to persons within their jurisdictions.
The recent work accomplished by the International Law Commission on the topic of Protection of Persons in the event of disasters, reflects the careful balance that must be struck in recognizing the primary role of the affected State in providing disaster relief assistance to its people and at the same time, in underlining the value of international solidarity and cooperation in providing disaster relief to an affected State, as a genuine humanitarian measure.