67th UN Day in Sri Lanka: Statement by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Sri Lanka

24 Oct 2012

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Honourable Senior Minister for International Monetary Cooperation, Dr Sarath Amunugama,
Honourable Ministers,
Excellencies, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Senior Government officials and partners from central and local government, Civil Society, Academia, Private Sector, Media and Others,
Friends of UN from the international community,
UN Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is a pleasure and honor for me to welcome you all to the UN compound on this occasion. Today, on United Nations Day, throughout the world, UN staff and their partners in Government, the diplomatic communities, academia and civil society, are taking a moment to reflect on the work of the Organization. Taking stock not only of achievements, but also of where we, together, can better promote the causes that underpin our common humanity - these are the objectives that bring us together today.

Excellencies and Dear Friends;
Let me begin by thanking you, Hon Minister Amunugama, for gracing this occasion with your distinguished presence. As you know the UN has had a long presence in Sri Lanka with several UN agencies celebrating their 60th year of working together with the Government of this country.  We see this strong partnership between the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations, as an affirmation of the common values and the shared vision that unite all of us in supporting the people of Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka has contributed much to the UN system – be it through the peace keeping force, its citizens who have held high level posts or its active participation in world conferences such as Rio+20 this year! And the engagement continues not only with development and humanitarian arms of the UN – but also with UN entities dealing with political and human rights!

Ladies and Gentlemen;
As Sri Lanka transitions from an overriding humanitarian situation to where we are today, UN assistance currently spans both humanitarian and development support. Under the humanitarian funding windows, the UN has mobilized nearly US$ 300 million since 2010 to support emergency operations in conflict, flood and drought affected areas. Through the current United Nations Development Assistant Framework (UNDAF), from 2008 to end of 2012, the UN supported the Government of Sri Lanka – through technical and financial assistance – to a total value of approximately US$ 600 million. At the core of this support is a shared vision of wanting to empower and support the disadvantaged and the vulnerable groups in society. Our partnership is based on a hope for a prosperous future in which all Sri Lankans, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity, can live in peace and realize their full potential. In this context, let me thank everyone who is with us today, for your commitment to make this partnership work.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all donors for supporting us, for working with us and for having confidence in the UN system’s capacity to deliver effective humanitarian and development assistance to Sri Lanka.

Dear Friends;
The theme for UN Day this year focuses on Sri Lanka’s MDG achievements and explores key challenges that remain.  Sri Lanka is well on track to achieve most of the MDGs and all our national partners can be very proud of this success! The investments made in the social sector, from the country’s independence to today, have made it possible for Sri Lanka to be an outlier in the South Asian region and on par with some developed countries in some MDGs. The country continues to do well despite the global recession but increasing inequality, regional disparities, youth unemployment and gender inequality remain challenges that have to be addressed more effectively. Moreover, a new set of challenges like non-communicable diseases, ageing and lingering poverty in rural communities would require attention and work in the coming years.  The UN system will continue with our steady and long-standing partnerships in the afore-mentioned areas and support the Government in reaching all the MDGs by 2015. With many of the basic foundations for human development in place, Sri Lanka is in a position to be able to demonstrate how to achieve inclusive growth, how to put climate change considerations at the front of growth strategies and how to empower youth and women to be the leaders of tomorrow. Our hope would also be that Sri Lanka could be a pioneer country in shaping the post-2015 MDG agenda and lead by example, much like it did in earlier years, in achieving universal access to health and education.

Ladies and Gentlemen;
Long term sustainable development of any country cannot be thought of or planned for, in the absence of long lasting peace or at the least concerted efforts at bringing about peace.  The mutually reinforcing relationship between peace and sustainable development needs to be carefully nurtured by creating suitable conditions and showing resolute political commitment to policies that encourage peace and development.  For example the closure of Menik Farm in September this year is a milestone in addressing the issue of displacement in Sri Lanka. This is a significant step in the transition from conflict to sustainable peace and development.  Yet there is a need to find long term and stable solutions to IDPs who are unable to return to their homes because their lands are yet to be released and ensure they are given an opportunity to make informed and voluntary decisions about their future.  It is by showing a genuine commitment to addressing the needs of those who are most affected by the conflict and engaging them in the process of development that Sri Lanka can achieve long term peace and sustainable development.  We all know peace requires the absence of conflict and tension but it equally requires the presence of justice for all.  This is something which we focus on, in our new UNDAF.

Excellencies and Distinguished Colleagues;
Before I conclude, it is important for me to mention that after more than a year of planning and consultation, together with the Government, we finalized the new United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the next five years: 2013-2017. We had the signing ceremony at the beginning of the month.  In the new UNDAF, we focus on Sustainable and inclusive economic growth with equitable access to quality social services, strengthened human capabilities and reconciliation for lasting peace. The four pillars of the UNDAF: equitable economic growth, reducing disparities, governance and social inclusion and environmental sustainability capture how the UN can best support build a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka for all Sri Lankans. The new UNDAF priorities reflect Sri Lanka’s transition from a humanitarian to a development context.  We look forward to working with our national partners in achieving economic growth and reducing inequality by ensuring equitable access to resources, services and growth opportunities. In this regard full and expedient implementation of the LLRC recommendations offers genuine prospects for building confidence and helping reconciliation and gaining durable peace.  The UN stands committed to supporting the Government in this process.  

Dear Friends;
We at the UN highly value the relationship we have with the people and Government of Sri Lanka.  We commit to continue to work together on the same universal values that make up the building blocks of all nations as well as the work of the United Nations: an aspiration to promote peace, equality and development.  We at the UN believe in the vision that Sri Lanka will continue to set social development standards in the region and in which long lasting peace will be a reality.  On behalf of all members of the United Nations staff in Sri Lanka I thank you all for being here today.