Sri Lanka launch of the HDR 2013: Address by the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

Apr 2, 2013

Mr. Subinay Nandy, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka addressing the gathering

Hon G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs, Hon. Ministers, Excellencies Ambassadors, High Commissioners and members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Board Members of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRS), Secretaries and Senior Government Officials, Invited members of academia, think-tanks and national/international CSOs, Member of the press and media, Distinguished panelists, Colleagues from the UN System, Ladies and gentlemen.

A very warm welcome to you all to the Sri Lanka launch of 2013 UNDP Human Development Report, in the steps of its global launch in Mexico City a few weeks ago. Hon. Minister Peiris, I am especially grateful that you accepted our invitation to grace this event, considering the substantive relevance of this year’s report to Sri Lanka.

I am also happy that the event is co-hosted with the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRS), of which you serve as Chairperson – given the institution’s vision and role in facilitating policy dialogue in order to inform national development agendas and Sri Lanka’s relations with the external world.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentemen:

Discourse on rapidly growing countries from the South mainly remained confined to the so-called tiger economies of Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, and also missed to adequately draw connections between economic progress and human development. 

The 2013 HDR highlights the experiences of a group of  Southern countries that are experiencing rapid developmental progress as we speak, countries which collectively makeup a significant portion of the world population, and offers insights into the policy and programmatic drivers that have enabled these countries to achieve this progress at such unprecedented scale and speed. 

Against this background, the experiences, insights, experiences and information from other countries are useful for comparison and where appropriate, cross-fertilization and replication. 

As UNDP administrator Ms. Helen Clark noted at the global launch of the report in Mexico City: “The 2013 Report makes a significant contribution to development thinking by describing specific drivers of development transformation and by suggesting future policy priorities that could help sustain such momentum.” 

While the presentation and panel to follow will delve into the substance of the Report, I would like to highlight a number of broad issues. 

Firstly, the 2013 HDR identifies new actors who are shaping the development landscape.

Countries such as India, China, Turkey, Bangladesh and Mauritius, are not only making unprecedented economic progress, they are also making impressive human development gains. 

The HDR itself reports encouraging advances in Sri Lanka also.  Sri Lanka’s HDI value for 2012 is 0.715  placing the country in the high human development category for the first time and positioning the country at 92 out of 187 countries and territories. 

We should note here that Sri Lanka’s own human development gains, despite the protracted internal conflict, are due to the continued social investments: investments in education and health in particular. 

In fact, the 2013 HDR recognizes the development gains to be made where countries are prioritizing human and social welfare, making significant public investments not only in infrastructure but also in education, healthcare, legal empowerment and social organization, and taking comprehensive efforts to reduce socio-economic disparities:  between rural/urban populations, or men and women, or between different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups.

Secondly, while the 2013 HDR acknowledges the positive human development gains of the last decade, both in the North and South, it warns that these can be upturned if issues of equality and sustainability are not factored into future development planning and programming.

It must be noted that the HDI for example often masks the inequalities within countries. 

I noted that Sri Lanka is placed in the high human development category for the first time. At the same time, the UNDP NHDR for Sri Lanka, prepared with IPS and published in 2012, documented significant regional disparities in the country, especially in the former conflict affected districts, plantation industry based districts and regions like Uva. 

Similarly, if we look at the Gender Inequality Index (GDI), Sri Lanka records a lower ranking, indicating room for significant improvement. 

As the document recommends, countries, including those Southern-based countries with strong development trajectories at present, should confront environmental challenges, address socio-economic inequalities, manage its demographic change, and ensure voice and participation, especially of its young, in order to sustain momentum thus far gained. 

Finally, the 2013 HDR calls for new modes of global cooperation around critical issues relating to public goods such as trade, migration, development cooperation, particularly through better representation for the South in international governance systems, both inter-governmental and civil society. 

The report further highlights on the potential for other countries of the South to take full advantage of the ‘spill-over’ effects of their neighbours, especially through improve South-South cooperation, technology transfer and the strengthening of regional cooperation mechanisms and institutions. 

I would like to close my thoughts by reinforcing the timeliness of this report to two important development agendas: 

One which applies specifically to our work in Sri Lanka in the next five years (United Nations Development Assistance Framework) and the other which has a more global application, the development discourse on post MDGs. 

On the first issue, Government of Sri Lanka and UN agreed on UN’s five year (2013-2017) partnership framework and that pegs our support to Sri Lanka’s long term development priorities. 

We will work with our national partners in reducing the regional disparities, addressing inequalities and making a difference in the lives of Sri Lanka’s most marginalized and vulnerable people.

Commensurate to the mandates of respective UN agencies and needs of the country, we will work on issues of reconciliation, reintegration and rule of law issues.

On the global development discourse, as many of you here know, the dialogue on the framing of a new global post 2015 development agenda is in full swing. Many countries, including Sri Lanka, are engaged in consultation processes in order to shape the global agenda.

Against this background, I see the country-specific discourses around this report as offering good opportunities for ensuring that a new international development framework is informed by the experiences and voices from the South.

Before I close, I wish to record my appreciation and thanks for the support we got from Kadirgamar Institute Team and particularly Mr. Asanga Abeygunasekere – who is unfortunately not here with us today.

I thank H.E. John Rankin, Dr. Suren Batagoda, Ms. Priyanthi Fernando Dr. Indrajit Coomeraswamy for accepting to be part of the panel – and with their participation it has really turned into a distinguished panel!

I thank you all once for your valuable participation and I look forward to an engaging event.