Statement by Mr. Subinay Nandy at the Inauguration of the 28th OPA Conference 2015

His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena,

Minister of Sustainable Development, Hon Gamini Jayawickrama Perera

President of the OPA Mr. Jayawardena,

President-elect OPA Prof. Kuruppu,

OPA General-Secretary Mr. Gallage,

Members and Officials of the Organization of Professional Associations,

Guests, and distinguished speakers,

Ladies and gentlemen.


Greetings of Peace!

Today we mark the international Day of Peace.  Before I commence with my intervention this evening, let me echo the words of the UN Secretary-General “We live at a moment of peril – but this is also an era of great promise. We need to mobilize all partners who share the goal of peace.” You all have a role to “play in fostering social progress, protecting the environment and creating a more just, stable and peaceful world.” I urge you to play an active role to achieve long-lasting and inclusive peace and reconciling in Sri Lanka, because Partnerships for Peace means Dignity for All.


It is indeed an honour for me to represent the UN family in Sri Lanka and speak here at the 28th annual conference of the Organization of Professional Associations.

In 2015, a year of transition from MDGs to SDGs, the theme of this conference ‘Innovations and Technology for Sustainable Development’ is one that is close to the heart of the United Nations.

Fifteen years ago we embarked on a journey with the Millennium Development Goals, and now in 2015 we are looking at moving in to a post-2015 development era. This new journey of looking ahead and shaping our future world will be initiated with the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals at the event late this week in New York that HE the President Mr. Maithripala Sirisena will be joining join along with leaders of all UN member countries.

These 17 goals place great responsibility, not only on states and institutions, but also on professionals – such as those gathered here today – to ensure we change our ‘business as usual’ approach in to a more effective, innovative process that promotes sustainability in many aspects.

The importance of protecting the environment is reiterated within these sustainable development goals with goals 13, 14 and 15 emphasizing on the need to protect the planet, life on land and life in water; all this supported by goals 6, 7 and 12 – dealing with clean water and sanitation, clean energy and responsible consumption respectively. An excellent first step was made in this direction with His Excellency the President launching the Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan at the International Summit on Climate Change Adaptation.

I welcome the words of his excellency the President, who addressed the incoming parliamentarians with the policy statement, and made a resonating call that as Sri Lanka embarks on its journey towards achieving human development goals and socio-economic progress that no harm should be done to the green canopy and the wealth of flora and fauna that make Sri Lanka a beautiful nation.

These are all positive steps that Sri Lanka is embarking on in the journey towards sustainability and development.

2015 is an extremely important year for the global community, especially for governments and the UN in terms of collectively addressing development challenges. This importance is reflected in the four main global conferences hosted this year.

Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Third International Conference on Financing for Development, The Special Summit on Sustainable Development and the UN Climate Change Conference or COP 21 to be held in December, shows global community’s commitment towards the promotion of sustainable development, through sustainable environment, better financing options and a disaster awareness and preparedness.

The global community, today, stand at the crossroads between two time periods, about to begin our drive towards the Sustainable Development Goals. As we head into the years ahead, we must keep in mind that although we have accomplished much in the past few decades, many issues continue to stunt social and economic growth. Challenges in development are evolving on a global scale, and it now takes more to deal with them. It takes out-of-the-box thinking - it takes innovation.

To operate in such a dynamic and often challenging context requires foresight, innovative thinking and agile solutions. Recognizing this, it is observed that governments in the Asia and Pacific region are increasingly investing in various instruments to promote innovation within their services. All governments need institutions to catalyse innovation and many leaders at national and sub national levels recognize this and continue to invest in dedicated teams, units and funds to structure and embed innovation methods and practice in government.

Some of the leading governments in the region investing on innovations by establishing National Strategies, Teams, Councils include Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia. The region also boasts over 50 innovation labs oriented towards social innovation and improving the design and delivery of public services.  

All over the world, countries have been pushing for these innovative solutions. The approaches to research are changing in order to better address social innovation in the development sector.

Globally, innovations has made a huge difference in addressing urgent and pressing development challenges,– by improving response to climate disasters, by improving avenues to engage citizens in political processes and governance, and by promoting more transparent and responsive governments.

In the Maldives, in order to address the gap in communication between citizens and their government, UNDP created a mobile platform for people to report issues affecting the local communities, enabling authorities to improve public service delivery in these areas.

UNDP Kosovo created an innovations lab, where creative thinkers were given a space to come together and push each other’s minds. Along with many other achievements, they ended up creating a “Youth Map”, which presented the resources available to Kosovo’s youth on an online map.

Even in the UK, NESTA -  an independent charity that works to increase the innovation capacity of the UK -  is constantly pushing the boundaries, creating new initiatives such as their Health Lab, a people powered health system, that help increase the innovative capacity of their country.

These are simple processes that created a large impact. Improving communications between citizens and the government to build and develop their homeland together. Tapping in to the skills and innovations of the youth of a nation, a valuable resource whose skills and positivity need to be harnessed and included in our approaches.  

Every day, there are countless new examples of innovation across the world, in all platforms of life. In this changing world, where globalization spreads problems as quickly as it spreads solutions, Sri Lanka needs to keep up.

The global context on all our developmental issues is changing, and we need to change with it. We have come a long way in the past few decades, fulfilling many of the MDGs. But in today’s world, that is not enough anymore.

In a world where everyone has started thinking outside the box, it is not enough to simply carry on in the same way we have been.

While governments have often led pioneering initiatives on innovation, constraints remain in finding the necessary ‘space’, frameworks and capacity to take the agenda forward; to be able to engage citizens, non-profits and other partners including the private sector to co-design innovative ideas that benefit from the knowledge of the local context; transforms processes, skills and culture of government, and develop pathways to ultimately achieve wider policy and systems change that affects impact at scale.

For UNDP in the Asia-Pacific region, innovation begins with a critical rethink of how we approach development challenges and identifying solutions outside of traditional project cycles, recognizing innovation as an intrinsic design principle to programme development.

Building on our capacity, experience, and the increasing demands of equal footing partnerships with the middle income countries and other developing countries, UNDP across the region is actively engaging with national and sub national governments to leverage active technical know-how and facilitate mentoring support to develop the necessary innovation capacity that can enable the co-design and co-develop the next generation of services to address critical national development priorities.

UN Sri Lanka, has been a key development partner working with the people of Sri Lanka for almost six decades. Through this partnership, we are pushing boundaries, and paying an increased attention to creative thinking, advancing Sri Lanka’s ways of tackling development problems. Innovation will be a key part in designing mechanisms and processes that’s deals with the past but lays foundation for a prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka.  As you all will pursuing peace and development, it would be important to keep in view that there is no peace without development and no development without peace, and no lasting peace or sustainable development without the respect for human rights and rule of law.

Here, let me take moment to emphasize that we are at an important moment in Sri Lanka’s history.  With the changes that’s characterise Sri Lanka since the January 2015 Presidential Elections, a healthy democracy is in place, space for civil society like yourselves is enhanced and there is room for informed decision making. In a climate as such, what is your role? Innovation is not just about technology, it is not just inventions. Simply asking the questions, “How can I do this differently?” and “What if there’s another way to tackle this problem?” That, in itself, is the start to innovation. As professionals from diverse backgrounds, you have a very special place, today. You all have an opportunity, utilizing this democratic space, to innovate and contribute to national development, collectively. 

I whole heartedly encourage everyone here, both young and experienced professionals, to challenge themselves on how to push themselves to experiment and bring fresh ideas to the table.

Sustainable development means meeting the needs of the people, and in order to do this, we need to use the creative capacity of our own communities.  We need to take advantage of the open mindedness of our young people, as youth and innovation – combined - have the potential to transform Sri Lanka.

The world has already started innovating, and Sri Lanka we must not only keep up with that, but should lead in this journey.


Thank you.


[Check againts delivery]

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