Statement by State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs for the National Summit on Foresight and Innovation Summit

On behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, I'm please to attend this event, in signing the "Areas of Cooperation for the first National Summit on Foresight and Innovation for Sustainable Human Development 2016".

This cooperation is mainly between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs. And, in addition, the Coordinating Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (COSTI) of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research, the United Nations Global Compact Network of Sri Lanka, Sarvodaya and LIRNEasia will also partnering this Summit in various capacities.

The United Nations new Development Agenda which was adopted by the member states in August 2015 will be the leading global development scenario for the next 15 year period. As we are aware, the 2030 Agenda is based on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. Hence, the implementation of 2030 Agenda is a challenge due to its complexity and indivisibility. Therefore, the member states are urged to take necessary initial steps immediately to internalize the SDGs to their national development frameworks. However, this internalization process will not be very pleasing for many developing economies due to their internal and external constraints like limited economic and financial capacities, weak institutional structure, ambiguities in political and institutional directions in devising an implementation mechanism for the 2030 Agenda and much more.

According to His Excellency the President, Maithripala Sirisena's address in the UN General Assembly in last August 2015, Sri Lanka pledged to continue the work with UN and other states to achieve SDGs by 2030 with special focus on six selected SDGs including the SDG one on poverty alleviation. These selections are fundamentally targeted to improve the living standards of the people in our country through a more holistic development approach.

Furthermore, Hon. Prime Minister, Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe in his economic policy statement to the nation on 5th November 2015, has announced five goals of development; namely (1). Generating one million employment opportunities, (2). Enhancing income levels, (3). Development of rural economies, (4). Ensuring land ownership to rural and estate sectors, the middle class and government employees, and (5). Creating a wide and a strong middle class. As such, the current general policy environment is shaped primarily on these five development goals and the new government’s declared intention of establishing clean and effective administration, restoration of democracy and taking the country rapidly towards Upper Middle Income status.

Having said the general challenge the developing nations are facing, I would like to draw your attention to Sri Lankan context. We have experienced a fundamental political change and currently a national unity government is ruling the country. Under the new political set-up, a holistic and balanced development approach is expected for the country rather than the development of specific sectors like infrastructure development (Highways/Ports/Airports etc.).

In this background, I believe that Sri Lanka has a favorable and stable political leadership to frame a sustainable  national development strategy for the country. However, there are financial and human capacity constraints we might have looked into and addressed in order to ensure the realization of the 17 SDGs by 2030. Therefore, I believe that the National Summit on Foresight and Innovation for Sustainable Human Development 2016, will be a good starting point for Sri Lanka in the internalization of the Agenda 2030. As such, we need to review our existing policies, planning methodologies and set the national targets in line with both the SDGs and national development priorities to ensure more holistic and sustainable development of the country. In doing so, it is believed that the foresight and innovation would be used as an effective tool to formulate a more robust and strategic national development framework for the country. Therefore, as the State Minister of the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, I trust the proposed Summit will shed light on policy formulation process  to achieve the expected socio-economic development for the people of this country.

As such, I wish to extend my warm wishes to UNDP and other partnering institutions for the initiative taken in and to conduct a successful National Summit on Foresight and Innovation for Sustainable Human Development and believed that this Summit will be an effective platform to share the good practices among the nations.

Thank you!

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