Ms. Faiza Effendi, Officer in Charge, UNDP in Sri Lanka

*Check against delivery*

I wish you all a good afternoon.

Thank you Hon. Dullas Alahapperuma, Minister of Power, for organizing this important meeting to brainstorm on key green development policy priorities which the Colombo Development Dialogues can deep dive into for informing the Government’s Green development agenda.

The participation of government representatives from the various ministries and departments demonstrates the importance of the issue and the need for a whole of government approach to promoting a green development agenda.

UNDP also greatly appreciates the presence of development partners to identify collaborative approaches for promoting green development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the last year and a half, a tiny virus has humbled the human race, threatening to reverse decades of development.

Scientists predicted a pandemic like COVID-19 for years because of the ever-greater pressures humans put on nature in the name of progress.

As the sixth most climate-vulnerable country in the world (Climate Risk Index), Sri Lanka is frequented by environmental hazards such as Cyclone Burevi, frequent floods, landslides, droughts, etc. Today the country is battling a marine and ecological disaster caused by the MV X-press Pearl vessel, the impact of which will be felt by the country for years to come.

According to new research - the total mass of the things humans have made - like buildings, roads and bottle tops — now exceeds the total mass of all living things on the planet, from tiny bacteria to giant whales.

UNDP’s Human Development Report 2020 – on HD in the Anthropocene – the age of the humans, says that humanity is waging a war against itself. COVID-19, climate change, inequality – they are all connected. They are all hitting together. And societies are in trauma.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. This is a unique moment. It calls for a unique conversation, and that is what UNDP hopes to start with discussions on green development for Sri Lanka.

The Human Development Index which captures the human well being, for 2020 was adjusted for countries’ consumption and carbon footprints.

The result was a clearer analysis of human progress. The report revealed there is not a single nation in the world that has achieved human development and growth with a low carbon footprint.  

Finding the right balance between achieving human progress and protecting the planet is the next frontier for human development. 

It comes down to the incentives, social norms, and nature-based solutions that will reset how people and the planet interact.

It comes down to the choices that countries and leaders make as they build forward better from COVID-19; choices that could stop the pandemic and end poverty, close the digital divide and tackle the climate emergency, so that we use this unique moment in time to move to the next frontier for people and planet.

Development Partners are encouraged by the Government of Sri Lanka’s policy framework of transforming towards a green socio-economy, with sustainable solutions to climate change. The recently established Presidential Task Force on “Creating a Green Sri Lanka with Sustainable Solutions to Climate Change”, offers promise in moving towards policy solutions that balance people and the planet.

This Task Team aspires to support the Government in their effort.

To take forward the conversation UNDP offers:

  • Expertise and tools that help countries to simulate alternative futures based on different policy choices, building on the data in UNDP’s 2020 Human Development Report;
  • integrated programmatic and financial support that goes beyond ‘quick technical fixes’ to accelerate the transition towards greener and more equitable development pathways; And as the secretariat to the G20 Sustainable Finance Working Group, examines major gaps and barriers to mobilize sustainable finance
  • tailored national and local policy dialogues to support the evolution of new social norms and build coalitions for change.

Today, we have one such coalition - the entire UN system is mobilized, including the knowledge of over 40 UN Development System entities each with a unique offer on promoting development while protecting the planet. This coalition brings with it knowledge of over three decades since the UN has been convening nations for global climate summits – the Conference of the Parties.

UNDP Sri Lanka is committed to facilitating the diverse partners of this task team coalition, offering an opportunity to learn and leverage expertise that leads Sri Lanka to the next frontier of human development.

We are privileged to have the British High Commission who in 2021 will be presiding the 26th annual summit of COP26  in Glasgow;

The EU’s Green Deal is a learning opportunity for all partners to explore green development solutions which are just and inclusive.

The presence of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Biodiversity Sri Lanka, and the UN Global Compact will help enrich the discussion and identify innovative and green partnership approaches.

We are delighted to support the Government of Sri Lanka with the engagement of different ministries and departments whose coordinated efforts will go a long way in ensuring that the green development pathways are well-coordinated and coherent.

In closing, UNDP appreciates the leadership of the Ministry of Power and the interest and commitment of relevant partners for this discussion

Moving forward, it will be critical to maintain systematic engagement and periodic dialogues to cover all dimensions of green development reminding ourselves that it is not about choosing between people or trees. It’s about choosing to do things differently.

UNDP requests all agencies to engage, collaborate, and use this as a joint platform to drive discussion, policy, and programmatic interventions in helping Sri Lanka towards a sustainable future.

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