Statement by Ambassador H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona,
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

Agenda Item (a) & (b)
Third Committee General Debate

 Social Development 
4  October, 2011

“The development policy framework of Sri Lanka has been premised on a set of higher level multiple goals focusing on economic growth, redistributive justice, reduction of absolute poverty, employment generation, balanced regional development and increased environmental sustainability. These policies have enabled Sri Lanka to deliver desirable human development outcomes in a consistent manner despite the many challenges.”

Mr. Chairman,

Since my delegation is taking the floor for the first time, allow me to congratulate you upon your assumption of the Chair of the Third Committee. 

We thank the Secretary-General for his reports and recommendations on agenda items (a) and (b). The delegation of Sri Lanka also associates itself with the statement made by Argentina on behalf of the G77 and China.

The Secretary-General has identified in one of his reports that economic growth through productive employment and increased social spending by Governments is a salutary poverty reduction approach. The Secretary General has also called on Member States and the United Nations System to make use of and sustain the momentum generated during the International Year of Youth.

Mr. Chairman,

Committed investments in the health and education sectors and targeted social protection schemes have been the cornerstones of Sri Lanka’s social policies since independence.  By mitigating the adverse impact of economic burdens on the people through these investments, Sri Lanka has been able to make development more inclusive and socially sustainable. The development policy framework of Sri Lanka has been premised on a set of higher level multiple goals focusing on economic growth, redistributive justice, reduction of absolute poverty, employment generation, balanced regional development and increased environmental sustainability. These policies have enabled Sri Lanka to deliver desirable human development outcomes in a consistent manner despite the many challenges.

Sri Lanka has displayed resilience in maintaining momentum on progress with the IADGs, the MDGs including economic growth despite the global economic crisis, the food crisis, the energy crisis and severe constraints imposed by a long drawn struggle with terrorism. Since the end of the conflict, the remarkable growth of 22% registered by the Northern Province is an indication of the success of the government’s development initiatives in that part of the country.  The GDP growth of the country has consistently averaged over 8 percent and unemployment stands at a record low of 4.5 percent.  In the assessment of the World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness Report for 2011 – 2012, Sri Lanka has demonstrated a dramatic improvement, moving up to the 52nd place from the 79th in a span of two years.

Mr. Chairman,

In post conflict Sri Lanka, the hopes of the country’s youth for a secure, better and more progressive society have been renewed. The youth population of the country is 26 per cent of its 20 million people. Socio-economic discontent among the educated youth had erupted into violence in Sri Lanka’s past. Therefore, youth issues across the country receive special policy attention.  The policy framework of the Government as enunciated in the “Mahinda Chinthanaya” and the Ten Year Development Plan seeks to engage the country’s youth as active partners in the development process, and as stakeholders in their communities.

The continuing problem of unemployment in the age group of 15–29 remains a challenge for the country’s leaders and policy makers.  The unemployment rate among this age group decreased to 14.8 per cent in 2010 from 16.1 per cent in 2009.  Absolute poverty is now down to 7.6% (2009/2010).

A critical problem confronting Sri Lanka’s youth today is a mismatch between the education they receive and skill requirements of the services and the industry sectors and in the knowledge economy. While upgrading the quality of secondary and tertiary education, including vocational training, a National Action Plan for Youth Employment has been formulated following strategic assessments and policy recommendations commissioned by the Government of Sri Lanka, the ILO, the private sector and civil society. In order to make policy coherent, responsive and effective the, Ministry of Youth Affairs is also involved with skills development.
Greater relevance is also being established between vocational training and employment opportunities in the private and public sectors.  A University of Vocational Technology (UniVotec) has been established to provide for continuous learning opportunities and further specialization for those graduating from the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector. A diploma program in “Youth development” has been introduced at the Open University of Sri Lanka under the Youth Development Programme of the Commonwealth Youth Programme.

Mr. Chairman,

Sri Lanka has also recognized the real need to bridge the digital divide within the country. Towards this end, ICT use is being broad-based through the development of local content and translations of the generic software for internet access (web browsing) and the use of e-mail in Tamil and Sinhala languages. In order to institutionalize the availability and affordability of ICT related services, 600 Nenasalas or Wisdom Centers have been established throughout the country including in the Northern (5 centers) and Eastern Provinces (64 centers). These multi-service centers seek to address the multiple ICT needs of communities, especially in the rural sector.  It is the Government’s goal to increase IT penetration to 75% of the country by 2016. 

In order to effectively mobilize micro- credit and micro -finance to empower the rural poor and generate incomes, the Government has set up 245 Vidatha Centers or Resource Centers, across the country to foster Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) development by providing aspiring entrepreneurs with critical information and suitable technologies. These resource centers also gather and maintain development related information such as traditional knowledge in the local areas, availability of local raw materials, potential for small scale industries, market information, unemployment data among other types of information. ICT training programmes, too are conducted through these village level centers.  

An enabling environment in the rural areas is also ensured by way of infrastructure (roads, agriculture and irrigation) development. The aim is to reduce poverty and upgrade productivity and rural standards of living through increased employment opportunities. The Agrarian Services Centres assist young farmers by actively disseminating scientific and modern farming techniques through Young Farmers Clubs. Private sector partnerships are also sought between seed development centres and new farms.

Mr. Chairman,
In recognition of the new dawn of opportunity and progress in post-conflict Sri Lanka that the Youth Parliament of Sri Lanka was conceived and implemented to mark the International Year of Youth. The Youth Parliament comprises 335 members between the age group 15 and 26 years representing all ethnic communities. It also provides an important opportunity in post-conflict Sri Lanka to foster ideals of peace, solidarity, and harmony among the country’s younger generation.
Through Policy commitment and political will, Sri Lanka has made remarkable progress in rehabilitating, reintegrating and empowering 667 former child combatants. In addition to regular educational opportunities, more than 1,300 young people including former young-adult combatants are being given vocational training in the North and the East.  Many have undertaken studies to qualify for university courses. 
Mr. Chairman,
Sri Lanka remains steadfast and dedicated to addressing issues related to youth. It is this commitment that enabled Sri Lanka to host the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations (ICMYO) this year in New York on the sidelines of the UN High –level Meeting on Youth. The National Youth Council of Sri Lanka in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka also hosted a special event entitled “The role of youth in sustainable development” on September 26, 2011 at the United Nations. Sri Lanka would like to have the opportunity and honour to host the United Nations World Youth Conference of 2014 in Sri Lanka as the international community readies to formulate a new post – MDGs and development agenda.

Despite these gains, one of the challenging issues being addressed with the UNICEF is malnutrition among very young children. Through Sri Lanka’s proactive, focused and coherent social and economic measures, we are hopeful of addressing the gaps in this area also. 

In conclusion, I am also pleased to note that Sri Lanka has restored political stability, and taken many measures to improve the social, civil, economic, and political conditions of all Sri Lankans.  The pain of 27 years of terror is behind us.  We are now reaching out to a better future.  

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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