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

Fiftieth Session 
Commission for Social Development

02nd February 2012


“Alleviating poverty and economic deprivation and improving the quality of life of its people has been uppermost in Sri Lanka’s social development policies over many decades. Several poverty reduction and citizen empowerment programmes were implemented by successive governments, with a commitment to balanced resource allocation. Despite a range of difficult challenges, including brutal terrorism, the poverty level in Sri Lanka declined from 15.2 per cent in 2006-2007 to 8.9 per cent in 2009-2010. This 41 per cent reduction in three years is the highest drop ever witnessed. Increased literacy rates and health indicators accompanied this achievement”.

 

Allow me to congratulate you on your election.

My delegation associates itself with the statement made by the distinguished representative of Algeria on behalf of the G-77 and China.

The priority theme of this session is timely. Related themes also provide the opportunity for policymakers and policy implementers in Member States to revisit their strategies to combat poverty through multi-pronged approaches. Poverty has many roots and they need to be addressed in different ways. Graduation of countries to middle-income status alone does not provide quick solutions to the issue of poverty because high internal disparities generate complex socio-economic issues. In this context, some developed countries are also required to address social protection in the context of rising rates of unemployment and widening socio-economic gaps in their societies.

Sri Lanka appreciates the importance given by the CSD to the thrust areas identified at the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly. We note that the Report of the United Nations Secretary-General on Poverty Eradication has addressed several dimensions of poverty and highlighted the urgent need of social policies for social transformation to mitigate this global challenge.  Sri Lanka commends the Commission’s recognition of universal access to basic social protection as a key to break the cycle of poverty and reduce inequality.

Alleviating poverty and economic deprivation and improving the quality of life of its people has been uppermost in Sri Lanka’s social development policies over many decades. Several poverty reduction and citizen empowerment programmes were implemented by successive governments, with a commitment to balanced resource allocation. Despite a range of difficult challenges, including brutal terrorism, the poverty level in Sri Lanka declined from 15.2 per cent in 2006-2007 to 8.9 per cent in 2009-2010. This 41 per cent reduction in three years is the highest drop ever witnessed. Increased literacy rates and health indicators accompanied this achievement. However, eliminating poverty completely remains a goal for Sri Lanka, as it is for many other developing countries, in the current volatile economic environment. Increasing fuel and food prices, unpredictable financial and economic conditions of development partners and negative impacts of environment degradation aggravate poverty and affect poverty alleviation efforts.
 
We firmly believe that civil society and the private sector actors have a role to play to support the efforts of national governments. Responsible private sector activity clearly contributes to reducing poverty. My delegation appreciates the role of UN agencies and ODA partners for their active engagement and assistance towards Sri Lanka’s development efforts.

The present key policy document of Sri Lanka ‘Mahinda Chintana – Vision for the Future’, has set specific targets to combat poverty within the Millennium Development Goals framework. Accordingly, programmes and projects have been aligned for the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty by 2016. Sri Lanka established the Ministry of Economic Development integrating institutions involved with poverty reduction and social empowerment. Key programmes of this Ministry include the livelihoods upliftment national programme, establishing safety nets under poverty alleviation and creating economically-stable villages. These programmes continuously promote the concept of self-employment with the infusion of financial and technical assistance to youth and women in rural areas.

Promoting agriculture through improved livelihoods, strengthening the economic standing of rural families by making them self-sufficient in their food requirements, whilst improving their nutrition status, are key elements of this programme. It also encompasses the effective use of land and water resources for increased agro and livestock production, which in turn triggers the lowering of market prices.

A robust economic and infrastructure development programme has been implemented in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. In this context, Sri Lanka recently launched a joint plan of assistance with the United Nations and the non-government sector to rebuild the Northern Province.


Mr. Chairman,

The Commission’s understanding of the important nexus among youth, poverty and unemployment encourages national governments to re-align their policies accordingly. The Note by the Secretariat has outlined the necessity of decent jobs for the youth. Sri Lanka has already taken steps to empower the youth with vocational and professional skills. Sri Lanka has already recognized the family as the basic socio-economic and cultural unit which requires empowerment in several areas. In this context, Sri Lanka views the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 as a unique opportunity to revisit challenges faced by families and to support them fully in meeting their requirements.  Sri Lanka looks forward to hosting the World Youth Conference in 2014.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,

My delegation supports the view of many Member States and a range of other stakeholders that poverty eradication should be a key goal of Rio+20. While not diluting the attention and interest on the very first Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction, we need to use the opportunity of the current global dialogue on Sustainable Development Goals to recognize poverty as a crucial cross cutting theme. 

Sri Lanka wishes to reiterate its commitment to share its social development experiences, including the past practices from its poverty eradication efforts with other countries. As an Observer to the Council, we also commit ourselves to the commendable activities under your guidance.

Thank you.


 

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