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

Second Committee General Debate
5th October, 2011

Mr. Chairman,

Allow me to congratulate you and the other member of the Bureau on your election. I take this opportunity to express my full confidence in your leadership.

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

With only four years left to achieve the MDG’s, the ability of many developing countries to realize them is being severely tested in these challenging times. While some countries are making progress with the MDGs, many others are facing the daunting task of achieving minimum progress, as the negative impacts of the global financial crisis continue to impact on economies. Developing countries, including Sri Lanka, are vulnerable in this volatile economic environment, particularly with the other challenges posed by soaring food and commodity prices, instability in financial markets, unpredictable fuel prices and the negative impacts of climate change.

The accessibility to food for millions of people remains a serious challenge.  According to the FAO, the poorest populations of the world spend 60% to 80% of their income on food. We must therefore focus our attention on the agriculture sector, with a view to increasing production, and in particular to help small scale farmers to increase their production by providing seed, tools, fertilizer, technical know-how, training and finance.  Uncertainties loom in a world where unprecedented natural disasters have also posed serious additional challenges to agriculture in a range of countries. The recent global disasters, including in developed countries, send cautionary signals, demanding that we note the lack of certainty in food supplies to vulnerable populations. We must ask ourselves whether it is safe to entirely depend on highly speculative financial markets to manage supply chains of essential foods and commodities. We take note of the G-20 initiative to address the food security issues.

My country, which successfully managed the food crisis, will seek to achieve substantial agricultural self-sufficiency in the coming years. The government has heavily invested in high quality seed and planting material.  Private investors in seed production are given a 5 year tax break. Growing spices and herbal plants is encouraged with incentives, while SMEs receive soft loans for spice processing.  Fertilizer is provided to all farmers.

Mr. Chairman,

We are acutely conscious of the need for developing countries to achieve sustainable development in a fast diminishing atmospheric space where curtailing carbon emissions has become unavoidable. This dilemma however should not dilute the right to development for billions of poor, who deserve better living conditions. We must understand that the current impasse cannot be remedied by imposing constraints on developing countries. In this context, developing countries must be assisted to adopt more climate friendly technologies and processes.  Our multilateral climate negotiations must continue under the umbrella of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol. The two track approach must progress. We support a second KP commitment period. We must achieve this outcome at the UNFCC COP 17 and KP CMP 7 in Durban this year. Sri Lanka has kept its per capita carbon footprint below 0.5 tons per capita. The government’s policy framework on sustainable development, the “Green Lanka” programme provides guidelines for all development projects. The IUCN has designated Sri Lanka as a global biodiversity hot-spot.  The recent census of elephants recorded over 5800 elephants in the wild. This is an impressive figure when one considers that the country’s land area is only 65, 610 sq. k.m. and 20 million people also live there.  We have designated 22% of the country’s land area to be permanently under forest cover; our target is to increase this further until it reaches 30%.

The UNCSD meeting in Rio next year will be an important benchmark in the global development agenda. We are of the view that any action regarding the Green Economy should be based on the principles of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and the 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Action. The Rio principles called for common but differentiated responsibilities, based on respective capabilities. Our commitment to preserve the three fundamental pillars of sustainable development, i.e. economic and social development, as well as environmental sustainability, remains paramount. We appeal to the international community to respect and implement prior commitments, particularly by providing financial assistance, technology transfer and capacity building.

Mr. Chairman,

We aspire to achieve a development oriented early outcome at the Doha Development Round. The seminal idea of providing open and transparent market access to developing countries must be achieved. Our economies will no doubt expand creating wealth for millions, once the unfair trading systems, trade barriers and agricultural subsidies are removed. The rural economies in developing countries must connect directly to the wider global economy in order to ensure benefits for the poor. A dynamic rural economy will generate employment opportunities that in turn will stimulate private investments. Though the global FDI is expected to recover to its pre-crisis level this year, the risk factors still color our optimism. We must keep monitoring the trends in order to encourage achieving equitable FDI flows and effective benefits.
Mr. Chairman,

In Sri Lanka’s case, after nearly three decades of conflict, the country is on a path to achieve rapid development. Under the leadership of His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, the vibrancy of the country’s economy has been enhanced.  The private sector is a key player in the development process, particularly in the tourism and leisure sectors, industry and manufacturing, the agriculture base and the ICT sector.

Access to electricity in rural areas has increased from 78.5 percent in 2006 to 83.2 percent in 2009. Access to safe drinking water has increased from 84 percent to 87 percent countrywide.  In 2006, only 98 percent of the children in urban and rural areas attended school. It has increased to almost 100 percent in 2009. All island unemployment which was 7.2 percent in 2005 has dropped to 5 percent by 2010. It took over 25 years, from 1977 to 2004, for the per capita income to increase from US$ 300 to US$ 1,000, but in the past 5 years, the per capita income has doubled. The per capita income is around US$ 2,375 this year. The GDP growth is over 8% in the current year. Our ICT literacy rate is 35%, while plans are afoot to increase it to 75% in 2016.

We will make interventions in the coming days on specific Agenda Items in this Committee.

I thank you Mr. Chairman.

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