Her Excellency Delcy Eloína Rodríguez Gómez, Minister of the Peoples’ Power
for Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and
Chair of the Ministerial Meeting of the Non Aligned Movement,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to warmly congratulate you Madam Chair, on your assumption as Chair of the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement and thank you, and through you, the Government of Venezuela for the excellent arrangements and hospitality extended to me and my delegation. Sri Lanka will continue to extend to extend its fullest cooperation in the conduct of the Movement’s programme of work.
I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the outgoing Chair, Dr. Mohammad Javad Zari, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for his stewardship of our movement over the past four years.
As one of the co-sponsors of the Bandung Conference of 1955 and founder member of the Movement, Sri Lanka has remained committed to the principles and purposes of NAM. We have continued to grow in strength and now embrace over 120 Nation States, representing two thirds of the members of the United Nations, accounting for over half of humanity.
Today, we are confronted with a number of challenges: ranging from terrorism, and religious extremism, social upheaval, conflicts, the plight of refugees, mass migration, social inequity, erosion of human rights, scarcity of resources, vulnerabilities in the global economy and environmental challenges from climate change that pose risk to our socio economic development.
In an increasingly inter-connected and inter-dependent global landscape, these challenges increasingly cut across national borders that necessitate cooperation and partnership. Never has there been more a pressing need to find collective solutions. It is therefore most timely that the theme for the Summit this year is: “Peace, Sovereignty and Solidarity for Development”
I would like to highlight a few specific areas of importance that the Movement must focus on.
The Development Agenda
The socio economic development agenda is one of the most important issues that face our governments. As we move toward the 2030 Agenda, we must give high priority to the alleviation of poverty, the importance of food security, health and nutrition, education, water and sanitation, energy and infrastructure and greater access for women.
Our actions should be to achieve better standards of living, healthcare, education, and employment opportunities for our people. In Sri Lanka, we have been fortunate to have met a number of our development goal targets, despite the present world economic climate.
South - South Cooperation
South- South Cooperation must not be merely a slogan. We must increase and strengthen collaboration, cooperation programmes and exchanges between members to promote meaningful development programmes and opportunities. We may explore training programs; technical assistance and trade facilitation and information exchange between our countries, including committing financial resources to strengthen, support, and sustain such collaboration.
Climate Change/Biological Diversity
If we are to achieve Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Agenda, both NAM and the wider international community must act now, take urgent action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, stop the loss of biodiversity and protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species. We must take note that this degradation is taking place mainly in developing countries.
I am pleased to inform that Sri Lanka has ratified the Paris Climate Change agreement, just last week and we look forward to deposit the instrument of ratification at the General Assembly session next week.
Disaster Risk Reduction
Sri Lanka as an island nation is experiencing disasters with increasing frequency and severity as climate change impacts our nation negatively; we have recently suffered severe landslides and flooding. The government of President Maithripala Sirisena has taken a number of initiatives to promote and strengthen Disaster Risk Reduction in the country as per the Sendai Framework for Action. We have incorporated Disaster Impact Assessment Systems for road construction, and mainstreamed Disaster Risk Reduction into the Housing Sector and other development sectors.
Information and Communications Technology
Cyber security threats have intensified and multiplied, and have evolved both in terms of quantity and in terms of technical complexity. There is an alarming rise in the use of advanced technology by terror groups in ideological brainwashing and recruitment efforts especially among youth, and we must be extra vigilant in order to combat these various threats.
Advancement of Women
NAM must also work in collaboration with UN Agencies such as UN women to ensure Women’s Empowerment especially in the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda and also in the areas of elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls and peace and security.
Since the endorsement of the Beijing Platform for Action, our government has been working towards achieving gender equality for women in all spheres and sectors, by introducing reforms in law, policy implementation and mainstreaming gender related priorities into government action plans.
Rule of Law and Good Governance
The National Unity Alliance Government of Sri Lanka under President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, came into office on a mandate given by the people of the country, at two successive elections in January and August last year, committed to good governance, the rule of law and protection of human rights.
The government is firmly convinced that durable peace, meaningful reconciliation and non-recurrence can only be guaranteed if the rights of all its citizens are protected and upheld and respect for our pluralistic society. The government is now in the process of drafting our national human rights action plan for the period 2017-2021. We have already undertaken constitutional reforms to strengthen democracy and have now embarked on a comprehensive constitutional reform process that will lay the foundations for a new society based on these norms.
We need to emphasize that education is essential to achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals and is necessary to eradicate poverty, boost shared prosperity and inclusive economic growth, and help build and foster peaceful and tolerant societies.
I would now like to make some remarks on some important political issues before us.
Terrorism remains one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and all its forms and manifestations must be condemned. Sri Lanka underscores the need to strengthen cooperation to fight this scourge and reaffirms the importance to conclude a comprehensive convention on International Terrorism at the earliest.
Sri Lanka has supported the call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and it was at the 5th NAM Summit in Colombo, where calls were made for the First UN Special Session Devoted to Disarmament.
We need to redouble efforts towards nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation and stress the need for the total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, and to this end Sri Lanka supports the call for early commencement of the negotiation of a comprehensive legally binding international instrument, to prohibit the use, possession, as well as production and transfer of nuclear weapons- in order to achieve the common goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.
We are therefore concerned about the recent nuclear tests conducted in violation of international obligations that adversely impacts peace and stability in North East Asia.
Settlement of Disputes
Sri Lanka stresses the importance of the maintenance of peace and stability, in the international arena and calls for the settlement of all disputes and differences by peaceful means through negotiation, consultation, arbitration or judicial settlements in conformity with the UN Charter and principles of international law.
Peace in the Middle East
I now turn to one key global issue that continues to demand the attention of our movement. After almost seven decades, it is deeply regretted that the settlement of the Palestinian issue remains unsolved. Sri Lanka reaffirms its steadfast support to the Palestinian cause.
Sri Lanka supports the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolutions regarding the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, so that they can live in peace in dignity and the attainment of a two State solution.
In conclusion, I reiterate Sri Lanka’s firm commitment to the principles and goals and ideals of the Movement and pledge the support of my delegation to your work as Chair and for a successful and productive Summit.