Marking 65 years since Sri Lanka joined the United Nations, UN in Sri Lanka Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer and the United Nations’ Country Team in Sri Lanka attended an event at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Resident Coordinator’s remarks at the event:
Sixty-five years have passed since Sri Lanka joined the United Nations in 1955. Today, I would like to recall the words of Prime Minister Bandaranaike in his first address to the General Assembly in 1956, in which he captured the hopes and aspirations of the time like few others. He described the UN as an “organization which expresses itself most effectively by bringing to bear a certain moral force, the collective moral force and decency of human beings”. Revealing his deep understanding and appreciation for the principle of multilateralism, he emphasized that even though Sri Lanka was small when measured by size alone, he was confident in the difference that the country could make as a Member State of the United Nations.
Indeed, Sri Lanka went on to play an outsized role in the UN, taking the lead on important global normative causes such as disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear arms.
The preamble of the Charter of the United Nations has proven to be one of the most enduring codifications of this collective moral force of humanity.
In the past 65 years Sri Lanka has successfully transformed itself into a promising middle-income country, with even higher aspirations for the future. The UN, through its many specialized agencies, played its envisaged role by supporting successive Governments and contributing directly in the following areas, to name just a few:
Establishing Universal Health Coverage, with nearly every child immunized and the successful elimination of Malaria and Mother to Child transmission of HIV/AIDS
The fulfilment of MDG 4 and 5 on child mortality and maternal health, even as they have not been realized in many other countries.
Hundreds of development projects over multiple generations that improved the lives of thousands of families, including significant progress in terms of creating sustainable livelihoods in the agricultural /food sector.
The provision of humanitarian aid during the country’s greatest moments of need.
Supporting the Government addressing statelessness through legislative reform and documentation support to thousands of formerly stateless individuals enabling them to access citizenship bringing recognition to Sri Lanka as a best practice.
Advances in disaster resilience, forecasting and management, including the establishment of the Emergency Operations Centre after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.
Working closely with Government institutions to enhance capacity in a number of areas, from census and data collection, to education and governance
Free education and an accessible school system with high rates of female literacy
And more recently, new and timely initiatives for a 21st Century Sri Lanka, such as a social innovation lab CITRA to help us stay at the cutting edge of the latest technologies and ideas.
Looking ahead, I am particularly glad to see Sri Lanka’s on-going commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, which guide our collective aspirations for the next decade.
As we look to the future, at the important milestone of this 75th year, we are also looking inwardly as UN at our own challenges and the areas where we may have fallen short of the aspirations expressed in the UN Charter. The Secretary-General embarked on an ambitious reform agenda at the beginning of 2019 to ensure we deliver in a more focused and robust way.
Similarly, this year he called on everyone to place human rights at the center of our work, as they ensure stability, build solidarity, prevent conflict, reduce human suffering, and advance sustainable development for a just and equitable world.
Sri Lanka has a legacy of human rights challenges yet to be addressed as was articulated in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Progress towards justice, reconciliation, reparation, sustaining peace and development will contribute to building a cohesive and prosperous society.
As we in turn mark Sri Lanka’s 65th year of membership in this unique Organization today, let me re-iterate the Secretary-General’s plea to all Member States to stand side by side with the UN in the effort to reinvigorate the collective moral force of humanity, as expressed in the Charter of the United Nations and its affiliated treaties, frameworks and legal mechanisms, for the ultimate benefit of every one of us.
As always, let me assure you that the people of Sri Lanka can count on the UN to stand with them when it comes to their aspiration of building a future of prosperity, equality and justice – where everyone can live in dignity and no one is left behind.