The United Nations (UN) in Sri Lanka marked the 68th UN day in the presence of Chief Guest, Honourable Senior Minister, D.E.W. Gunesekara, Guest of Honour, Honourable Minister of Youth Affairs and Skills Development Mr Dulles Alahapperuma, other Honourable Ministers, Senior Government Officials, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, National and International Partners, the media and students. The event was held at the National Youth Services Council in Maharagama.
Expressing his thoughts, Mr. Subinay Nandy, the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka stated “the UN’s collaboration in Sri Lanka will shift from humanitarian to long term development support with a special focus in the areas of Governance, Social Inclusion and Human Rights. In order to achieve the development objectives of Sri Lanka, the UN will be working with young people and encouraging their participation in all UN initiatives.”
Thank you all for joining us to celebrate UN Day 2013!
This is my third UN Day in Sri Lanka and I have become attached to this short ceremony to celebrate the strong ties that bind Sri Lanka and the United Nations.
We see this strong partnership between Sri Lanka and the United Nations as an affirmation of the common values and the shared vision that unite all of us in supporting the people of this country.
And we see this not just for Sri Lanka, but from other Member States too, who are always present and always so supportive.
Let me begin by noting the obvious: this year, moving away from usual practice, UN Day is being celebrated at the National Youth Services Council in partnership with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development. I am confident that this association will lead to longer term and more robust partnerships between the UN and Sri Lanka’s youth.
Excellencies, Dear Friends
True, the world we live in today is more complex and more interdependent compared to that of 1945 but the promise and values of those early years in the United Nations’ history remain as relevant today as they were over 68 years ago.
In our journey forward we continue to derive inspiration from the spirit and vision as embodied in the United Nations Charter.
This pledge of trust and hope represents humankind’s determination to move away from a world ravaged by war and unspeakable atrocities – to unite within a new association of nations guided by principles of justice, peace, equality and human rights.
Sri Lanka has now transitioned from an overriding humanitarian situation to where we are today – a lower middle income country with development indicators hailed as exemplar in the region.
I take this opportunity to recognize the impressive achievements of the Government of Sri Lanka in relation to the post-war resettlement, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.
The road networks, infrastructure systems and housing facilities which have been made available to the people, especially those living in the North and East, offer the people some respite from the hardships they had to endure during the many years of war.
Similarly, the recently concluded Provincial Council elections, particularly those held in the Northern Province, offer an opportunity for Sri Lankans living in the North to gain recognition and respect, especially with regard to promoting a dialogue on sharing power and engaging in efforts to bring about reconciliation and long term peace.
The relationship between these achievements and reconstruction efforts and the genuine drive to achieve reconciliation must be carefully nurtured by creating suitable conditions and resolute political commitment to enforce policies that respect and protect minority rights, and encourage dialogue, peace and reconciliation.
The United Nations system stands committed to supporting the Sri Lankan Government in keeping this momentum towards recovery, reconciliation and lasting peace.
In the one year since we last celebrated UN day, the Government of Sri Lanka has engaged extensively with UN entities; not only with those dealing with development and humanitarian assistance but also with those addressing political and human rights.
Following the visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights the UN has outlined an elaborate programme of support to further the implementation of the LLRC recommendations and the Government’s overall efforts to ensure reconciliation and long-term peace for the people of this country.
Since we last met to celebrate UN Day, the UN Country Team and the Government of Sri Lanka marked a significant step strengthening our partnership by finalizing the new UN Development Assistance Framework 2013-2017, which will frame the 5 years of our work in support of the Government’s overall development vision.
Our new UNDAF responds to Sri Lanka’s development vision, the May 2009 Joint Communique by His Excellency the President and the UN SG, the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission and the broader issues highlighted in the National Human Rights Action Plan for the country to realize reconciliation and lasting peace.
The basic ideas for our new cycle of cooperation are equity, inclusion and rights as enshrined in the Sri Lankan Constitution and the International Treaties and Conventions to which Sri Lanka is signatory. We are also determined to focus a substantial part of our work to helping Sri Lanka protect its considerable development gains to date from natural or Man-made threats as well as meeting remaining humanitarian needs.
Within this guiding framework, UN’s work will focus on supporting inclusive growth; reducing disparity; promoting rule of law, rights and inclusion and strengthening resilience and sustainable development towards a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which all Sri Lankans, regardless of age, gender, class and ethnicity, can live in peace and realize their full potential. We are excited about the new UNDAF and look forward to working closely with all of our partners in implementing this ambitious vision. I would also like to highlight that the UN stands committed to support Sri Lanka’s efforts in taking forward the post-2015 development agenda, which indeed will be significant in ensuring the country’s development goals.
The theme for UN Day 2013 ‘UNiting for Youth: My Sri Lanka, My Future’ focuses on the four UNDAF Pillars and highlights how the UN will contribute towards Sri Lanka’s development in the next four years.
We have used art-work received from young Sri Lankans to reflect how they perceive these themes and depict their perceptions through these very impressive works of art.
As depicted in the art submitted by young Sri Lankans, it is encouraging to note that Sri Lanka has many of the basic foundations for human development already in place.
Thus achieving sustainable growth, making quality services accessible to all, ensuring a healthy population, putting climate change considerations at the forefront of growth strategies and, most importantly, ensuring social protection and inclusion for all Sri Lankans, are viable goals for Sri Lanka.
In this context, let me thank everyone who is with us today, for your commitment to make our partnership work. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all donors for supporting us, for working with us and for having confidence in the UN system’s capacity to deliver effective humanitarian and development assistance to Sri Lanka. Likewise, we thank the Government and people of Sri Lanka for their generous donation of 10,000 MT rice donation to the UN system World for the Horn of Africa.
As we mark UN Day 2013, I call on all UN staff in Sri Lanka to uphold, today and every day, the spirit and ideals on which the United Nations was founded.
Working for the UN is not an ordinary job, it is a privilege and an honour;
a privilege to serve the people of the world;
to give voice to the oppressed; to stand up for universal human rights;
to seek dignity and respect for women and girls;
to feed the hungry; to protect the most vulnerable;
to seek justice in order to make this place a better world.
That’s the spirit of the UN, and that is why I salute you on this Day for your dedication and commitment to the noble causes of the UN, for your courage and bravery to serve the world’s common humanity.
We at the UN highly value the relationship we have with the people and the Government of Sri Lanka.
We commit to continue to work together on the same universal values that make up the building blocks of all nations as well as the work of the United Nations: an aspiration to promote peace, equality and development.
On behalf of all members of the United Nations staff in Sri Lanka I thank you all for being here today.