Speaking on the theme ‘Building back better from crises through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific’ Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the inauguration of the 77th Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) outlined Sri Lanka’s successful approach in controlling the COVID-19 and called for renewed “South-South” cooperation, to recover from the pandemic. The session was held virtually in Bangkok from 26 to 29 April 2012.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa stated that even during the pandemic, economic and export sector continued to function, tourism restarted in January and the Central Bank reduced policy rates and implemented several concessionary refinancing programs in Sri Lanka.
Further, the Prime Minister emphasized that Sri Lanka is deeply committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goals and toward this end, an Inter-ministerial Steering Committee on Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Council have been established and the decade 2021 to 2030 has been declared as the ‘Decade of Skills Development’ in Sri Lanka.
Delivering the Country Statement, Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage stated that the Government of Sri Lanka was able to mitigate the speared of the pandemic and keep the death rate comparatively low against the high recovery rate due to its “Whole of Government and Whole of Society” approach, “Preemptive Strategy”, and “matured Public Healthcare system”. He stated that to date hundred and thirty thousand standard Sri Lankans were brought home from over 120 countries and that Sri Lanka continues to provide quarantine facilities free of charge especially for migrant workers.
Given Sri Lanka’s ongoing resilient, inclusive and sustainable development pathways, Foreign Secretary Colombage requested that Member States of economic strength in the Asia-Pacific region should provide smaller economies like that of Sri Lanka with investment, greater market access and trading opportunities, foreign employment opportunities and assistance in vaccination programs, to smoothen the path to build back better from crises.
Reaffirming its commitment to international cooperation, along with Indonesia, Japan, Maldives, Pakistan and Vietnam, Sri Lanka co-sponsored the resolution put forward by Thailand, which was adopted by the Commission on the theme ‘“Regional cooperation to build back better from crises in Asia and the Pacific” in support of all similar efforts of Member States.
Over 50 member states participated in the four day online session and Heads of State/ Government of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Kiribati, Kyrgyz Republic, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Fiji, Pakistan, Thailand, Tuvalu and Uzbekistan addressed the inauguration of the 77th Session.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of UNESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana emphasized that “As we move towards recovery, our efforts must take into account the aspirations of all countries, including the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States, of Asia and the Pacific. More than ever before, the full potential of inclusive and networked multilateralism should be tapped. International development cooperation, including South-South and triangular cooperation, must be further harnessed”.
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UNESCAP Ambassador C.A. Chaminda I. Colonne, Director General Chamindry Saparamadu of Sustainable Development Council, senior officials from the Foreign Ministry, Central Bank, Department of External Resources and Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka were in the delegation.