Sustainable Development Goals:
Post-2015 agenda must focus on implementation
The full text of the address made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at
the 69th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.
I congratulate Your Excellency Sam Kutesa on being elected as the
President of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
We wish you success and assure you of our fullest cooperation.
The theme for this Session, ‘Delivering on and Implementing a
Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda’, is timely. The world has
undergone many changes since the UN was created, and since the year
2000, much progress has been made towards achieving the Millennium
However, there are multiple challenges that still remain to be
addressed. The moral and practical importance of creating an equitable
world and a sustainable planet for this purpose cannot be ignored.
The Commonwealth, of which Sri Lanka is the current Chair in Office,
accounts for over one quarter of the UN membership. In November 2013,
the Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed in Colombo, to contribute to
the process of evolving the new post-2015 global development agenda.
They have endorsed the central focus on the eradication of extreme
poverty and re-affirmed commitment to sustainable development.
The perspective on the post-2015 development agenda is based on
shared values and principles contained in the Commonwealth Charter and
individual experiences. The Commonwealth leaders encourage others to
approach the forthcoming inter-governmental negotiations, in a
collaborative spirit to achieve a balanced post-2015 development agenda.
Reducing inequality within and among countries is one of the most
transformative goals that have been proposed by the Working Group on
Sustainable Development Goals. We hope that this goal will serve to
enhance the voice and representation of developing countries in
The post-2015 agenda must focus on implementation. Achieving the SDGs
would be impossible without the political will and dedication of all
countries. It must be ensured that the failure of the developed
countries to fulfill Millennium Goal 8 that called for a global
partnership for development, is not repeated.
In determining goals, countries must not be deprived of policy space,
to set their own domestic priorities. Instead of asking countries to re-prioritise
domestic spending, there should be focus on a strengthened partnership
between developed and developing countries, backed by sincere
commitment. This is essential for countries in the South to access
financial resources and technology that are essential for capacity
It is vital that we also address structural obstacles and political
barriers that prevented the realisation of the MDGs, such as unfair
trade and investment rules. Creating a supportive international economic
environment, enhanced investment flows, including from multi-lateral
development banks, and an open multi-lateral trading regime, are
We all know the historical context in which the United Nations was
created after two world wars. During the seven decades of its existence,
the world has been saved from plunging into another global war. The UN
has helped to improve standards of living, eradicate disease, educate
children, and in peacekeeping. Year after year in September, the world
community comes together to reaffirm the founding vision of this
The role of the UN in advancing international peace, security and
prosperity is crucial in the contemporary world. However, in order to
gain the confidence and goodwill of the international community as a
whole, one of the essential requirements is consistency of standards
across the board without any perception of selectivity or
It is in this context that the current functioning of the system
needs fresh examination in order to enhance its credibility.
Human rights are used as a tool to implement motivated agendas with
no understanding or appreciation of the complexity of issues in the
countries concerned. Human rights should be recognised by all as a moral
and ethical concept rather than as a political tool. External
intervention without adequate consideration of the structures in a
society and cultural traditions of the countries where such intervention
takes place, inevitably results in destabilisation, which is very much
in evidence today, in most parts of the world.
Sri Lanka has also become an unfortunate victim of ill-conceived
agendas of some in the Human Rights Council, who pay scant regard to the
substantial progress achieved by Sri Lanka, in reconstruction,
rehabilitation and reconciliation within a short span of five years.
There is an obvious lack of balance and proportion in the manner in
which my country is being targeted today disregarding these significant
achievements. This is in sharp contrast with the approach to deeply
disturbing situations involving humanitarian emergencies elsewhere.
For multi-lateralism to remain relevant and effective, reform of
institutions concerned is essential. To be successful, this process must
involve de-politicisation of the UN systems and mechanisms and they must
stop being hostage to different forms of funding.
UN bodies must find ways to work with governments through dialogue,
greater understanding of situations and cooperation including assisting
to strengthen national institutions. This approach, instead of strong
arm tactics, must form the heart of multi-lateral diplomacy, in the
search for sustainable solutions to global challenges.
The 70th year of the UN in 2015 also marks the 10th anniversary of
the 2005 World Summit where global leaders agreed to support early
reform of the Security Council. Concrete results in this regard should
be achieved next year.
Climate Change is one of the defining challenges of our times. A
robust global response needs to be arrived at in 2015, on the basis of
equity and the principle of common, but differentiated responsibilities.
The escalation of violence in the Middle East is deeply distressing.
I reiterate Sri Lanka’s support for the early realisation of a
sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, existing
within secure and recognised borders, side-by-side and at peace with
Israel. We look forward to welcoming Palestine as a full member of the
UN at the earliest.
Sri Lanka firmly believes in the need for solidarity between Asia and
Africa. Admiring the efforts of the people of Africa to achieve
socio-economic development, Sri Lanka has begun a process of reaching
out to countries in Africa, to support capacity-building, and exchange
knowledge and expertise in areas of importance. The international
community must strongly support the early eradication of deadly diseases
Sri Lanka remains committed to supporting all multi-lateral efforts
to counter terrorism deriving from extreme ideologies impacting on
people across national frontiers.
Terrorism continues to be a grave threat to security and stability of
nations across the globe. Having suffered at the hands of terrorism Sri
Lanka knows well, its drastic impact on societies, communities and
institutions founded on democratic traditions and ideals.
The international community must strengthen multi-lateral action on
terrorism including the early finalisation and adoption of the UN
Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
Sri Lanka is also committed to support all multi-lateral efforts to
counter, terrorism financing, piracy, and all forms of international
Sri Lanka expresses deep concern regarding unilateral economic
measures against developing countries and is a consistent supporter of
the call of the UN General Assembly for an end to the unjust economic,
commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. Unilateral sanctions of
this nature which impact a country’s innocent population are unethical.
Despite being affected by terrorism Sri Lanka has achieved most MDGs.
Sri Lanka has succeeded in being ranked ahead of all South Asian
countries in the 2013 Human Development Index.
Through the adoption of the National Development Strategy, the
Mahinda Chintana, ‘Vision for the Future’, the Government of Sri Lanka
embarked on an inclusive and rural-centric development program.
This involved bold policy decisions connected with macro-economic
management, revitalisation of agriculture, infrastructure development
including road and expressways, ports and airport, irrigation and water
distribution, a strong telecommunication network and well distributed
urban and township development resulting in 7.8 per cent GDP growth and
per capita income of US Dollars 3,280 in 2013. It is a matter of deep
satisfaction to recognise that the economic and political empowerment of
the people of the North supported by massive investment in
infrastructure and livelihoods have also contributed to this growth.
With the end of terrorism in May 2009, in keeping with my
responsibilities to my people, large-scale post-conflict reconstruction,
rehabilitation and resettlement initiatives were implemented in the
Northern and Eastern Provinces, in a relatively short period of four
years. Most importantly, democratic structures in the North have been
re-established. Elections were held to the Northern Provincial Council
in September 2013, after a lapse of 28 years.
I recall in this context, the visit of the UN Secretary-General, to
Sri Lanka, just a week after the conclusion of the conflict when a new
era of peace had dawned. This was a manifestation of the close
cooperation between my country and the UN and our commitment to work
together in the future.
We continue on a deeply satisfying and a transformative journey in
the interest of all the people of Sri Lanka. In carrying out this task,
we work in accordance with our traditional foreign policy of ‘friendship
towards all and enmity towards none’.
We hope that the international community will reciprocate and assist
Sri Lanka in her domestic process of reconciliation and economic
development without exerting undue pressure on us.
We have gained inspiration from the words of Gautama the Buddha who
said that the purpose of all human endeavour must be to construct order
out of chaos and harmony out of strife.
True to these words of wisdom, the Government of Sri Lanka remains
committed to its objective of pursuing the processes of reconciliation,
and nation building, undeterred by ill-motivated criticism.
May the Triple Gem Bless you all.