Statement by H.E. Mohan Peiris,
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Friday, 29 January 2021
General Assembly Hall (in-person)
On this cold but bright morning, permit me to thank the President for convening this Assembly to enable Member States to reflect on the report of the Secretary-General on the work of this Organization. I thank the Secretary-General for the briefing on his priorities for the year 2021 and take note of the organization’s accomplishments under his able leadership, particularly last year, under the shadow of the extra-ordinary challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which are well known and best forgotten, perhaps as a bad dream. But Mr. President, dreams do bring strong messages. The message has been loud and clear. It has probably given us a wakeup call.
The Secretary-General’s report puts into perspective our shared progress and our common future in the delicate and intricate global landscape which is in a continuous flux. It highlights the unfinished agenda of development and reform. No doubt, the year 2021, though saddled with challenges, will be an important one for each one of us. The pandemic is severe in nature. Its severity was aptly described by the Secretary-General, who in his report said and I quote “we were brought to our knees by a microscopic virus”. It has been said that the pandemic presents to us a valuable opportunity for the global community to reboot itself on the path towards development that is sustainable and harmonious with the environment.
No doubt, a very optimistic view from a section of the human family who have successfully brought about this chaos. Ironically, the human race has also the ability to undo the chaos, although it may be at great cost. We however, cannot be jubilant about it or take credit for the recovery process. What is important, as much as the development of the vaccine is the establishment of a global order that would ensure for the human family a guarantee of non-recurrence of calamities of this nature. We cannot afford the luxury of another catastrophe of a similar nature that affects the human community.
In this context, we join the Secretary-General in underscoring the importance of multilateralism and firmly believe that when we work together, with mutual respect and understanding, we can accomplish many things. If I may again, quote the Secretary-General “only an organization that is inclusive and equitable will sustain us for the future”. The Secretary-General has repeatedly expressed his concern that the world is not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. This observation is no surprise as we took on the SDGs in 2015 when we had already in our hands the unfinished MDGs, which we had carried forward at the turn of the century.
Small States like Sri Lanka have ungrudgingly accepted the burden of the MDGs and SDGs and are currently committed to achieving those goals by 2030. Acceleration of the implementation of sustainable solutions to overcome common development obstacles, including poverty and rising inequality, are crucial. A people centric policy and a programme of action to achieve these targets have been prepared by the Government of Sri Lanka towards this end. Poverty alleviation and an agri-based production economy is a major goal for the country.
We are all aware that acts of terrorism, xenophobia, racism, intolerance, hate speech and disinformation are threats to international peace and security. They transcend boundaries and its prevention must be viewed as a collective responsibility by all. Sri Lanka, having faced terrorism for nearly 30 years, remains concerned by the unabated progression of terrorism in all its forms and manifestation, without an end in sight. It is only appropriate that we make the observation that those non-state actors who engage in unlawful activity should not be encouraged, in any way, or given the opportunity of justifying their activities at this august forum through any one of their sympathizers with a view to propagate their ideologies through the procedures established by the UN organization and its allied organs.
Regrettably, this august body, as our worthy neighbor and friend India observed last evening, is yet to agree on a common definition of terrorism, and there remains a lack of progress towards a comprehensive convention against international terrorism. However, we remain optimistic and look forward to working with all Member States in addressing the challenges arising out of the many faces adorned by extremism and terrorism.
We note the reforms introduced both at Headquarters and throughout the United Nations system and reiterate the need for a more geographically diverse UN workforce sensitive to the different cultures that enriches the global community. It is essential to ensure that all actions taken by the system are transparent and in conjunction with adherence to and the implementation of the UN Charter. The UN must while addressing the challenges of our times, represent and reflect the interests of all Member States. Meaningful results on the ground at the national level, can only be ensured by seeking common ground which is the only sustainable path for addressing challenges in moving towards a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
I would like to conclude by reiterating Sri Lanka’s support for your work, as well as that of the Secretary-General, as we work collectively to deliver the mandates, guided by the UN Charter that we the Member States have set out for the United Nations. In this context, Sri Lanka is fully committed to working together with all Member States to achieve the common objective of building a more just world based on equality and opportunities for all. Be assured that Sri Lanka will be there together with the UN making it happen.