Statement by Hon. Rohitha Bogollagama, at 15th NAM Ministerial Conference Tehran 29th July 2008
Mr. Chairman, let me at the outset congratulate your Excellency Mr. Manouchehr Mottaki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on assuming the Chair of the 15th NAM Ministerial Conference. I am confident that with your experience and wisdom, the work of this important Conference will be guided towards a successful conclusion.
This meeting takes place in the great city of Tehran, which has been a centre-piece of a unique civilization and culture spanning thousands of years. The courtesy and hospitality extended to my delegation is characteristic of the warmth and generosity of that great civilization.
Sri Lanka and the Islamic Republic of Iran enjoy warm bilateral relations, and I am also pleased to convey greetings from His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, to the Government and people of Iran.
Mr. Chairman, the principles of Non-Alignment have guided Sri Lanka's foreign policy since independence, and we are proud to be a Founder Member of the Movement. Our continuing commitment to the Guiding principles of the Movement is reflected in the political agenda and vision of H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa known as "Mahinda Chintana".
It is my pleasure to lead the Sri Lanka delegation to the Tehran Ministerial Conference, despite pressing domestic commitments as the incoming Chair of the 15th SAARC Council of Ministers which is hosted by Sri Lanka this week. Sri Lanka is also pleased to serve as one of the Vice-Chairs of the Asian Region, at this Conference.
Mr. Chairman, as the principal political platform representing the developing world, the Non-Aligned Movement has provided a unique forum through which developing countries have effectively addressed critical global issues over the past decades. Today, we need to build on the vision and principles of our founding fathers in order to respond positively to contemporary challenges and opportunities.
While the world has changed vastly during the almost five decades of existence of the Movement, developing countries continue to face important challenges in their collective endeavour to establish a peaceful, prosperous, just and equitable world order. Regrettably, some of the core issues that were at the heart of the NAM agenda even at its very inception, continue to remain unresolved to date.
Mr. Chairman, Several pressing issues confront the NAM today. These range from terrorism to food security, energy security, as well as the multiple challenges to social and economic development faced by NAM member States in today's globalized world. These challenges are inter-related and global in nature. We need to address these collectively and effectively. The United Nations is the principal multilateral forum in which the NAM agenda has been articulated, and in this connection, we remain committed to strengthening multilateral process in the ongoing discussions on UN reforms.
Terrorism is one of the most important challenges facing both the developed and developing world today. Terrorism destroys the right to life, affects the stability of democratically constituted States and impedes development by devastating economic and social infrastructure. Sri Lanka has withstood terrorism for over several decades. We welcome the strong condemnation of terrorism by NAM Member States. We need to take speedy and effective measures to eliminate this threat, including by preventing the organization and financing of terrorism within our borders. The Movement also needs to address the links between terrorism and other transnational organized crimes such as human trafficking, narcotic smuggling, money laundering and arms procurements. NAM member States need to take steps to criminalize all terrorist acts as well as oppose financing or instigation of such acts. Sri Lanka supports the proposal to hold a NAM Ministerial Meeting on the issue of Terrorism, based on the progress of discussions and negotiations on this issue at the United Nations. We also call for a speedy conclusion of a Comprehensive Convention for Combating International Terrorism.
Mr. Chairman, It is a cause for serious concern to our Movement that world food prices have increased more than 50% in the past year alone, potentially pushing an additional 100 million people into hunger and poverty. As a net food-importing developing country where the majority of the rural population is dependant on the agriculture sector, the range of issues related to the achievement of food and nutrition security is of high relevance to Sri Lanka. Furthermore, at the national level, we have committed significant effort and scarce resources with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and we remain concerned that the global food crisis threatens to reverse these gains.
The NAM Member States need to collectively articulate the multiple inter-related factors that have contributed to the crisis, such as neglect of the agricultural sector, climate change, agricultural subsidies in the developed world, export restrictions and bio-fuel production. As an effective operational mechanism, in my region, South Asia, we have established a South Asian Food Bank. Within NAM, we need to work together at the international level to address these issues. We should remain vigilant that internationally agreed measures to address the food crisis do not heap additional financial and other burdens on developing countries.
Mr. Chairman, Increased access to clean and low-cost energy is essential for growth and economic progress in many NAM member States including Sri Lanka. The continuing high oil prices are an obstacle to the energy security of many NAM member States. Affordable energy is essential to fulfill the basic needs of the people and to provide them with a choice of opportunities for gainful economic activity. While recognizing the potentially adverse impacts on the environment, energy policies need to be supportive of national efforts of developing countries to eradicate poverty and enhance the living standards of their people, through sustainable growth and economic development.
With both energy-exporting and energy consuming states among its Members, the NAM is an appropriate forum to promote South-South cooperation in this regard. NAM Member States could effectively cooperate to conserve conventional sources of energy, build-up renewable alternative energy sources, and maintain sustainable supply. Member States need to cooperate in the development and transfer of technologies for affordable and cleaner energy, energy conservation, as well as new and renewable energy.
Mr. Chairman, It is the collective desire of our Movement that development should remain at the core of the UN agenda, and should underlie all efforts at remeag the UN. As we advance towards the Millennium Development Goals target for 2015, we need to reiterate that the purpose of reform is to make the UN development system more responsive and effective in its support to developing countries to achieve internationally agreed goals on the basis of their national development strategies. The NAM must endeavour to strengthen multilateralism and the multilateral decision-making process in the reform process.
Mr. Chairman, while addressing contemporary challenges, Sri Lanka remains committed to achieving progress on issues which have remained at the heart of the NAM agenda since the inception of the Movement, such as the situation in the Middle East and the question of Palestine. The need for intensifying the peace process in the Middle-East has never been greater. The principle of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side within secure borders in peace and security should be translated into reality.
Mr. Chairman, Sri Lanka remains committed to achieving the objectives of NAM and continues to believe in the relevance and validity of the Movement.
Let me conclude by expressing my confidence that the 15th NAM Ministerial Conference will reach a successful conclusion.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.