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08 | 13
2021
47th Consultative Committee Meeting of The Colombo Plan Inaugural address by the Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka

Mr. President, Hon. Ministers, Chair of the 46th CCM, Heads of Delegations, Secretary General
of The Colombo Plan, Heads and Representatives of International Organizations, Foreign
Secretary Admiral Colombage, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends.


It is a pleasure to be here amongst all of you, albeit virtually, and I thank you for taking the
time to be with us notwithstanding the immense challenges of these times. This is a clear
demonstration of your commitment to advance the cause of The Colombo Plan. Given that the
global climate calls for even more focus on economic and social development, our meeting
today and tomorrow is timely. Home to about 40% of the global population with a combined
GDP of approximately US$ 37 trillion, I believe this is where our collective strength lies and
from where we can and should derive our inspiration and drive.


The Colombo Plan was conceived at the Commonwealth Conference on Foreign Affairs held
in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1950, launched by seven founding members (Australia, Britain,
Canada, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, New Zealand and Pakistan) on 1st July 1951, chaired by the
Late Hon. D.S. Senanayake, Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs of Ceylon (Sri
Lanka), now includes 27 members.


Our discussions today and tomorrow will be key in shaping The Colombo Plan’s development
cooperation trajectory in the post-COVID era. Sri Lanka is confident that this Consultative
Committee Meeting will serve as a more effective platform for knowledge sharing, innovation
and collaboration to implement novel and useful programs for our collective benefit.


In the next two years, Sri Lanka offers to take leadership within The Colombo Plan on the
topical issue of building sustainable green cities and increasing green spaces, in keeping with
the President H.E. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision of ‘Green and Smart’ cities within our
government’s sustainable environmental policy, Vistas of Prosperity & Splendor.


COVID–19 has introduced a host of unforeseen challenges. Our thoughts and prayers go out
to the millions of people in our fellow member nations and across the world who are suffering
from the pandemic in numerous ways. Our fellow member states need to be commended for
their tireless efforts to combat the pandemic and its far-reaching impact. Global
interconnectedness has ensured that developments in one corner of the world – no matter how
small or seemingly insignificant – will have a multiplying effect reaching on the rest of the
world. If there is anything that the pandemic has taught us, it is that we are in this together, and
that to overcome the pandemic we will have to come together as a global community.
International cooperation, therefore, is more important today than ever before, and in this
context, The Colombo Plan has an important role to play. Our organization’s work and
experience in the areas of socio-economic development, including health, education,
infrastructure and human resources, will be a source of strength as we grapple with the
challenges of the post-pandemic world. Together we must build upon existing cooperation and
explore new avenues to work towards socio-economic development in a new and challenging
global environment.


The success of the cause of our organization depends on the commitment, contribution and
meaningful action of all member states. But contextual challenges and individual realities in
the countries can inhibit their contribution at full capacity. This has posed a challenge to the
organization in sourcing funds and other resources for its initiatives and programs. Sri Lanka
is concerned that this constraint in turn has hampered the organization from serving its
membership at the ideal potential. We would like to request advanced member states to
continue extending their valuable support to The Colombo Plan so that it may sustain and
further develop meaningful programs for the developing member states, ensuring shared
prosperity for all.


A fully functioning secretariat is also of utmost importance as we navigate these challenging
times. Mutual cooperation between the secretariat and the member states is key. The pandemic
has affected us all, barring none. Sri Lanka is pleased to have been able to implement a strong
vaccination drive with the help of our international friends and partners. We are happy that
many of you chose to stay back to see your duties through.
Allow me to take this opportunity to touch on a topic - Sustainable Green Cities: Increasing
Green Spaces - that will be discussed at length when we present our country theme paper later
in the morning.


Increasing Green Spaces indeed contributes to increasing Greenery in Cities, creating Green
Cities and strengthening their sustainability as such for posterity. I trust our country theme
paper will share peculiarities specific to our past such as landscaping alterations inspired by
Lankan Creativity in South-east Asian Cities of the 14th Century AC, our aspirations and our
way forward.


According to the United Nations, for the first time in global history, the global urban population
surpassed the rural population in 2007 – marking what we call the Urban Millennium.
Urbanization, or the migration of people to cities and metropolitan areas, is a phenomenon of
the past 200 years. For the better part of human history, people lived in sparsely populated rural
areas. It is projected that by 2050 the global population will increase to 9.8 billion and twothirds
of that population - close to 7 billion people - will live in urban areas.


This issue and its connection to global development efforts, engendered the stand-alone goal
in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, SDG 11: Make inclusive,
safe, resilient and sustainable cities.


Urban areas contribute to about 70 per cent of the global GDP making these areas driving forces
of the economy. They also account for about 70 percent of global carbon emissions, thereby
worsening air pollution, and 60 percent of resource use, as increasing urban populations
overstrain infrastructure and exert pressure on public services and limited resources. Rapid and
unplanned urbanization also results in the deterioration of the environment and shrinks green
spaces.


The adverse effects on the environment, health and wellbeing of populations demand
immediate action and call for innovative approaches to promote access to nature, to reduce
pollution and mitigate extreme weather patterns and promote sustainable lifestyles. The
pandemic has increased the gravity of the situation in densely populated urban areas, and has
driven home the importance of access to nature and open spaces.


While grappling with rapid urbanization is a global requirement, the severity of its effects have
a greater impact on developing countries and poorer nations who are constantly playing
technological catchup. Building sustainable cities calls for investment. Therefore, these
countries need support and resources to improve capacity building, to access green technology,
energy and infrastructure, to design and develop sustainable and reliable public services such
as housing, electricity, water, waste recycling and public transportation, to name a few.
Prof Ranil Senanayake a leading global environmentalist of Sri Lanka proposes a paradigm
shift in the green environment climate discussion. His insights are that urban sector is the real
spoiler of the air we breathe. Oxygen is burnt every single time an engine ignites in a car, bus,
train, plane, factory or generator. The only reintroduction of Oxygen is done by our rural green
areas. Thus our focus should also be on Oxygen.


When the time the UN is ringing warning alarms on climate, it is important that we recognize
countries that have shown positive ecological contribution and commitment. A recognition in
form of a positive return to offset financial debt or difficulty. Thanks to their contribution and
commitment, we the world are still breathing.


In this respect it is important to keep in mind the trends of dynamics of the Generation Changes
amongst the youth where through fast tracked technological innovations - methodologies are
being renewed and replaced within shortened time lines.


We remain committed to assisting the organization to grow while it endeavors to cope with the
challenges of our time and pursues social and economic prosperity for our region.
I wish you all two fruitful days of discussion and deliberation.


Thank you!

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