UN General Assembly 2017: 72nd Session: Lankan President’s cooperation with neighbouring countries hailed | Sunday Observer

UN General Assembly 2017: 72nd Session: Lankan President’s cooperation with neighbouring countries hailed

[Left] Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi , [Right] Napal Prime Minister Sher  Bahadur Deuba
[Left] Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi , [Right] Napal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba

The General Assembly is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all Member States have equal representation: one nation, one vote. All 193 Member States of the United Nations are represented in this unique forum to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc. In September, all the Members meet in the General Assembly Hall in New York for the annual General Assembly session. The General Assembly this year, in 2017, is the 72nd such Session since the establishment of the United Nations, and it is a special session for several reasons. This is the first Session being held under the leadership of the new Secretary-General, António Guterres, who was appointed as Secretary-General late last year, and assumed office in January this year. This Session was addressed by both a new Secretary-General and a new President of the United States of America, the host country of the United Nations and the country that gave leadership to the establishment of the UN and the post-2nd World War rules-based international operating system. From what we understand this has happened in the United Nations only once before in history. The theme of the 72nd Session’s General Debate is one that is centered on the world’s “PEOPLE”. The theme is “Focusing on people: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet”. The Charter of the UN begins with the words “We the Peoples of the United Nations…”, and focuses on the ‘people’, giving importance to the people of the world and not to countries or to leaders, and the theme this year brings us back to that very important fundamental principle on which the United Nations was founded. At the 72nd Session, Sri Lanka participated at the 72nd Session at the highest level of Government, demonstrating Sri Lanka’s continued and continuing commitment to the values of multilateralism, the United Nations Organisation, and its agenda ranging across different subject areas including the Sustainable Development Goals which are essential for achieving global goals.

On 18th September, the President joined world leaders at an event that was chaired by the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, in support of UN Reform initiated by the Secretary-General. Sri Lanka was among 120 countries that signed the ‘Declaration of Support for United Nations Reform’. On the 19th of September, President Maithripala Sirisena participated at the opening of the General Debate which was addressed by the Secretary-General and the President of the United States of America Donald Trump. President Sirisena himself addressed the General Assembly that afternoon. President Sirisena’s address was very much in keeping with the theme of the General Assembly, and focused essentially on the ‘people’ of our country. The President focused on local efforts for improving the lives of people in our country -

(1.) Efforts for economic development including the ‘Vision 2025’ policy, and poverty alleviation.

(2.) Strengthening democracy and best practices to establish a righteous and disciplined society which is essential for achieving a higher quality of life and prosperity for all.

(3.) Importance of implementing the Paris Agreement aimed at addressing the devastating effects of Climate Change.

(4.) Promoting and protecting Women’s and Children’s rights, political empowerment of women, protecting children from the menace of drug abuse and the need for the international community including the United Nations to take a leadership role in this regard, in the interest of our younger generations and humanity itself.

(5.) The President stressed his commitment to reconciliation, elimination of hatred, fear and suspicion among people and communities in our country, among those who speak different languages and have different religious beliefs. He stressed the Government’s commitment to build a society where everyone is able to live with freedom and dignity as equal citizens.

(6.) He stressed the Government’s commitment to achieving non-recurrence of conflict, and sought greater support from the international community including the United Nations, while stressing Sri Lanka’s commitment to abide by the Charter of the UN at all times and support the efforts of the Secretary-General. At the 72nd Session, Sri Lanka joined the Secretary-General in an event focusing on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel including UN peacekeepers.

Sri Lanka contributed to the Secretary-General’s Trust Fund for victims. Sri Lanka signed a voluntary Compact that emphasizes the shared principles on which the UN and Member States support peace operations on the ground and committing to combat this scourge. Sri Lanka also joined the Secretary-General’s ‘Circle of Leadership on the prevention of and response to sexual exploitation and abuse in UN operations’.

The Circle of Leadership comprises of Heads of State and Government committed to end impunity and strengthen measures to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation in international deployments. The Sri Lanka delegation participated in several bilateral diplomatic meetings.

SAARC Council of Ministers

Sri Lanka participated in the informal meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers which focused on reviewing achievements within the past year, and action that requires to be taken. Commonwealth Foreign Ministers Meeting Sri Lanka participated in the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers Meeting that discussed reform of the Commonwealth to make it more efficient and effective; and the Reception hosted by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the Prime Minister of Malta;

Sri Lanka participated in the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), demonstrating our continued commitment to the Movement of which we have been a founding member. Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Prasad Kariyawasam stated that Sri Lanka used the opportunity to stress the importance of the settlement of the Palestinian issue and the restoration of peace in the Middle East which must remain an important issue for NAM.

Sri Lanka reaffirmed its steadfast support to the Palestinian cause, and the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolutions regarding the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to statehood and the attainment of a two State solution on the basis of the 1967 borders.

The President used the opportunity of being in New York to meet with two new leaders in the South Asian region – the Prime Minister of Nepal and the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

President meets Nepali PM

Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba commended President Maithripala Sirisena’s commitment regarding the activities of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and said that he deserves all SAARC countries’ gratitude on this regard.

President Sirisena emphasized the need of taking forward the activities of the SAARC continuously without any hindrance and further said that he held talks with the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan to further strengthening the activities of SAARC.

Two leaders paid their attention to further strengthen bilateral relations at a time where Sri Lanka and Nepal are celebrating the 60th anniversary of establishing bilateral relations between the two countries.

The two leaders discussed to further broaden economic, trade and cultural relationships through a new dimension.Sri Lanka-Pakistan Bilateral Relationship Pakistan and Sri Lanka, while agreeing to broaden their historic relations through a new dimension, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi pledged his country’s continuous support to Sri Lanka.

While recalling the two countries’ historic bilateral relations, the two leaders reiterated the importance of further strengthening their bonds and friendship.Pakistan and Sri Lanka, while noting their huge potential for deeper and broader ties in defence, trade and economic ties, decided that both countries need to explore new avenues for enhanced cooperation.

President Maithripala Sirisena also expressed his gratitude to the Pakistan government for extending its support at the UN Human Rights Council. The two leaders agreed to work together to promote the tourism industry and to further strengthen defence co operation between two countries.

US commend Sri Lanka Post-War progress Ambassador Thomas Shannon, US under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in New York commended the Sri Lankan government for political, economic and social progress achieved in the post war period.

Ambassador Thomas Shannon commended the Sri Lankan government’s commitment to co operate with countries belonging to the Indian region. He said that President Maithripala Sirisena has set an example for being co operative with all neighbouring countries.

President Sirisena praised the support extended by US government for peace building and reconciliation process in the aftermath of three-decade war in Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Thomas Shannon pledged to continue his country’s support to Sri Lanka and informed President that he is expecting to visit Sri Lanka in November this year.

Addressing local media here in New York, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Prasad Kariyawasam stated that there is a misperception regarding UN among Sri Lankans.

‘The United Nations is our Organisation. It is made up of Member States and we set the agenda for the UN’s work and functions.

There was a feeling in Sri Lanka, as a result of various beliefs, that the UN was somehow like an alien entity dictating terms to us.

This is an incorrect and unfortunate misperception of the United Nations. Sri Lanka is today, under the leadership of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, a confident nation.

We place our nation’s people at the centre of policy making and proceed to work with the United Nations and the international community to fulfill our own local goals of establishing a peaceful, reconciled, stable, and prosperous country, while fulfilling our obligations as a responsible member of the international community and of the United Nations.

We are open to learning from others, and we are open to sharing our own experiences which includes our mistakes and what we have learned from them, with others in the international community.

This is aimed at winning for our people, what is best in the world and ensuring a higher profile for Sri Lanka on the international stage.

Sri Lanka is now looked up to by many countries as well as the United Nations as a country that has a story to tell in strengthening democracy, human rights, reconciliation and peace building in a post conflict context which other countries can learn from, and a country that engages with the international community with honesty and confidence to achieve win-win outcomes’, Kariyawasam added. 

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