Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka Dinesh Gunawardena called for increased integration and resource sharing in order to conquer the many challenges nations face due to COVID-19. The minister made these remarks at the 20th Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM), which was held virtually. The meeting took place alongside the 75 UN General Assembly which was also held on the same day (October 14),.
Minister Gunawardena suggested that countries assist each other in advancing the digitalization of Commonwealth member states. He highlighted Sri Lanka’s experience of conducting the first ever tea and rubber auctions via a digital platform and stated that the country also remained the first in South Asia to adopt international standards for digital transactions. Existing scientific and technical expertise should be mobilised towards ongoing research related to COVID-19, he said. The minister cited the example of the partnership between the University of Sri Jayawardenapura of Sri Lanka and Oxford University in sharing knowledge acquired regarding the immune response in individuals who were infected with dengue in order to understand the immune response to COVID-19. He also underlined the urgent need for debt relief, loan repayment moratoriums and financial stimulus to ease the unprecedented adverse economic and social reactions caused by the pandemic.
Sri Lanka’s commitments under the Action Plan of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, were also highlighted by Minister Gunawardena. He stated that Sri Lanka planned to reduce 30% of GHG emissions by 2030 and move towards a resilient and cleaner future with low carbon economic growth by transitioning to hydro, solar and wind power. The need to identify the obstacles as well as the potential opportunities for scaling-up climate finance for small states (including Sri Lanka) was also mentioned by the minister.