By Bhanuka Kirinde
The Voluntary National Review (VNR) on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)s to be submitted to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) of the United Nations undertaken by Sri Lanka shows that the country is making headway in successfully achieving the SDGs but more needs to be done to tackle issues related to climate change such as land degradation and deforestation.
Much of the work on the SDGs have been undertaken in the past year after the enactment of the Sustainable Development Act by the Sri Lanka Parliament in October 2017 which provides for the formulating of a national sustainable development policy and strategy; Sri Lanka VNR on the Status of Implementing Sustainable Development Goals was prepared by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Wildlife and Regional Development to be submitted to the UN this month.
In the past year the Government has taken several initiatives to mainstream the SDGs in the country. These measures included the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Sustainable Development, the enactment of the Sustainable Development Act No. 19 of 2017 and the establishment of Ministry to serve as the focal point for coordinating and facilitating the implementation of SDGs.
The VNR pointed out that with the introduction of the Vision 2025 with emphasis on the ‘Blue Green’ Budget of 2018; the Review found that national policies are well aligned with the SDGs at both Goal and Target levels.
However, there are a number of targets/areas which are only partially aligned, in particular those related to environment and partnerships.
Sri Lanka VNR covered all 17 SDGs and analysed the current status and trends, gaps and challenges and the way forward for each of the SDG with detailed analyses on the goals selected for in-depth review at the 2018 HLPF.
The Review showed that with regard to SDG 6, Sri Lanka has made good progress. These are in terms of access to safe drinking water, though there are regional disparities to be addressed. It was found that climate change impacts can bring in challenges in this regard. A majority of households possess onsite sanitation facilities, but, there is a need for a centralised sewerage system in order to minimise possible health and environmental impacts of onsite facilities, VNR said.
It said that with regards to SDG 7, rising fossil fuel dependency has become a major challenge in the energy sector.
“The country has made achievements in terms of electrification. Renewable energy sources play an important role and there is much potential for further utilisation of renewable energy sources, including solar energy,” the VNR said.
It added that Sri Lanka has faced challenges in terms of transportation; housing and environmental issues due to urbanisation and policy measures have been taken to address these issues.
The Review said that the National Disaster Management Plan 2018-2030 has been prepared to address the issues related to disaster risk reduction.
The VNR also pointed out that forest degradation is a major cause for loss of biodiversity and it is also associated with land degradation and proper enforcement of related laws is important to minimise forest degradation and deforestation.
This, the VNR, said, should be clearly demarcated with forest boundaries, and through strengthening the capacity of forest managing agencies and increasing public awareness.
The Review said that Sri Lanka has made significant progress in several areas related to SDGs, in particular education, health and poverty.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a common call of action to bring an end to poverty, protect the earth and ensure that all people enjoy peace, prosperity and a secure future. The targets as given by the United Nations (UN) address 17 key areas including climate change, innovation, sustainable production and consumption, economic inequalities and education.
The VNR added that Sri Lanka is headed towards a sustainable and resilient society. The poverty rate in the country has dropped to 4.1% in 2016 and is moving towards an upper-middle-income status nation with a per capita GDP of $ 4,066. Unemployment rates are at a low of 5% for the past seven years.