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UN pledges to assist Sri Lanka to tackle current economic crisis

The UN has issued a policy memorandum with key measures to support macro-economic stabilisation and debt sustainability, to support the new administration headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe.

The UN Resident Coordinator. Hanaa Singer-Hamdy has assured the fullest support of the UN to the Sri Lankan government in securing international assistance in addressing the shortages of essential supplies and also the concerns relating to issues such as unemployment and malnutrition.

She stated that the UN would make a multi-sectoral appeal in this regard. She thanked the foreign minister for regular engagements and briefings and assured that the UN would continue its cooperation with the government of Sri Lanka.

The severe economic crisis in Sri Lanka shows no signs of ending any time soon, with the country’s newly installed Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, warning of more difficult days ahead.

Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, the most senior UN official in Sri Lanka, noted that, amid violent protests and the imposition of a state of emergency, any solution must involve a robust democracy and respect for human rights

The UN has focused its intervention on four critical areas: health, food security, social protection, and economic policy advice.

On health, the UN is supporting the ministry of health to closely monitor the available medical supply, and in coordinating the procurement of urgently needed medicine and medical supplies from development partners, including donations to bridge the immediate gaps: because of a lack of foreign currency, the country cannot purchase medicine.

On food security, they are helping farmers to adopt good agricultural practices, and providing cash transfers, whilst, with regards to social protection, we are advising the government to prioritise certain measures, and how to make the best of the system that is already in place.

The fourth theme is macro-economic policy advice. The UN has provided a policy memo with key measures to support macro-economic stabilisation and debt sustainability, to support the government in its discussions with the IMF, and other international financial institutions.

Since the start of the crisis, the UN has tracked over 1000 protests. Initially these were peaceful, driven by citizen participation, and characterized by calls for a change of the government:

Tthey were joined by political parties, trade unions, student unions, clergy and other interest groups as the shortage of gas and fuel became more prominent, we started witnessing violent clashes. Some 60 houses were torched, around eight people killed, and several more injured, the memo pointedout. .

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on the authorities to independently, thoroughly, and transparently investigate all the attacks that have occurred especially on the peaceful protesters.

There needs to be a meaningful and inclusive dialogue with all parts of societies, to address the socio-economic challenges faced by the people. Political stability is critical to create an environment for the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which can then set up the way forward for economic recovery.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris met the UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy yesterday (May 23) to discuss multiple impacts arising out of the current economic situation in the country such as the supply of essential items, concerns regarding food security and livelihood matters.

During the meeting, the minister underscored that the government has anticipated the difficulties that may arise in the times ahead and is taking precautionary measures to mitigate the impact.

He also explained the steps taken by the government to ensure political and economic stability in the country, including the ongoing negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank.

The lawmaker stated that a central mechanism with the participation of key government agencies as well as the UN and donor countries is under consideration in order to address the urgent needs of the people, with particular focus on the most vulnerable sectors of the society.

He also went on to explain the measures taken by the government to address the shortage of essential supplies as well as issues encountered by the agricultural sector in consultation with bilateral partners.

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