Sri Lanka is an island state with a population of approximately 22 million. It has a diverse population and witnessed an extensive civil war between the Sinha and Tamil communities which only ended in 2009. At the same time, Sri Lanka is one of only two South Asian nations to be rated ‘high’ in the UN’s Human Development Index 2015 and its rating is the highest of South Asian nations.
The Government of Sri Lanka has taken a number of steps towards implementing the 2030 Agenda in the country, these include: a cabinet ministry on sustainable development; enacting the Sustainable Development Act in the Parliament; establishing a Parliamentary Select Committee on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and the appointment of a Presidential Expert Committee on drafting a Vision for 2030.
To gather broader views ahead of the 2018 Voluntary National Review, an extensive process of dialogue was organised by the Sri Lanka Stakeholder SDG Platform, coordinated by the Centre for Environment and Development and the Centre for Environmental Justice. It included a broad multi-stakeholder approach with contributions from over 500 experts, activists and researchers and representatives from more than 100 organisations from government, local authorities, civil society, academia and business representatives. This led to the Voluntary People’s Review which is available on this page.
Sri Lanka still lacks a clear roadmap, policy, strategy, financing and resource mobilization plan, or a monitoring & evaluation mechanism for the implementation of the SDGs at national and subnational levels; therefore, a continuous and accurate measure of progress cannot be officially provided by the Government or stakeholders.
However, the Independent Monitoring Evaluation and Review Mechanism (IMERM) established by the Sri Lanka Stakeholder SDG Platform (SLS-SDG-Platform) since 2018 has been assessing the progress of implementing the progress of the implementation of the SDGs since 2018. According to the recently published Sustainable Development Report 2021 (Cambridge), Sri Lanka has a SDG Index Rank of 87/165 with SDG Index Score of 68.1.
While general progress across several SDGs are made (eg: SDG1, 4, 13), gaps are demonstrated in the targets. Lack of integration, low mainstreaming, and policy and institutional incoherence prevents achieving the SDGs and transformation overall.
So far the delivery of the 2030 Agenda has been limited and there is a growing demand for key steps forward to establish a clearer process for delivery; better policy coherence; and appropriate financing. Furthermore the Government of Sri Lanka is yet to agree upon a national SDG roadmap; establish the baseline indicators and streamline the supporting data towards enabling a systematic assessment and reporting on the progress made on transforming the nation towards sustainable development by the year 2030.
National planning, implementation and budget commitments
As a response to its commitment to the 2030 Agenda, a Sustainable Development Act was passed in 2017 and the Sustainable Development Council (SDC) was established in 2018 by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). Two years later, in August 2020, the SDC released a draft “National Policy and Strategy on Sustainable Development” that continues to remain as a draft under the current administration. No significant follow-up to adopt, improve or replace this draft has been taken as yet; as for the SD Act, the primary responsibility of the SDC is to formulate and monitor the national policy and strategy on SD. There is no specific budget allocations for SDGs but sectoral allocations related SDGs are highlighted. A “Domestic Resource Mobilization Framework” for the implementation of SDGs in Sri Lanka was published by an independent process, but no government response is yet seen.
Progress since last VNR
Sri Lanka is expected to present its 2nd VNR in 2022. The first was presented in 2018 without a proper methodology for data monitoring or review; it had not adequately addressed the gaps in transformational action including integration, policy coherence, data disaggregation and progress monitoring, localising, financing, leaving no one behind, etc.. This VNR was prepared with a single objective of presenting to the UN HLPF 2018 and not as a progress report to its citizens. Two years later, a “National Policy and Strategy on Sustainable Development” was formulated and remains a draft. The current government's National Policy Framework (NPF) titled “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” consists of 10 key policies at achieving a fourfold outcome of a productive citizenry, a contented family, a disciplined and just society and a prosperous nation. Chapter 02 of the NPF commits the GoSL to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
Key communities who face being left behind
Indigenous peoples, people from the LGBTQI community are most often subject to marginalisation or discrimination in Sri Lanka. These groups are identified based on availability of data, policies being made and implemented, and considering the lack of inclusion observed during the times of the COVID pandemic. Furthermore, Ethnic & Religious minority groups, People discriminated by caste, work and descent, Persons with disabilities are also not adequately included in the planning process and in data availability. The other areas are captured to an extent with the current data made available and the national planning process. The national policy framework of the current government includes 10 key policies that set targets for inclusion via programs but due the COVID pandemic the outreach has not been adequate to change the current status related to these communities.
How have you engaged across communities?
The Sri Lanka Stakeholder SDG Platform was established in 2018 and formulated the world’s 1st Voluntary Peoples Review (VPR) parallel to the VNR. It established an Independent Monitoring Evaluation and Review Mechanism (IMERM), has collected and analysed data from all credible sources, and conducted stakeholder engagement inclusive of central-provincial-local government officials and politicians, CSO, business, academic sectors as well as youth, women, disabled, and other stakeholders. For the 2021 Peoples Scorecard, 36 Expert/Stakeholder consultations were conducted including online reviews and writeshops; capacity building, and public awareness was also conducted. An updated VPR 2021 will be presented to all stakeholders across the nation as a working draft for the 2022 VPR along with the Governments VNR process. The process largely remains voluntary and requires financing and resources support to be able to conduct continuous data collection and analysis, stakeholder engagement, and capacity building.
Overview of climate change
Sri Lanka is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts. Extreme precipitation and related flooding, heat waves are some of the key climate change impacts observed in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has ratified the Paris Agreement and already has published the first NDC and the National Adaptation Plan (NAP). Sri Lanka is planning to publish its second NDC during this year (2021) but an exact time has not been defined. The NDC for Sri Lanka does present national commitments to reduce CO2 emissions, specially through renewable energy alternatives. However, the guiding electricity generation plan highlights the need for coal for future electricity generation needs of the country. Therefore, Sri Lanka needs to adopt renewable energy infrastructure and energy generation policies consistent with the national targets and strengthen policies in disaster risk reduction, energy efficiency, forestry, and mining of natural resources.
Civil society priorities
CSOs demand (i) to be included in a government led national mechanism on SDGs which is transparent and just. (ii) Inclusion in the consultation process towards the next VNR of Sri Lanka. (iii) access to the spaces in which critical matters challenging sustainability are discussed and their inputs be considered (iv) overall transparency and accountability in development process-based decisions (infrastructure, environment, disaster risk reduction). To support us, provide (i) budgetary allocations for the IMERM & VPR. (ii) skill development and capacity building on SDGs, (iii) deploying local resource mobilization expertise (iv) technology facilitation and transfer (v) extending science-policy interface.
Civil society engagement
Under the former and discontinued Sustainable Development Ministerial Portfolio, a National SD Engagement Platform had been established to engage all stakeholders in the planning to implementation of the SDGs. This process was dismantled by officials in 2018 without any alternative process or mechanism. The 1st VNR process lacked the necessary whole of government and whole of society approach and since had led to a shrinking space for CSO, stakeholder and local government engagement in the national SDG process. The new SDC officials and many government agencies since the beginning of 2021 have been engaging Platform members as experts.
Sinhala and Tamil translations of the SDG Targets and Indicators (not the full 2030 Agenda document) and the 2018 VNR had been published with low distribution and access. Several Provincial Councils have developed Provincial Plans to integrate the SDGs with the support of UNDP but lacks an integrated approach, transformative strategies, and action plans. Local governments are desperately in need for greater engagement and support for planning to implementation of SDGs. Besides the Platform, an independent SDG Transformation Lab is established. Increasingly, CSOs are engaging in the SDGs but lacks comprehension for a systems application of the 2030 Agenda.