Sri Lanka became a UN member in 1955 and since then the country has been engaged in treaties, conventions and programmes of the UN on promoting and supporting disarmament, human security and climate change. The subjects of disarmament, human security and climate change are interconnected in today’s world and can be measured through several means and these include the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sri Lanka as a neutral nation follows a Non-aligned Foreign Policy and is supportive of world peace making it easier to take leadership in international diplomacy particularly in disarmament and human security sectors. Post-war Sri Lanka’s accession to the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT), Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and ratification of the UN Disability Convention (CRPD) set the ground towards this end. This year in September, Sri Lanka chaired the 8th Meeting of the State Parties to the CCM in Geneva in which the international community hailed Sri Lanka’s commitment and leadership in promoting humanitarian disarmament.
The Seventh Executive President of Sri Lanka will be appointed after the Presidential election on 16th November 2019 and he or she must be supportive of disarmament, human security and climate change issues outlined below.
Engagement in Disarmament and Arms Control:
Sri Lanka still needs to fulfill the country’s commitment towards world peaceful means.
I). Accede to the Nuclear Ban Treaty (NBT).
The NBT came into force in 2017 and Sri Lanka is yet to accede to the treaty. Sri Lanka is not a nuclear weapon state but for unknown reasons the country is still not a party to the NBT. This year two South Asian countries, Bangladesh and the Maldives, acceded to the NBT.
II). Ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Sri Lanka is a signatory to the CTBT since 1996 but has failed to ratify the treaty yet.
Sri Lanka’s neighboring countries India and Pakistan are nuclear states. Both nations are engaged in nuclear weapons accumulation and testing on a regular basis. If any nuclear attack or accident occurs in India or Pakistan, Sri Lanka will face a huge catastrophic situation which the country will not be able to cope with for several decades or centuries. By acceding to and ratifying the NBT and CTBT, Sri Lanka will send a strong message to the region and the world that peace should prevail in the region.
III). Ratify the Conventions on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).
Sri Lanka ratified the CCW Protocol I to IV but is yet to ratify the Protocol V on ERW. Sri Lanka’s ratification of the Protocol V shows the country’s commitment towards the ongoing mine action programme in the country and clearance of ERW generated during 30 year civil war.
IV). Accede to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
The ATT was adopted in 2013 and Sri Lanka is still not a party to it. The ATT is not a disarmament treaty and its aims to achieve a “responsible arms trade.” Most developed and peaceful nations in the world are now party to the ATT. This year the Maldives acceded to the treaty from the South Asian region.
V). Re-Engage with the UN Programme of Action (PoA) to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
Sri Lanka took the leadership in 2006 in UN PoA as its first Review Conference President. From 2003 to 2008 Sri Lanka benefitted from the PoA in terms of technical and financial support received by the Government to carry out various activities relating to the fight against proliferation of illicit small arms in the country.
Human Security Sector Reforms:
Post-war Sri Lanka has given a low priority for human security which has led to unrest among various sectors in addressing their socioeconomic and political issues. Certain important laws have not been amended for more than two decades. Furthermore, lack of human-friendly infrastructure facilities directly undermines the nation’s human security. There is no doubt that the improvement of human security will directly have a positive effect on the nation’s national security.
VI). Re-establishment of the National Commission Against Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms (NCAPISA).
Sri Lanka established the NCAPISA in 2004 and it functioned up to 2009. The Commission has carried out several important activities by the Government engaging with civil society, the media and general public.
VII). Amend the Firearms Act No 22 of 1996 or introduce a new Act.
VIII). Amend the Offensive Weapons Act No 2 of 2011 or introduce a new Act.
IX). Amend the Explosive Act No 18 of 2005 or introduce a new Act.
X). Amend the Dangerous Knives Act No 2 of 1995 or introduce a new Act.
Amending or introducing the above mentioned four Acts will allow law and order authorities and the judiciary to take stern action against the perpetrators of crime and the violation of those Acts.
XI). Pass the Disability Rights Bill in the Parliament.
Passing the Disability Rights Bill in the Parliament will allow implementing the UN CRPD in Sri Lanka. This will help to meet and fulfill the disabled communities’ socioeconomic and political rights to some extent.
XII). Modernizing the public transport sector.
Sri Lanka is yet to realize the importance of modernizing the country’s public transport sector mainly the public buses and trains. Improvement of the public transport sector will benefit the country in terms of the economy, socio, political, cultural and environmental sectors.
Sri Lanka’s Commitment towards Climate Change:
Issues with regard to the climate change and protecting the natural environment;
XIII). Adhere to the Paris Agreement on climate change issues.
XIV). Introduce local regulations for implementing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
XV). Move towards renewable energy, introduce electric buses for public transport, ban single use plastic and polythene and introduce recycling and waste to energy plants to each district.
If Sri Lanka is seriously working towards achieving SDGs targets well before 2030 by carrying out above activities there is no doubt that the country will be able resolve many issues relating to socioeconomic, political and protecting the natural environment. In this regard, a new President’s commitment and leadership to the cause always matters.