Remarks by Ambassador Haidari at the Action-To-Impact Forum on Build Back Better and Sustainable

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Remarks by Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari at the #ActionToImpact Forum on Build Back Better and Sustainable in the Post COVID19 Era

The Road to Rights

August 8, 2021

Thank you very much for the kind, generous introduction.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I am very delighted to have recently met the impressive and dynamic youth leader, Mr. Ashan Perera, the Founder of the Road to Rights, and to congratulate him, his entire team, as well as the youth volunteers across this paradise island-nation, who have been supporting the vision and mission of the Road to Rights.

Today’s event, #ActionToImpact—a youth-led national campaign—is an outstanding example of the much-needed environmental work done by the Road to Rights. It aims at helping accelerate the progress of localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Sri Lanka, while directly supporting the United Nations Decade of Action and contributing to the Global Week to #Act4SDGs.

As the outgoing Director-General of the South Asia Cooperative Environment Program (SACEP) with eight member-states, including all South Asian countries, I welcome with immense appreciation the goal of the #ActionToImpact national campaign to create a multi-stakeholder national platform to mobilize communities in bringing businesses, civil society, youth, government organizations, and academia in achieving the SDGs.

As I recently said in my World Environment Day message, in the year ahead, we at SACEP encourage bolder regional policy interventions and adequate investments towards the implementation of all 17 SDGs with a special focus on sustainable production and consumption to conserve our nature, on which the health and wealth of all South Asians depends. At the same time, we call on the developed countries and multilateral financing institutions to increase their climate support to the most vulnerable countries of South Asia, enabling them to take needed mitigation and adaptation measures against climate-induced disasters.

To that end, I would like to be more specific and highlight one of our key projects, the Plastic Free Rivers and Seas for South Asia (PLEASE), which directly contributes to the goal of Build Back Better and Sustainable in the Post COVID-19 Era. We are grateful to the World Bank’s International Development Association and Parley for the Oceans for co-financing the $50 million regional project, which we believe will catalyze a regional transformation by supporting unique but scalable eco-innovation solutions.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know all too well, plastic waste pollutes land, air, and flows into river systems and ultimately into the oceans. And this poses national, regional, and global threats to sustainable development with far-reaching economic, ecological, and public health consequences. We need only to look around to see that the problem of plastic pollution has become significantly worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The qualities that make plastic useful—including lightness, durability, strength, versatility, and low production costs—have shot up demand for its ever-growing use. But the mismanagement of plastic waste has created a mounting pollution crisis, which continues eroding ecological systems like rivers and oceans. 

The global production of plastic is currently estimated to be around 300 million tons per year. And plastic pollution in the marine environment alone claims approximately 9.5 million tons, with 1.5 million tons ending up in the oceans annually. The South Asia region is the third largest contributor to plastic waste globally. And this is estimated to double by 2050, unless effective, tangible action is taken by all of us now and today. 

Knowing the gravity of the plastic pollution threat to our environment, the United Nations Environment Assembly has adopted several resolutions on Marine Litter and Microplastics. The resolutions support the development of marine litter action plans, including an assessment of the effectiveness of or gaps in relevant international, regional, and sub-regional governance strategies and approaches to addressing the challenge of plastic pollution. 

To that end, the regional PLEASE project interventions will be implemented in all eight SACEP member-states, introducing new and promising initiatives that promote reduction of plastic pollution. This is done by adopting circular approaches where regional cooperation and coordination could help better recognize, share, and replicate good-practice models to reduce the stock and flow of plastic waste. 

One such approach is supporting the Competitive Block Grant Investments to reduce plastic waste with the objective of identifying, verifying, and investing in circular plastic economy solutions, while facilitating the exchange of knowledge, technology, and awareness of the proposed solutions. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The regional PLEASE project adopts the A.I.R. strategy, which was developed by the Parley for the Oceans and launched at the United Nations some five years ago. It advocates for:

Avoiding plastic wherever possible and replacing it with alternative, eco-innovative materials.

Intercepting plastic and harmful materials for proper disposal.

Redesigning material, methods and thinking, even new industrial standards.

Indeed, the involvement of the private sector is the key to successfully addressing the plastic pollution. That is why the PLEASE project will help facilitate the region’s transition toward a more circular economy, increasingly free from plastic pollution. This effort should improve regional and national strategies, policies, action plans, and standards based on better analytics and through public-private sector engagement, dialogue, and collaboration. 

To this end, the PLEASE project will provide support to develop and improve national and regional plastic pollution mitigation strategies, policies, and industry standards. As we would do so, the youth as a plurality in Sri Lanka and the rest of South Asia could actively participate in helping Build Back Better. But how?

The application of A.I.R. makes it easy for you, the youth in Sri Lanka and across South Asia, to choose where you can make the greatest impact: 1) by avoiding plastic wherever possible; 2) by intercepting plastic and properly disposing it off; and 3) by studying and researching how to redesign material, which unlike plastics, is eco-friendly, thereby directly supporting the climate SDGs.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you and wish you the very best on our mission to Build Back Better and Sustainable at home and across our rich region!

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