Aligned with the 2030 Agenda, Sri Lanka envisions an “Inclusive Transformation towards a Sustainably Developed Nation for All”, where economic transformation is underpinned by green growth and social inclusivity. Central to this transformation is the integration of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs into policies such as the National Policy Framework –Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour, and the Public Investment Programme 2021-2024.
After the first Voluntary National Review (VNR) in 2018, Sri Lanka faced the 2019 Easter attacks, the COVID-19 pandemic, and currently the external debt crisis. Despite setbacks, implementation of policy measures has continued at the national and sub-national levels to deliver the country’s 2030 Agenda commitments. Amongst these, the establishment of the Sustainable Development Council, increasing data availability on SDG indicators from 46 in 2017 to 104 in 2021 and taking steps to mobilize innovative financing for SDGs are notable.
The second VNR is undertaken in 2022 to highlight the country’s progress towards the 2030 Agenda. To ensure an inclusive process, stakeholders from various groups were engaged through thematic, national, and sub-national level multi-stakeholder consultations and focus groups for primary data collection and subsequent validations.
Central to inclusive transformation is Economic Diversification, broadening the impact of economic growth by supporting prioritised sectors, including manufacturing, and diversifying the reliance of the economy on a few export industries. This is especially considering the economic setbacks, including the balance of payment crisis, experienced due to the pandemic.
To power economic diversification, policies that transform Sri Lanka into a Blue-Green Economy have been formulated and implementation underway. These include harnessing underutilised marine resources in a sustainable and regenerative manner, transitioning to renewable energy, agriculture development underpinned by biodiversity and sustainability, and waste management.
Transformation into a Blue-Green economy is led by national and sub-national level policies and strategies for Protecting Biodiversity and Addressing Climate Change. Along with robust Nationally Determined Contributions, Sri Lanka rolled out policies that address specific areas of ecological concern. While climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable communities, government-led climate mitigation efforts could be impacted with fiscal consolidation and the country may have to rely heavily on partnerships to undertake such projects.
Limitations in reaching poor and vulnerable groups during the pandemic highlighted the need for accelerating a Knowledge-Based and Technology-Driven Transformation across all sectors. Accordingly, projects are underway for accurate and timely data collection that will enable the Government to respond to emergencies with targeted and effective policy measures.
Whilst consistently performing as a High Human Development country ahead of its regional peers, when adjusted for inequalities (IHDI), Sri Lanka’s score falls by 13.9% to 0.673 in the 2020 UNDP Human Development Index. The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and will likely create further challenges to achieve the 2030 Agenda. For instance, the $3.2 per day poverty rate increased from 9.2% of the population in 2019 to 11.7% in 2020. Therefore, specific attention is paid to include Social Inclusivity in government policies at national and sub-national levels. For example, during the pandemic, cash transfers were made to economically vulnerable households and debt moratoriums introduced for business recovery. Public Sector Reforms and Innovation, especially via digitalisation, is central to enabling delivery of inclusive transformation, especially to reach the most vulnerable.
Ensuring all Sri Lankan citizens enjoy the benefits of the envisioned inclusive transformation requires Strengthened Law Enforcement and Rights Protection to safeguard civil liberties, inclusive grievance mechanisms, and efficient legal systems. Projects to increase the efficiency of the legal system are underway, including mechanisms to fast-track achievement of SDG 16 targets through integrated planning and monitoring.
While Sri Lanka ranked 87th of 165 nations in the SDG Index 2021, challenges to achieving the 2030 Agenda remain. Reforming the Sri Lankan economy whilst minimising adverse effects on vulnerable groups is key to achieving macroeconomic stability and overcoming the current economic crisis. Support for structural and innovative reforms in the public sector, will play a crucial role. Owing to limited fiscal space, multilateral and bilateral partnerships, as well as south-south cooperation, can play an important role in addressing these challenges.
Consolidating Sri Lanka’s progress to date towards the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, and ensuring such progress isn’t derailed, whilst strengthening ownership and implementation mechanisms, is the foremost priority for all stakeholders.
Having overcome a three decade long terrorist conflict, Sri Lanka has begun its “transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society”. The poverty rate has dropped to 4.1% in 2016 and country is reaching towards the upper middle income status with a per capita GDP of USD 4,066 in 2017. Unemployment rate stood below 5% for last seven years. Free education and health policies have resulted in high life expectancy (75 years) and high youth literacy (98.7%) rates. UN has recognized Sri Lanka among “high human development” achieved countries.
Increasing the multi-stakeholder engagement for the 2030 agenda was a key objective of the VNR process designed by a multi-stakeholder committee; guided by a Task Force; and facilitated by a Consultant. Stakeholders across the country were consulted in five workshops. An online engagement platform was developed.
The government’s “Vision 2025” that provides the overall vision and the Public Investment Programme, the three-year rolling plan align significantly with SDGs.
The National Budget 2018 focuses on a “Blue Green Economy” envisaged to create an eco-friendly environment where all can co-exist harmoniously.
The Sustainable Development Act enacted in October 2017 provides for formulating a national sustainable development policy and strategy. The President has appointed the Sustainable Development Council to implement the Act.
The government adopted mainstreaming SDGs into institutional plans as its main strategy to achieve SDGs.
Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) of 1.9 % in 2012/2013 reflects reduction in poverty. However, poverty pockets exist throughout country and disparities observed among districts.
Efficiency and coverage of the existing social protection programmes are being improved to support the poor and vulnerable.
Maternal mortality, under-five mortality and neonatal mortality have reduced remarkably. Population aging and increasing non-communicable diseases are challenges. Health Policy 2016 - 2025 addresses issues in financing, regulations and primary healthcare.
Sri Lanka has achieved near universality in youth literacy rate, school enrollment and primary education completion. Improving the quality and relevance of education, increasing access to higher and vocational education, standardizing non-state education and strengthening linkage between general and vocational education remain challenges.
Sri Lanka ranks 73rd out of 188 countries in the gender inequality index. Gender inequalities are observed in labor force participation and political representation.
Regulations have been introduced to facilitate women to balance work with their responsibilities within the family. Women’s share in local authorities has been increased through legislation.
Water & Sanitation
Around 89.5% of the population has access to safe drinking water. However, disparities exist regionally and issues exist on quality and quantity of drinking water.
87 % of the population possesses onsite sanitation facilities. Providing facilities to the rest and managing wastewater in urban centers and industrialized areas remain challenges.
Sri Lanka has over 98% coverage of domestic electricity supply. Renewable sources account for 53% of total primary energy supply. Rising dependency on imports and cost of energy are challenges. The government explores renewable energy options, demand side management, and regulating the sector.
Public transport accounts for 57% of passengers. Traffic congestion in urban areas, increasing private vehicle usage and road accidents are challenges. Measures such as railway electrification, Light Rail Transit System and fuel efficient vehicles are being introduced to modernize transport.
Sri Lanka has tremendous potential for tourism with its geographical location and the many diverse attractions within a relatively small area. Annual tourist arrivals have increased five-fold during the last ten years. A transformation in the tourism strategy is needed for its sustainability.
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots. High level of endemicity is observed in most taxonomic groups. However, a considerable number of species are threatened species. Meanwhile, deforestation has become a challenge due to increased demand for land. Solutions have been identified in the National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan.
The government seeks to build a peaceful, stable, reconciled and prosperous Sri Lanka based on a three-pillared strategy of strengthening democracy, reconciliation, and economic development, with the participation of all stakeholders, as reflected in the Peacebuilding Priority Plan as well.