United Nations System in Sri Lanka

UN Country Team in Sri Lanka

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO is also a source of knowledge and information. FAO helps developing countries and countries in transition modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition for all. Since our founding in 1945, we have focused special attention on developing rural areas, home to 70 percent of the world’s poor and hungry people.

Sri Lanka joined the FAO as a member nation in 1948 and full pledged FAO Representation was established in January 1979. Since then Sri Lanka has been fortunate enough receiving a large amount of assistance financially as well as technically in order to develop the agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and forestry and environment sectors of the country. The total cost of these technical assistance programmes (TCP) is over US $ 12 million approximately.

Sri Lanka participated at the highest level in both the World Food Summit and its follow up session five years later and received FAO technical assistance for the implemenation of a pilot project for the introduction of better and efficient irrigation technologies under the FAO’s Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS).

One other advantage that Sri Lanka achieved through FAO’s technical assistance is the capacity building of the government departments, mainly the agriculture, fisheries, livestock, forestry and the environment sectors.

FAO’s Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation Division has been very active in Sri Lanka, providing rapid and effective assistance in response to various natural disasters and complex emergencies.

FAO’s programme has provided a wide range of support to IDP’s, assisting them to restart agriculture production and various agri-based income generation activities by providing agriculture inputs and various training.Currently, FAO technical expertise is increasing the availability of several varieties of indigenous rice through a seed multiplication programme which targets the North East of Sri Lanka
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, was established as an international financial institution in 1977 as one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference. The conference resolved that “an International Fund for Agricultural Development should be established immediately to finance agricultural development projects primarily for food production in the developing countries”. One of the most important insights emerging from the conference was that the causes of food insecurity and famine were not so much failures in food production, but structural problems relating to poverty and to the fact that the majority of the developing world’s poor populations were concentrated in rural areas.
International Labour Organization (ILO)
The International Labour Organization is the UN specialized agency which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights. It was founded in 1919 and is the only surviving major creation of the Treaty of Versailles which brought the League of Nations into being and it became the first specialized agency of the UN in 1946. The ILO formulates international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations setting minimum standards of basic labour rights and it promotes the development of independent employers’ and workers’ organizations.

Sri Lanka has been an active member of ILO since its independence in 1948. ILO’s close collaboration with is tripartite constituents: the government, employers and workers, was strengthened since the establishment of the Area Office in Colombo in 1984.

Sri Lanka has ratified 40 of the 185 ILO conventions including its 8 core conventions, and in November 1996, Sri Lanka formally joined the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), as its 21st member country.

Since its inception the major part of the ILO activities in Sri Lanka has been to assist the capacity building and support national development efforts of the government. The support extended in the creation of The Institute for Construction Industry Training and Development (ICTAD), upgrading of teaching facilities of the Ceylon Hotel School, support of training and testing in the tertiary and vocational education/ training sector and upgrading the skills base of the of the National Design Centre can be highlighted as some clear examples of projects completed.

In its tenure a continuous feature of the ILO in Sri Lanka has been to assist the government in drafting policies and reforms related to labour issues.
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The IMF is an international organization of 184 member countries. It was established to promote international monetary cooperation, exchange stability, and orderly exchange arrangements; to foster economic growth and high levels of employment; and to provide temporary financial assistance to countries to help ease balance of payments adjustment.

Sri Lanka joined the IMF in August 1950. The Minister of Finance is the governor for Sri Lanka, and the governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka is the alternate governor. The board governors decides on major policy issues but delegated day to day decision making to the executive board. Sri Lanka, together with India, Bangladesh and Bhutan, are represented by and executive director.

The IMF’s resources come mainly from quota (or capital) subscriptions that countries pay when they join the IMF. The IMF may borrow to supplement the resources available for lending from quotas.

The IMF main activities are surveillance and technical and financial assistance. The goal of the IMF’s surveillance activities is to encourage member countries to adopt sound economic policies. Since 1952, the IMF has conducted almost every year appraisals of Sri Lanka’s economic situation and provided policy advice building on discussions with government officials and other stakeholders, within a framework known as article IV consultation.

The IMF also provide specialized technical assistance to member countries. Expert on various economic subjects are made available to governments, usually free of charge.Technical assistance to Sri Lanka has focused on the areas of tax administration and policy, banking and central bank legislation, banking supervision, monetary policy instruments, foreign exchange dealings etc.

The IMF has provided key financial assistance to Sri Lanka at crucial points in time, including during the oil shocks of the 1970s, in time of fluctuating exports and more recently, it was the second largest funding source for post-tsunami relief.
The Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. In more than five decades, the agency has helped an estimated 50 million people restart their lives. Today, a staff of around 6,689 people in 116 countries continues to help 20.8 million persons.

Against the backdrop of the long and debilitating civil war which displaced hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans, the government of Sri Lanka called upon UNHCR to establish a presence on the island in 1987 to assist and facilitate the repatriation of Sri Lankan refugees returning from India . UNHCR opened offices in the North and East out of which to conduct the repatriation exercise.

Throughout the 1990s, UNHCR strengthened it’s presence in Colombo and in the North and East. In collaboration with partners and displaced communities, UNHCR implemented hundreds of projects directed towards the needs IDPs and focused more specifically on the special needs particularly vulnerable sectors of the IDP population, including female headed households, the elderly and disabled.

As the national lead agency for transitional shelter, UNHCR supported the government in the construction of 58,000 shelters across all tsunami districts in Sri Lanka . Additionally a collaborative programme led by UNHCR assisted more than 120,000 people to acquire new documentation or certified copies of old documentation, replacing those lost in the tsunami.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. We have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. That makes us unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young. We believe that nurturing and caring for children are the cornerstones of human progress. UNICEF was created with this purpose in mind – to work with others to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path. We believe that we can, together, advance the cause of humanity. We work in 191 countries through country programmes and National Committees.

UNICEF’s association with Sri Lanka began in the early 1950s with programmes coordinated through offices in India . The first Sri Lanka country office was established in Colombo in 1973.

The creation of the Children’s Secretariat, the first government body to focus specifically on formulating child related policies, was a significant achievement for the government and people of Sri Lanka which was supported by UNICEF. Other milestones which followed were achieving universal child immunization status in 1989, eliminating polio, setting up local production of oral rehydration salts (Jeevanee) and universal rehydration therapy, promoting infant and young child feeding practices including adoption adoption of an Infant Formula marketing Code, and adoption of a child health development chart.

UNICEF supported government and civil society initiatives resulting in significant legislative changes related to child protection. Other child rights areas covered by UNICEF include strengthening the quality of primary education and promoting the active participation of children in programmes and services for adolescents who are a strategic group who will contribute to the future of Sri Lanka

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
UNDP is the UN’s global development network, an organization advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners. In each country office, the UNDP Resident Representative normally also serves as the Resident Coordinator of development activities for the United Nations system as a whole. Through such coordination, UNDP seeks to ensure the most effective use of UN and international aid resources.

Since its began operations in Sri Lanka in 1967 UNDP has provided grant aid, expert advice and modern equipment to the country’s main development sectors such as economic planning, health, education, the legislature and the judiciary. UNDP has assisted the Open University of Sri Lanka, The University of Moratuwa, The Urban Development Authority, The Export Development Board, The National Institute of Business Management and the National Institute of Health Science.

In response to the government’s request to help resettle, reintegrate and rehabilitate people displaced as a result of North East conflict, UNDP has been financing small infrastructure projects, micro enterprises and other community based interventions through its Transition Programme. UNDP works with other agencies to educate people on risks of landmines and works towards implementing the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty.

One of the UNDP’s key area is poverty Reduction. Other areas of special focus include support for Democratic governance, through which UNDP is helping to build up institutions such as bribery Commission, Parliamentary Select Committees, Government Agents’ Offices and the Human Rights Commission. UNDP also provides support to the Environment sector through the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme . UNDP’s focus on sustainable development support projects to maintain Sri Lanka ’s dwindling rain forests and phase out the use of harmful pesticides.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was founded on 16 November 1945. For this specialized United Nations agency, it is not enough to build classrooms in devastated countries or to publish scientific breakthroughs. Education, Social and Natural Science, Culture and Communication are the means to a far more ambitious goal: to build peace in the minds of men. Today, UNESCO functions as a laboratory of ideas and a standard-setter to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues. The Organization also serves as a clearinghouse – for the dissemination and sharing of information and knowledge – while helping Member States to build their human and institutional capacities in diverse fields.
Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization: About UNESCO

United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.

Since it’s inception in 1978, UN-HABITAT the UN human settlement programme, has helped focus the trust of the human settlement policies in Sri Lanka and assisted the nation stay in touch with the global trends. It’s assistance to the country has ranged from the city master planning in the 1980’s to advocating enabling approaches that promoted participatory planing and development, focusing on reduction of poverty and promoting inclusiveness in its cities. Parallel to these efforts, UN-HABITAT has shared its extensive global experience to assist Sri Lanka in mitigating the impacts of natural and human made disasters.

United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) was established as a separate UN entity with a mandate to provide operational and management services to UN system agencies in 1995. UNOPS provides the people, tools, and operational know-how needed to get projects up and running, and client goals met and accomplish this by offering a broad range of services—including procurement, recruitment and human resources administration, loan supervision, and certification.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

The UNFPA office in Sri Lanka was set up in 1969 the very year UNFPA was established. The government of Sri Lanka had already adopted a population policy that promoted voluntary family planing. The objective of the partnership between UNFPA and the government of Sri Lanka was to internationalize this policy by improving access to modern family planing as an integral part of maternal and child health services and promoting safe motherhood.

Since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, UNFPA has supported the government in moving towards the ICPD reproductive health agenda and in 1998, a “Population and Reproductive Health Policy” for Sri Lanka was adopted.

In the wake of tsunami, UNFPA engaged in an immediate emergency response providing reproductive health emergency kits, contraceptives and personal hygiene kits. In the reconstruction effort, UNFPA supports the rebuilding of health facilities including equipment and capacity building of health providers

World Bank
The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the common sense. We are made up of two unique development institutions owned by 184 member countries—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). Each institution plays a different but supportive role in our mission of global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards. The IBRD focuses on middle income and creditworthy poor countries, while IDA focuses on the poorest countries in the world. Together we provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and many other purposes.

World Food Programme (WFP)
As the food aid arm of the UN, WFP uses its food to: meet emergency needs and support economic and social development. The Agency also provides the logistics support necessary to get food aid to the right people at the right time and in the right place. WFP works to put hunger at the center of the international agenda, promoting policies, strategies and operations that directly benefit the poor and hungry.

WFP’s assistance to the Sri Lankan Government to combat hunger began in November 1968.During past years, WFP has supplied timely and invaluable emergency food aid to the victims of drought, floods, conflict and landslides.

Food for work projects enable the creation of public assets and rehabilitation of agricultural infrastructure that would increase food production. The most recent addition to WFP’s food assistance programme is the “meal in school” programme with the objective to improve the nutritional status of primary and secondary school children.

World Health Organization (WHO)
The World Health Organization is the United Nations specialized agency for health. It was established on 7 April 1948. WHO’s objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health is defined in WHO’s Constitution as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. WHO is governed by 193 Member States through the World Health Assembly. The Health Assembly is composed of representatives from WHO’s Member States. The main tasks of the World Health Assembly are to approve the WHO programme and the budget for the following biennium and to decide major policy questions.

Sri Lanka joined WHO in 1948. Five decades of WHO collaboration has contributed to major improvements in the health status of the poor in Sri Lanka.Strengthening of health systems, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and prevention and control of the priority diseases underpin all the health efforts in Sri Lanka today.