Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena called for assistance to advance digitalization of economies and services within Commonwealth member states in recognizing role of e-commerce and e-governance to address challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He made these remarks while participating in the the 20th Virtual Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM) in the sidelines of the 75th UN General Assembly last week.

Highlighting that e-commerce and e-governance would define the competitive edge of countries in the post COVID-19 world, Gunawardena called for assistance to advance digitalization of economies and services within Commonwealth member states.

He cited Sri Lanka’s experience of conducting the first ever tea and rubber auctions via a digital platform, while the country also remained the first in South Asia to adopt international standards for digital transactions.

Moving forward, he proposed mobilizing existing scientific and technical expertise and knowledge in the Commonwealth towards ongoing research related to COVID-19. In this regard, the Foreign Minister highlighted the partnership between the University of Sri Jayawardenapura of Sri Lanka and Oxford University in sharing expertise and knowledge acquired in immune responses in individuals to dengue infection, to understand immune responses to COVID-19 infections.

While noting the unprecedented and adverse economic and social impact induced by the crisis on countries, he underlined the urgent need for debt relief, loan repayment moratoriums and financial stimulus to ease current difficulties.

Focusing on Sri Lanka’s commitments under the Action Plan of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, Minister Gunawardena informed that Sri Lanka planned to reduce 30 percent of GHG emissions by 2030 and move towards a resilient and cleaner future with low carbon economic growth by transitioning to hydro, solar and wind power. He also stressed on the need to identify the barriers, risks and potential opportunities for scaling-up climate finance for small states, including Sri Lanka.

The CFAMM, which traditionally takes place in the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, was held virtually this year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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