Apr 20, Colombo: Sri Lanka can easily achieve its 2030 national Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) utilizing its massive cooperative sector, as the movement is active among the general population, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen says.
"I stress that we can achieve our national Sustainable Development Goals easily if the government and the cooperative movement work together," the Minister said.
Speaking at the 2017 International Cooperative Ministers' Conference at Melia Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam on 19th April, Minister Bathiudeen emphasized that Sri Lanka's cooperatives are active in many sectors, and it can support SDGs as a community based movement.
The conference opened on 18 April, is themed Sustainable Development Goals and Promoting Stronger Partnerships between Government and Co-operative Stakeholders.
The Minister, who is in charge of Sri Lankan cooperative sector, noted that it is a timely theme, especially for Sri Lanka since Sri Lanka is reaching the final stages of its National Cooperatives Policy formulation work.
Following decades of socio-political changes since the formation of Sri Lanka's first Cooperative Society in 1906 in the Central Province, the Sri Lanka's cooperative sector is not centralized anymore and is a devolved subject, the Minister said.
"Understanding and cooperation between the government and the cooperative movement will be further strengthened in respect of the principles and values to safeguard the cooperative movement," Minister Bathiudeen said stressing that Sri Lanka can achieve its national SDGs easily if the government and the cooperative movement work together paying attention to relevant factors such as gender and youth.
"At present a main topic of the development discussion in the South Asian Countries is the gender issue. We can formulate and implement women empowerment programs in collaboration with the cooperative movement so that we leverage it towards the success of an SDG," he said.
The Minister noted that currently women representation is notably very poor among the leaders and top management level officers. Since Sri Lanka's cooperatives are active in agricultural, consumers, production, health services, industries, financial, women and youth sectors, it can support SDGs as a community based movement, he explained.
The Minister said his Ministry with the support of International Labor Organization is striving to finalize Sri Lanka's first national cooperatives policy to serve the more than 14,500 cooperatives across the country.
"We believe that once our policy formulation work is completed Sri Lanka's cooperative movement can support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals even faster and better," he said.
"Another reason that we believe that the cooperative movement of Sri Lanka could be used towards SDGs is that the strength of the movement. Sri Lanka's total population is around 21 million. Of this almost 8 million Sri Lankans are a member of some form of a cooperative active in the country. Therefore I do not have any doubts that the lessons we take home from today's event here would become valuable inputs to the future of Sri Lanka's co-operatives.”
Sri Lanka's cooperative sector has 14,500 societies active across the country in multiple sectors- agricultural, consumers, production, health services, industries, financial, fuel distribution, health, women and youth etc.