“I stress that we can achieve our national Sustainable Development Goals easily if the government and the cooperative movement work together. Sri Lanka’s cooperatives are active in many sectors, and it can support SDGs as a community based movement” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen in Hanoi, Vietnam on 19 April.
Minister Bathiudeen, who is leading Sri Lanka’s cooperative sector delegation to the International Cooperative Ministers’ Conference 2017 at Melia Hotel, Hanoi, Vietnam was addressing the 19 April session of the event. This event, opened on 18 April, is themed Sustainable Development Goals and Promoting Stronger Partnerships between Government and Co-operative Stakeholders.
“As the Minister in charge of Sri Lankan cooperative sector I stress that this is a timely theme specially for Sri Lanka since at present we are reaching the final stages of its National Cooperatives Policy formulation work. Sri Lanka’s First Cooperative Society was formed in 1906 in the central province. After decades of socio-political changes today Sri Lanka’s cooperative sector is not centralized anymore and is a devolved subject. In my capacity of the subject Minister of the Central Government I wish to mention that national cooperative policy formulation is a key responsibility for me and we work in collaboration with the Provincial Ministers, Provincials Departments of Cooperative, and the Provincial level Cooperative Employees Commissions in it. 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” said Minister Bathiudeen and added:
“This conference is looking forward to the 2030 targets. I stress that we can achieve our national Sustainable Development Goals 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. Currently among the leaders and top management level officers women representation is notably very poor. 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. My Ministry with the support of International Labour Organisation is striving to finalise Sri Lanka’s first national cooperatives policy to serve the more than 14500 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. 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 14500 societies active across the country in multiple sectors- agricultural, consumers, production, health services, industries, financial, fuel distribution, health, women and youth etc. Eight million Sri Lankans are members of some form of a cooperative. As a result there are 09 Provincial Cooperative Ministers and 09 Departments of Cooperative Development 09 Provincial Cooperative Employees Commissions functioning under the provincial councils across the country. Minister Bathiudeen’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce, being responsible for the formulation of macro cooperative policy for the sector is, with the support of ILO, currently working in the final stages of the introduction of Sri Lanka’s first ever National Cooperatives Policy, expected before the end of this year.