Inauguration of the Sri Lanka Stakeholder SDG Platform and National Dialogue on the Linkages between Alcohol-Drugs-Tobacco, Women-Youth-Children and the Sustainable Development Goals

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The Sri Lanka Stakeholder SDG Platform was inaugurated with a National Dialogue on the linkage between Alcohol, Drug and Tobacco related to women, Youth and children and the Sustainable Development Goals was conducted on March 08, 2018 at Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Colombo 7.  The objectives of the national dialogue were doing a rapid mapping on alcohol, drugs and tobacco use and SDGs and to propose strategies and actions. Furthermore, to support discussions and demonstrate how global and national alcohol and drug policies are a cross-cutting development issue that impact upon of the SDGs.

The inaugural platform was co-organised by Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD), Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka (FPASL), Alcohol and Drug Information Centre Sri Lanka (ADIC), Centre for Environment and Development (CED) and Global Sustainability Solutions (GLOSS) with the support of platform partners.  The Sri Lanka Stakeholder SDG Platform (SLS-SDG Platform) is a collective representation of CSOs, private sector, academia, professional associations, etc. to facilitate an Inclusive Transformation towards sustainable development in Sri Lanka.

Civil Society Organizations, private sector organizations, Government Sector Organizations, international organizations and academia participated at the inauguration of the SL SDG platform and the national dialogue on Alcohol and Drugs and the Sustainable Development Goals. These organizations represented apex level of sectors of development, youth, Environment, Universities, banking, commerce, Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention and independent policy research. The expected outcomes of the national dialogue  was to map-out linkages between Alcohol-Drugs-Tobacco, Women-Youth-Children and the Sustainable Development Goals were to initiate a national level for discourse on the different ways and means that alcohol, drugs and tobacco impedes development especially in terms of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Also, to identify and analyse policy incoherencies and gaps in policy implementation with regard to alcohol, drugs and tobacco towards achieving SDGs, And to support global and national alcohol policy initiative for achieving reduction of the use and problems related to alcohol drugs and tobacco, collate good practices and success stories related to prevention and policy implementations, and motivate development practitioners to integrate prevention of alcohol drugs and tobacco as a cross cutting sector into their ongoing development plans.

Introductory Presentation of Sri Lanka Stakeholder SDG Platform

Mr. Uchita de Zoysa in his introductory presentation stated Sri Lanka was the first country to commit Sustainable Development country in the South Asia as early as September 2015. The President of Sri Lanka has announced his commitment to a Sustainable Development Era. Furthermore, Sri has a SDG Road Map, institutional roles and responsibility mapping, National SDG Action plan, and Strategies for integration and mainstreaming SDGs in place. Chief Planning Officers in 20 districts in 7 Provinces have been capacitated on programme implementation for Sustainable Development. However, he commented that implementation of strategies and programmes for achieving SDGs in Sri Lanka is far from satisfactory.

Hence, he stated there is a felt need for the Sri Lanka SDG platform, an independent stakeholder platform to facilitate an inclusive transformation in Sri Lanka and to facilitate an independent monitoring and reporting mechanism on the implementation of SDGs in the country. The stakeholder platform is all for all stakeholders – CSO, business, academics, local government, Activists, academics, professionals, women, youth, etc. It will consist of self-organized multiple action layers such as SDG based thematic working Groups and sectoral stakeholder platforms and the decision making will be a collective process by partners, facilitators and advisors, and platform facility.

Dr. Prasanthi Gunawardena, University of Jayawardenapura, stated that air, land and water resources in the environment of Sri Lankan are being unlimitedly in the pretext of development and the externalities of the development process have to be borne by the poor and rural people. She also added that the industrial zones and development projects are invading the productive rural landscapes. Dr, Gunawardena stressed that the polluters should be made to pay through taxation processes. She also stated that the cost due to pollution by cement production carried out by the private sector is 5.9 billion rupees per annum which is not born by the company but the public of the country.

Dialogue on ‘The Linkages between Alcohol-Drugs-Tobacco, Women-Youth-Children and the Sustainable Development Goals

The dialogue on the linkages between alcohol-drug-tobacco, women-youth-children and Sustainable Development Goals consisted of a panel discussion and a group work session.

Panel Discussion

Dr. Nishan de Mel, Executive Director & Head of Research, Verity addressing the participants ont the need for regulation and taxation for alcohol and drugs stated that   development and economic growth are one and the same. Development is important to be contextualized through value of life and freedom. He also added the consumption of addictive substances, people are able to have patterns of behavior which are extremely harmful to them in their future and later in life although they look very attractive in the present. Therefore, regularisation and taxation of alcohol and tobacco has to be treated as with a special focus. As the effect on oneself and the effect on others are negative in the longer term, complexed issues as such must be treated differently.

Mr. Pubudu Sumanasekera, Executive Director, ADIC  speaking on the relationship between alcohol, tobacco and other drug and SDGs stated Rs. 332 million on cigarettes and Rs. 297 million on alcohol are lost  annually to Sri Lanka as foreign exchange which has large impact on a  developing country like ours. He also stated over 10% of males spend as much as or more than their regular income on Alcohol. 60-65 People died per day because of tobacco. 300 litters of water is wasted to produce one litre of beer. Mr. Sumanasekera further stated that there is a vicious cycle between alcohol, poverty and development. He stated that there is a well-formulated mechanism to drain out the income of the country to through a historically established process. He stated that alcohol and tobacco has a cross cutting impact on 13 out of 17 SDGs.

 Dr. Manoj Fernando, Senior Lecturer, Department of Health Promotion, University of Rajarata stated that health issues were clustered d under   three (3) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) such as Goal 4 to reduce child mortality, Goal 5 to improve maternal health and Goal 6 to Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. He stated even though achieving the MDGs were successful, it was not without limitations. To overcome these limitations the health related issues in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are included under Sustainable Development Goal No. 3 – to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages. The SDGs go beyond disease focus to improving  wellbeing, recognizes wider set of determinants (beyond concerns of health sector), engages people and gives a role for them – not only services.

 Ms.Samitha Sugathimala, Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD) stated the Sri Lanka women are directly and indirectly affected by the use of alcohol and other drugs by men.  Even though they have been consistently non users of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, they are at risk of becoming occasional or regular users.  The alcohol industry glamorizes females drinking, especially through media, to make them to perceive alcohol as a symbol of power for women, as part of masculinity, in overcoming the vulnerability of femininity or the subordinated position in society. She stated that women could play an important role in de-glamourizing the use of alcohol and other drugs by disconnecting links between happiness, masculinity, youthfulness and smartness and alcohol and other drugs.

 Representing Dr Samantha Kumara Kithalawaarachchi, Director, Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention, GOSL, and Mr. H.M. Thilakaratne of the same organization participated and addressed the participants at the inauguration of the Sri Lanka SDG Stakeholder platform. He stated that the President of Sri Lanka has identified prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs as critically important issue for achieving the development of Sri Lanka. Mr. Thilakaratne stated that Government officers from Grama Niladhari up to the Secretary of a ministry are duty bound to support prevention alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. He stated that based on his personal experience in working with people at grass root level Island wide he is much sensitized of the gravity of problems related to the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs on their day to day lives. On behalf of the Director, Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention he extended the best wishes and fullest co-operation to the Sri Lanka SDG Stakeholder platform.

  Linkages between Alcohol-Drugs-Tobacco, Women-Youth-Children and the Sustainable Development Goals

 In the Group work sessions the linkages between environmental, social, economic and governance   issues and alcohol, drugs and tobacco use on the Sustainable Development Goals with respect to  Women, Youth and Children groups and strategies and actions addressing SDG targets related alcohol, drugs and tobacco were discussed and identified.

Way forward

Sri Lanka stakeholder SDG platform will be used a forum to initiate a national level and sub national level discourses on different ways and means to advocate for policies, formulate strategies and action plans to achieve Sustainable Development in Sri Lanka through the prevention of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco.