In my 25 years at the United Nations I have had the privilege of serving in a number of countries. In May of 2011, I arrived in Sri Lanka. Two years had passed since the end of the civil war. The country was transitioning from a humanitarian phase to a path of restoration and lasting peace. My journey in this beautiful island began at this critical juncture.
As my current assignment now comes to an end, I look back at the four-and-a-half years I have been here. I have been overwhelmed by the resilience of this country’s people and I am humbled to have had the opportunity to support its rebuilding process.
A moment that I distinctly recall is my first visit to the North, when I visited ‘Menik Farm’ – a camp which housed the internally displaced people at the time. I met a boy; in his mid-twenties. He was strong amid the unbearable experiences that he had faced. He was hopeful, despite the fact that he had never seen peace in his country. He was determined to rebuild, redevelop, and restore his life and the lives of his family. And this is what struck me the most – the immense strength, hope, and resilience that echoes in all of the Sri Lankan people.
Over the years I am proud that the UN has been a staunch advocate for the protection of IDP rights in all forms. We advocated for adherence to internationally accepted norms and standards and maintained a robust system of protection monitoring, including incident reporting on gender based violence. Alongside, relevant UN agencies continued with the work of providing support to families seeking truth and justice, and considerable work to support the efforts of human rights defenders throughout the country. At the same time, we have been working alongside the Government providing assistance to support internally displaced people to resettle and return their lives to normalcy. However, a lot more remains to be done, and the UN will continue supporting further resettlement and the attainment of durable solutions for all affected people.
As I worked closely with the UN Country Team in supporting the development and rebuilding of Sri Lanka in the post-war era, I noticed more and more the striking beauty of the country through its people. My colleagues in the UN Family in Sri Lanka are testament to this. During my term in this beautiful island, I worked closely with the team in delivering a programme aimed at promoting durable peace, stability, and prosperity in a reconciled Sri Lanka. The programme we delivered, and continue to deliver as one family, has proved to me the commitment of my team, for the people of Sri Lanka.
While I have many memories from my tenure here, I must say that the last year of my term was one of the most memorable. On 8th January 2015, Sri Lanka demonstrated the power of its people yet again, as one nation, through the electoral process. I am honoured to have personally witnessed the peaceful political transition that took place, which is a true example of democracy and peace. I note this political change as a moment that captured the attention of the world and it has indeed inspired the hearts and minds of many. The voice of the Sri Lankan people was heard loud and clear, and this voice, I will always remember.
Last year also marked the completion of a 15-year global commitment towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The country’s achievement on the MDGs proved to the world, Sri Lanka’s true human potential. The MDG Country Report 2014 shows how almost all targets were achieved well ahead of the deadline set in 2015. It illustrates how the people of Sri Lanka took action for the betterment of the people of its country. It demonstrates the tireless efforts of those in the public, private, and development sector, including people from civil society, youth groups, and media.
The achievement of the MDGs sets the stage for Sri Lanka to shine in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the 15 years to come. I see tremendous opportunity and potential in Sri Lanka to take on the SDGs, which will instill long lasting and sustainable development in this country. This will be at the heart of Sri Lanka’s agenda moving forward, and its results will truly be what the Sri Lankan people deserve.
I was also fortunate to have been working with the UN in Sri Lanka during the last year when the Government re-affirmed its commitment towards meeting its international obligations to the UN system. Indeed, Sri Lanka’s open and honest engagement with the international human rights architecture and the strong commitment of the leadership towards reconciliation and peace building, has put Sri Lanka and its people, I believe, on a firm and steady path towards long term sustainable peace and prosperity. I look forward to watching the country to grow and its people prosper.
I am privileged to end my tenure at a time when the UN both in Sri Lanka, and globally, celebrates an important milestone in its history. The year 2015 saw the fulfillment of 70 years of the UN and 60 years since Sri Lanka became a Member State. As we look back on the longstanding 60 year partnership between the United Nations and Sri Lanka, I note and recognize the many talented and dedicated Sri Lankans who have played an integral role in the UN system, locally, regionally, and globally.
My time in Sri Lanka has shown, on numerous occasions, that it is the people of Sri Lanka that have changed Sri Lanka. It is the people of Sri Lanka that strive to rebuild a resilient and hopeful tomorrow for a better and brighter Sri Lanka. It is the people of Sri Lanka that I will always cherish and remember.
As I say my goodbyes to the warm smiles of all Sri Lankans, I celebrate the collective unwavering spirit of the people of Sri Lanka, and note its people as the most powerful asset of the country. It will be difficult for my family and I to leave this wonderful place, which has been our welcoming home since 2011. I do, however, take certain satisfaction that my new assignment as Director Asia-Pacific of the Department of Political Affairs in New York, will keep me in touch with the developments in Sri Lanka, a country which I will forever hold dear to my heart.
Ayubowan, Vanakkam, Assalamualaikum, and Farewell, until we meet again!
The writer is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka. Mr. Nandy was assigned the post in May 2011 and will now move to New York to take up his new assignment as Director Asia-Pacific of the UN Department of Political Affairs, effective February 2016