Norwegian State Secretary for Development Cooperation, Mr. Jens Frølich Holte, concluded a three-day visit to Sri Lanka on Saturday. During the visit, State Secretary Holte held meetings with the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development and Rural Economy Vijith Vijayamuni Zoysa, Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of City Planning and Water Supply Rauff Hakeem, Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake and Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam.
Discussions focused on shared interests and common challenges of sustainable use of the oceans and management of marine litter, ongoing cooperation in the fisheries sector, marine spatial planning, progress in peacebuilding and reconciliation, and economic development, including promotion of two-way tourism, between the two countries.
State Secretary Holte’s visit to Sri Lanka took place in the context of following up on agreed areas of cooperation during bilateral discussions that took place between President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Colombo in August 2016.
The visit coincided with the arrival of the Norwegian Marine Research Vessel Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, one of the most advanced research vessels in the world (owned by NORAD and jointly operated by the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and the University of Bergen (UIB)). The vessel will undertake a 26-day research journey around Sri Lanka and help map marine resources. Assistance to survey Sri Lanka’s fish resources and marine eco system using the research vessel including technical assistance to develop a national fisheries policy framework are important elements of Sri Lanka – Norway cooperation in the fisheries sector.
Norway’s development cooperation with Sri Lanka also focuses on priority areas linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to climate change, conservation of the ocean, peace and justice, gender equality and affordable and clean energy.
During the visit, the State Secretary addressed the Symposium on “SDG 14 – Life Below Water”on 21 June, which was organized by the Ministry of Fisheries, in collaboration with the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Holte also visited Jaffna where he met with local fishermen and their families in Gurunagar, and took part in a beach cleanup with local community and the Marine Environment Protection Authority. He also opened a vegetable and fruit packing centre associated with the Palali Agriculture Producer’s Sales Cooperative Society.
On Saturday 23 June, State Secretary Holte opened a Business Conference on Blue Economy for participants from the maritime, marine and aquaculture sectors in both countries, to look at promoting ocean-based industries and building partnerships within the blue economy sector.Norway has been a longstanding development partner of Sri Lanka since the early 1970s, and its development assistance has contributed significantly to Sri Lanka’s social and human development.