‘Seychelles and Sri Lanka offer ocean of opportunity’


President Michel, who is on his first official visit to Sri Lanka, made this remark in a lecture on ‘The Role of Small Island States in the Global Tapestry’ he delivered at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies in Colombo.

The lecture was attended by the Sri Lankan Minister for External Affairs, Professor G. L. Peiris, as well as prominent academics and members of the diplomatic corps.

The President said that small island nations often experience the political separation from the global tapestry due to their physical isolation, but that island states have the opportunity to link up together in order to provide the connections that will make them part of the global community.

“Sri Lanka is a much larger island than Seychelles.  But we share an outlook which is based on a shared vision.  A vision which, rather than seeing islands as isolated, positions islands as being connectors in the world economy.  We provide connections in terms of trade.  We provide connections in terms of our oceanic spaces.  We provide connections in terms of ideas. Thus from the North of the Indian Ocean to the Equator, Seychelles and Sri Lanka offer an ocean of opportunity,” said the President in his address.

The President noted that islands also have a shared responsibility to protect the ocean and ensure sustainable development that benefits the people of the islands.

“It is regrettable that up to know, oceans have primarily been regarded as spaces for exploitation.  We must make them spaces for sustainable development. Island nations must take ownership of the blue economy to ensure that it delivers benefits not only for their own people - but so that it also enhances the benefits for the planet. Our nations must also work together to define the parameters for sustainable tourism at a global level.  Both our countries have continued to improve the wealth creation potential of this industry.  Through tourism, we are again connecting our island spaces to the world.”

President Michel described the ways in which Seychelles and Sri Lanka can work together to address the threats of piracy, climate change, as well as ensuring a ‘zone of peace and development’ for the Indian Ocean where tourism, fisheries and trade can be jointly developed.

“The world can also learn from Sri Lanka’s leadership in fostering an environment of peace in a post conflict situation. The achievements of Sri Lanka in this respect are remarkable. There are of course still challenges ahead - but Sri Lanka’s rapid emergence as an economic success story illustrates the importance of leadership to bring stability and growth.”

President Michel noted in his conclusion that the Seychelles’ bid for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council in 2017 would be a way for small island states to reaffirm their role in the global community.

“We see our candidature as a means of conveying that all nations - whether big or small - matter. We see our candidature as a means of strengthening the role of islands in the global tapestry.

Together, the islands of the Indian Ocean are leading a narrative of growth and opportunity within the region.  Sri Lanka and Seychelles are at the forefront of this narrative. I believe we should establish a circle of friendship in the Indian Ocean.”

President Michel also pointed out important statistics which should be considered when referring to islands. He said that islands support many of the most unique and isolated natural systems including more than half of the world’s marine biodiversity; they have seven of the world’s 10 coral reef hotspots; they have 10 of the 34 richest areas of biodiversity in the world.

Referring to Seychelles and Sri Lanka in particular, he also pointed out the difference in people number between the two islands: the population of Seychelles is 85,000 while that of Sri Lanka is 20 million. He also noted that 50% of Seychelles’ land area has been declared as nature reserves.

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