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A pervasive threat to biodiversity and human security

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Bio Piracy:

Indigenous knowledge is important for ecological, economic and social sustainability. However, the instruments of ‘Intellectual Property Rights’ (IPRs) have overridden the authority of local communities to use traditional and indigenous knowledge in biosphere. In spite of the fact that indigenous knowledge is critical for societal advancement, the patenting rights deny local communities the use of this knowledge. Striping the ownership of the traditional knowledge and vesting them with private entities, mostly in developed countries, to exploit biological resources for profit is bio piracy.

The patenting system of biological resources prevents developing countries from the use of their very knowledge freely that they owned for generations. At the same time, they are forced to purchase the very products developed by stealing their own knowledge at a high cost. The patenting system creates a monopoly of biological resources and thrusts its ownership with the corporate interests of the powerful. It is a blatant form of exploitation of indigenous and traditional knowledge. The Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 provided a license, giving impetus to bio piracy.

Biodiversity in developing countries is the main casualty of bio piracy. Biodiversity entails a wide variety of ecosystems and living organisms: animals, plants, their habitats and their genes. Bio piracy has many negative effects on biodiversity such as extinction of endemic living organisms, depletion of biodiversity and privatization of treasures of the country while there is an economic impact in terms of deprivation of long-term benefits. Impact of bio piracy on cultural and social life of the communities is enormous as monopoly over seeds and medicines poses a threat to farmers and their livelihoods.

Bio piracy is a main source of threat as far as human security is concerned. It directly affects food security. If not addressed systematically on time, there will be a phenomenon of reverse technology transfer in developing countries that will make bio piracy a serious issue, having profound implications on many aspects of human security.

Against this backdrop, the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) has decided to have its next webinar on the topic “Bio Piracy: Threat to Biodiversity and Human Security”. Three world renowned Sri Lankan scholars: Prof. Siril Wijesundara, Research Professor (Plant Taxonomy and Conservation) at National Institute of Fundamental Studies and Former Director General at the Department of National Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya; Prof. Veranja Karunarathne, Senior Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Peradeniya and Former Vice Chancellor of SLINTEC ACADEMY, Homagama; and Prof. Sarath Kotagama, Professor Emeritus, Department of Zoology and Environment Science, University of Colombo, will be speaking at the webinar. RCSS has also invited Dr. Jagath Gunawardena an expert on Environmental Laws, and team member at the Environmental Foundation Ltd. Sri Lanka. Prof. Gamini Keerawella, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Peradeniya and the Executive Director of Regional Centre for Strategic Studies will moderate the webinar. This virtual event will take place on Thursday 25th March 2021 at 3.00 PM, India Standard Time.



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Amendments to be incorporated into Colombo Port City Bill – GL

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman Prof. G. L. Peiris says amendments proposed by government lawyers in respect of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill submitted to the Supreme Court, through the Attorney General’s Department, would be incorporated into the Bill along with the amendments proposed by the Supreme Court.

Education Minister Peiris, one of the intervening parties in support of the Bill, says the government is confident of the passage of it in Parliament this week.

Prof. Peiris discussed the upcoming two-day debate on May 19 and 20 at the regular SLPP media briefing at their Nelum Mawatha Office in Battaramulla.

The former internationally distinguished law professor and Colombo University Vice Chancellor said that the government was determined to go ahead with the mega project as part of their overall efforts to attract investment. The Minister explained the need to go ahead with planned projects, regardless of difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister briefly described the procedures adopted in the passage of the Bill.

Petitioners that challenged the Bill included the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) and Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera represented by SLPP Colombo District lawmaker Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC. Petitioners asked for the Bill to be approved by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and at a referendum.

The only MP other than former Justice Minister Rajapakse to express concern over some provisions in the Bill was Yuthukama leader and SLPP National List parliamentarian Gevindu Cumaratunga.

At the onset of the briefing Prof. Peiris said the government was continuing with a vaccination drive to bring the Covid-19 situation under control. The minister acknowledged the difficulty in procuring the required number of covishield doses for those who required the second dose. The SLPP Chairman said that the government was discussing the issue at hand with both governments and the private sector in a bid to obtain the required stock.

Prof. Peiris placed the shortage of covishield vaccines at over 400,000 whereas the health ministry earlier estimated the shortfall at over 600,000.

Minister Peiris acknowledged that a daily count of approximately 2,500 new Covid-19 cases was quite a challenge though the government sustained efforts to keep the situation under control.

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Covid patients to be treated at centres close to homes

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Those diagnosed with COVID-19 would be sent to treatment centres and Intermediate Care Centres closest to their homes, the Health Ministry said yesterday

The decision was taken at a meeting held yesterday at the Health Ministry. Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle and Ministry officials took part in the meeting.

 A Health Minister’s spokesman said the decision had been taken to lessen the psychological trauma on the patient and the family.  

 The Ministry will also supply necessary medical equipment and medical staff to treatment centres that are being built by the government and non- governmental organizations.

 State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) has been instructed to procure AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses required for the second jab as soon as possible. (RK)

 

 

 

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Digitalization way forward for Lanka – World Bank

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Healthcare workers in Sri Lanka enter data into the DHIS2 COVID-19 surveillance system(Pic courtesy World Bank)

Digitalization is the way forward for Sri Lanka to transform into a technology-based society, says the World Bank.

The WB report said that the Government of Sri Lanka has demonstrated its commitment to accelerate digital transformation. In order to reap the benefits of digital technologies, the country now needs to ensure that access to high-speed and affordable Internet is available to all citizens including in remote areas of the country and across income groups and gender. It also needs to ensure that the right policies, laws, and regulatory frameworks are in place to protect the security, data and rights of all especially the vulnerable.

In early 2020, when the COVID-19 lockdown began, Sri Lanka’s food supply chain was significantly disrupted leaving farmers and consumers to face the adverse effects of the pandemic. Wholesale and retail markets were closed and traders were encouraged to deliver food items directly to doorsteps following strict health guidelines.

However, to sell and deliver food items and agricultural products, small traders were required to register at the Divisional Secretariats (DS), local-level administrative units which serve as the primary citizen delivery points.

But government office closures significantly affected this process. Meanwhile, there was no means to submit and process permit requests electronically.

Now, the Government of Sri Lanka, led by the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) in collaboration with various stakeholders, has embarked on a highly anticipated digital transformation journey to address such issues.

With support from the World Bank’s Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC), ICTA is planning to bring services online to 10 selected Divisional Secretariats through piloting the ‘form.gov.lk’ initiative, a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) platform.

The platform will leverage existing infrastructure such as the Lanka Government Cloud (LGC 2.0), the government’s cloud computing infrastructure, and the Lanka Government Network, the government’s private network which connects 860 government offices across the country.

The proposed solution will offer the general public and businesses the capability to fill and submit relevant information and documents digitally without having to visit government offices.

These pilot services will range from civil registrations (births/deaths) and small business registrations to allowing farmers to process police permits for transporting crops.

Once the system is successfully piloted in selected DS offices, the platform can be scaled to other government organizations, reducing travel and building efficiency in service delivery including in areas outside of urban centres and contributing to Sri Lanka’s green recovery.

“Our biggest objective is to build the digital foundation for the government to continue serving all Sri Lankans during a crisis like this. This is just the beginning of our digital transformation journey” says Mehinda Herath, Chief Executive officer of ICTA.

The CERC will also build resilience in public service delivery by enabling government officials to work remotely.

This will be done through the implementation of a government-wide email and collaboration solution and video conferencing facilities; and by enhancing the capacity of the government cloud infrastructure (LGC 2.0) to support more services.

A disaster recovery site will also be established for LGC 2.0 so that critical data is not lost in times of exogenous shocks, including natural disasters such as flooding and cyclones.

“The vision of ICTA is to improve living conditions and livelihoods across Sri Lanka irrespective of geographical locations and other disparities. This will be done through effectively adopting digital technologies and developing the required enabling environment, including the legal framework, basic infrastructure such as unique digital ID and government wide digital connectivity as well as various other aspects that are required to develop the digital economy,” says Prof. Lilith Gamage, Chairman of ICTA.

Transforming Sri Lanka into a technology-based society is one of the key national policy objectives of the country, as highlighted in the President’s manifesto, Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor. This includes the implementation of a “whole-of-government approach” to digital government to improve the delivery of public services to all Sri Lankans; developing the technology industry for jobs and growth; and supporting digital entrepreneurship and growth of a digitally savvy workforce and population.

The government is developing a foundational digital ID system that is backed by biometrics. ICTA together with the Ministry of Justice has also commenced an initiative to establish a country-wide court management system with the aim of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the judicial system.

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