4th March 2021 Colombo, Sri Lanka

Prosperity: it’s back and here to stay!

Just over a year ago now I relocated to the beautiful Island nation of Sri Lanka from my previous position at the British Consulate in Istanbul. Naturally I was excited by the prospect of relocating to a new country with my family, another adventure for us all. I was equally excited to start my new ‘Head of Prosperity’ role at the British High Commission in Colombo. I released a short video confirming my intentions – I was eager to define what delivering ‘Prosperity’ might mean in a Sri Lankan context. The ultimate goal? To deliver activities that lead to mutually beneficial opportunities for both the UK and Sri Lanka.

I had a few initial questions to ponder: What were the ‘Prosperity’ policy areas where bridges could be built between the UK and Sri Lanka: health, economy, trade, science and innovation, energy, environment? What niche areas could the UK and Sri Lanka work together on to affect real change? How could I create the networks and connections that would help deliver positive change?

I had good intentions. Following initial discussions in Sri Lanka, I went back to the UK to meet a wide range of government departments to drum up ‘Prosperity’ potential. In Sri Lanka, I met with other missions, Sri Lankan Ministries, UN partners, NGOs, business and industry. I was getting a feel for the lie of the land in Sri Lanka, and had developed a burgeoning Prosperity network of interlocutors. I was looking at ways to deliver programme and project activities to support our Prosperity ambitions. Things were looking promising. A Prosperity plan was coming together.

Then, Covid reared its ugly head. All ‘Prosperity’ plans went out the window. Our immediate attention at the High Commission turned to the profound and rapidly evolving Covid-19 situation, globally and in Sri Lanka. Consular responsibilities for British nationals and duty of care for staff at the High Commission took prominence. My family and I prepared for a possible return to the UK as we watched the unfolding situation. It was an unsettling time for all.

Almost a year on and we’re still in Sri Lanka. My family is safe and we count our blessings, many have had it a lot worse. We feel a degree of relief with the start of the vaccine roll out across the globe and in Sri Lanka. We’re immensely saddened by the impact of Covid on many in Sri Lanka, but impressed by the resilience shown by the Sri Lankan people, despite the challenging circumstances.

But I now look towards the future, towards better stories on the horizon. Despite the ongoing Covid saga we have some big priorities on our immediate Prosperity hit list.

One immediate priority for the Prosperity team in Sri Lanka is to support the UK Government’s efforts to galvanise international action to tackle the effects of climate change on our planet through our Presidency of the 26th UN Conference of Parties (popularly known as COP26). COP26 will be held in Glasgow this November, bringing together over 30,000 delegates including heads of state, climate experts and campaigners to agree international action to tackle climate change. It’s a massive opportunity for the UK to act as an ‘honest broker’, to consolidate and drive forward global climate ambition, and to ensure that ambition transfers into real action.

Sri Lanka is certainly a key part of our COP26 ambitions. You don’t need to be a scientist to recognise the extent of Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity but also recognise its vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change such as temperature rise, rainfall variability and sea level rise; Sri Lanka was ranked 2nd in the Global Climate Risk Index 2019 and 6th in 2020.

So what are the High Commission and UK doing in Sri Lanka?

Well, we have started to deliver a range of COP26 campaign areas to preserve and protect Sri Lanka’s biodiversity, eco systems, blue economy and unique environmental heritage.

We have a range of ‘green’ events and activities scheduled. Themes include raising climate literacy, promoting nature based solutions and eco-tourism, the move away from dirty fuel to renewable energy, the importance of nitrogen management, future cities and greening buildings and access to green finance. All our climate activities include collaborations between Sri Lanka, the UK and other international partners and organisations.

With all these events and activities in the pipeline, we would like to take you on a journey to showcase our COP26 efforts through our social media, communications, blogs and vlogs.

We’re eager to amplify the work we’re delivering through key climate influencers and partners to further increase Sri Lankan climate ambition, helping Sri Lanka adapt, become more resilient and mitigate against the negative effects of climate change.

In our very first vlog, we will focus on a visit to an eco-resort in Kalpitiya that is adjusting to and tackling the effects of climate change and pollution. The vlog will cover a visit to a mangroves site in Puttalam to illustrate why mangroves are important in mitigating the negative impacts of climate change. Stay tuned!

As our Italian partners quite rightly stated at a COP introduction event we hosted – time is running out! It’s a climate emergency, we must act together now – we must save Planet A now, as there is no Planet B!

Til my next comms venture,

A Prosperity aficionado!