Chinese President Xi Jinping today assured Sri Lanka development assistance as the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation drew to a close in the Chinese capital.Jinping said that while Sri Lanka is a small island it is an important country in the ports and shipping sector. The roundtable summit was part of the two-day forum held on Sunday and Monday and attended by 30 heads of state and Government leaders.The forum is the most important meeting on the Belt and Road Initiative since Xi first made the proposal in 2013. It is also the largest-scale and highest-level international gathering initiated by China. (Colombo Gazette) Participants in the Leaders Roundtable of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation adopted a joint communique and released an outcome list today. Jinping was speaking at a reception held with the participation of several world leaders, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. read more

On the nineteenth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appealed to the world to provide the necessary funds for a dramatic expansion of aid to help communities still suffering the effects of the catastrophy.“The three countries most affected – Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine – continue to grapple with daunting social, economic, humanitarian and environmental consequences,” he said in a statement issued by his spokesman.Nearly 8.4 million people in the three countries were exposed to radiation when the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine blew up. Beyond cancers and chronic health problems, especially among children, some 150,000 kilometres – an area half the size of Italy – were contaminated, while agricultural areas covering nearly 52,000 square kilometres, more than the size of Denmark, were ruined. “The challenge posed by Chernobyl has evolved over time,” the statement said. “As the threat posed by radiation has diminished, the no less potent hazards of poverty, chronic unemployment have come to the fore.” The focus of recovery efforts supported by the UN has shifted from emergency humanitarian assistance to long-term development aid, seeking to empower communities and foster new, sustainable livelihoods.“Early efforts are showing promise, but they need to expand dramatically in order to meet the needs of the affected populations,” the statement said. “The Secretary-General urges the international community to provide the necessary financial support for programmes designed to assist communities traumatized by Chernobyl to regain self-sufficiency and help families to lead normal, healthy lives in the affected areas.”Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has issued a new report noting that people living near the Chernobyl site still lack the information they need to live healthy lives and are instead vulnerable to misconceptions about radiation and health. read more