May 31, 2017 Reading Time: 3 minutes
Reading Time: 3 min read
The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI), Sri Lanka’s leading foreign policy think tank, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the MJF Group, the group of companies that manufactures, exports, and markets the Dilmah brand. The MoU establishes a 3-year partnership between the MJF Group and LKI, to support LKI’s Global Economy Programme. Expolanka Holdings PLC, one of Sri Lanka’s best known conglomerates, has also committed to facilitate quality research by enabling essential research databases for LKI’s research team.
The establishment of the Global Economy Programme at LKI reflects the increasingly key role of economic diplomacy in Sri Lanka’s foreign policy. The programme will focus on international trade, foreign investment, and tourism, and its research aims to ensure that Sri Lanka’s economic diplomacy reflects sound research and innovative insights, as well as the potential and priorities of Sri Lanka’s private sector.
The programme will be headed by Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja, who will join LKI as Chair of the Global Economy Programme (supported by Dilmah). Dr. Wignaraja’s experience over the last twenty-five years spans the private sector, international organisations, and academia in the UK and Asia. He has held senior roles at the Asian Development Bank, Maxwell Stamp PLC, OECD, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and Oxford University. Dr. Wignaraja’s expertise covers trade and competitiveness, supply chains and SMEs, infrastructure connectivity, development finance, and macroeconomic policy.
Hon. Ravi Karunanayake, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of LKI, commented on these developments stating, “Commercial diplomacy is vital to Sri Lanka, as a middle-income country that wants to progress to the next frontier of development. It is inspiring to see Sri Lanka’s private sector step up so generously, to support research that can identify new possibilities for Sri Lanka’s trade, investment, and economic growth.”
Hon. Dr. Harsha de Silva, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and new Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs, also expressed his thoughts at the media briefing he chaired at LKI stating, “This is the first time that the Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka has established a partnership with our own globally recognised brands such as Dilmah and Expolanka to promote economic diplomacy. I’m appreciative of the fact that Dilmah and Expolanka responded immediately to my request for financial partnership in this endeavour. I hope to see other global brands also join in promoting our efforts in economic diplomacy.”
LKI’s Executive Director, Dr. Dinusha Panditaratne, welcomed these recent developments, stating, “LKI is deeply appreciative of these landmark commitments from the MJF Group and Expolanka Holdings, which enable LKI to build an exceptional research team with access to international research databases.” She added that, “LKI is grateful to the Hon. Dr. Harsha de Silva, M.P. and Former Deputy Foreign Minister, for initiating the call for research support from the private sector. The funding will enable LKI to scale up their research activities, and add compelling new voices to shape Sri Lanka’s foreign policy.”
Dr. Panditaratne observed that the generosity of Dilmah and Expolanka for research builds on contributions by other highly respected corporates for programmes and communications at LKI, including from Hemas Holdings PLC, John Keells Holdings PLC, and J. Walter Thompson Sri Lanka. Together, all these companies are pushing the frontiers of corporate citizenship in Sri Lanka, and showing how the private sector here can – like their counterparts elsewhere in the world – support research, programmes, and communications on issues of global importance.
The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) is a think tank focusing on Sri Lanka’s international relations and strategic interests, to provide insights and recommendations that advance justice, peace, prosperity and sustainability. The Institute reflects the vision of the late Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar by promoting the country’s intellectual profile in foreign policy research and engagement.