Strengthening Reconciliation Processes in Sri Lanka

Project description

Title: Strengthening Reconciliation Processes in Sri Lanka
Commissioned by: Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and Maldives
Country: Sri Lanka
Lead executing agency: Ministry of National Integration, Official Languages, Social Progress and Hindu Religious Affairs
Overall term: 2017 to 2021

Context

The changing political environment in Sri Lanka in recent years has allowed the underlying drivers of the long-running conflict to be addressed, creating conditions for accountability, reconciliation and peacebuilding. Since the presidential elections in January 2015 and the subsequent formation of a national government in August 2015, good governance and reconciliation have been on the political agenda. 

The report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 2015 and the co-sponsorship of the related UN Human Rights Council Resolution by the Sri Lankan Government paved the way for a process of reconciliation focused on four pillars: truth-seeking, justice, reparations and non-recurrence. 

Despite the constitutional crisis in October 2018 and a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bombings on 21 April 2019 that have shaken the country and caused significant political turmoil, civil society continues to find opportunities to work with the government on a range of human rights and reconciliation issues.

The reconciliation programme, jointly financed by the European Union and the German Federal Foreign Office, responds to these developments and implements measures aimed in particular at preventing the recurrence of the civil war’s violence.

Objective

The reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is strengthened. Governmental and non-governmental organisations in Sri Lanka address key aspects of the reconciliation process jointly.

Approach

The project operates in two fields of activity: 

Supporting effective cooperation mechanisms within and between state and civil society actors involved in the reconciliation process in three areas:

  • Monitoring and documenting progress in the reconciliation process;
  • Supporting learning at relevant institutions;
  • Promoting public discourse and inclusive policy-making.

Supporting the non-recurrence pillar of the reconciliation process in the following four areas:

  • Dealing with the past, including shared grieving and commemoration;
  • Providing appropriate psychological and psychosocial services for victims of conflict;
  • Promoting the use of different forms of art and culture to engage fragmented communities in a reconciliation dialogue;
  • Removing language barriers to improve access to public services.

Results

  • More than 5,230 people attended screenings of films on reconciliation followed by moderated discussions on the subject, facilitating dialogue on post-war issues. 
  • 4,602 people visited the project’s mobile museum which takes visitors on a journey through different facets of Sri Lanka’s post-independence history. “It’s the first time I’ve visited a museum in Sri Lanka that envisions history as a multifaceted complex of events and not a linear view of the past”, said former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. 
  • A total of 238 representatives of state and non-state partner organisations have received capacity development in psychosocial service delivery and outreach.
  • 449 members of government and civil society participated in different workshops on operational aspects of reconciliation and related themes. “I now understand the importance of reconciliation in the institutional context”, said one participant; further, many participants feel they are now better equipped to “manage conflicts, and identify unfulfilled requirements and how to deal with them afterwards.”
  • 127 artists and cultural actors, including film directors, musicians and community theatre groups, were supported to use art to facilitate constructive dialogue on reconciliation, national identity and diversity. 
  • 86 articles on reconciliation were published by the journalist network thecatamaran.org in Sinhala, Tamil and English. The articles were shared and discussed on social media with a community of 3,200 individuals. The articles reached approximately 615,000 readers in mainstream newspapers.

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