Strengthening Reconciliation Processes in Sri Lanka
Title: Strengthening Reconciliation Processes in Sri Lanka
Commissioned by: German Federal Foreign Office, Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and Maldives
Country: Sri Lanka
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Legal Reforms
Overall term: 2017 to 2021
Since the civil war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009, successive governments have taken a variety of measures to advance the process of reconciliation. In 2011, the Sri Lankan Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) drafted its initial recommendations on how to tackle the fundamental causes of the long-running conflict and coming to terms with the past. The policy of reconciliation received another boost when the Government elected in January 2015 supported a Resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In 2016, the Government convened a Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF) and tasked it with undertaking nationwide consultations to identify the views of the Sri Lankan population on a range of reconciliation mechanisms and processes. The final report of the CTF and the approval of a National Policy for Reconciliation and Coexistence in 2018 led to the establishment by the Government of an Office on Missing Persons and preparations for a new Office on Reparations. A key measure paving the way for these initiatives was the creation of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) in 2015, chaired by the former president Chandrika Kumaratunga.
A new Government was elected in November 2019, headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. It has announced a critical review of the existing reconciliation policy. Parliamentary elections take place in 2020, and it remains to be seen whether new political priorities and practical initiatives will follow.
The reconciliation programme financed jointly by the Federal Foreign Office and the European Union builds on these political and institutional initiatives and supports the Sri Lankan Government and civil society in their efforts to ensure lasting peace.
The reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is strengthened. Governmental and non-governmental organisations in Sri Lanka address key aspects of the reconciliation process jointly.
The project operates in two fields of activity:
1. Supporting effective cooperation between governmental and civil society actors in the following areas:
- Analysing and documenting progress in the reconciliation process
- Supporting learning at relevant institutions
- Promoting public discourse and inclusive policy-making
2. Avoiding a recurrence of the conflict by acting in the following areas:
- Enabling stakeholders to deal with the past through shared remembrance and commemoration
- Providing needs-based psychological and psychosocial services for victims of conflict
- Promoting the use of art and culture to engage fragmented communities in dialogue and the reconciliation process
- Removing language barriers to improve access to public services
- A total of 8,315 people have attended screenings of films on reconciliation and taken part in moderated discussions on this issue.
- More than 18,000 people have visited the project’s mobile museum, which takes visitors on a journey through various chapters 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 very different events rather than as a linear view of the past,’ said former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.
- In all, 881 representatives of state and non-state partner organisations have received training in the delivery of tailored psychosocial services to as many citizens as possible. This has benefited over 2,700 people so far.
- A total of 797 representatives of the Government and civil society have participated in a range of workshops on operational aspects of the reconciliation process and related topics. One participant said, ‘I now understand the importance of reconciliation in the institutional context.’ In addition, many participants now feel they are better equipped to ‘manage conflicts and identify unfulfilled needs and the best way of addressing them.’
- In all, 293 artists and cultural actors, including film directors, musicians and community theatre groups, have been supported in using art to facilitate constructive dialogue on reconciliation, national identity and diversity.
- The journalists’ network thecatamaran.org has published 150 articles on reconciliation in Sinhala, Tamil and English. The articles have reached around 800,000 people through national daily newspapers.