The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is committed to helping build a peaceful, prosperous equitable Sri Lanka where the rights of all communities are respected and protected. The direct impact on human lives and suffering of 25 years of fighting in Sri Lanka has been immense. 70,000 people, have been killed, half a million internally displaced, and hundreds of thousands of others have left the country seeking a better life overseas.
The main barrier to unleashing Sri Lanka’s great potential is the violent conflict which drains financial, human and social capacity. Conflict affected areas lag well behind the rest of the country in economic and social development.
The UK Peace Building Strategy (PBS) sets out how the British government will support the conditions necessary for a sustainable peace in Sri Lanka. It is jointly written by the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence.
The strategy lays out how, between 2006 and 2009, the UK will continue to help Sri Lankans’ bring an end to the conflict and build a lasting peace through:
- A greater commitment to negotiated peace;
- Improved safety and security in communities and adherence to human rights;
- A governance reform agenda in key institutions, particularly the security services, to strengthen underlying conditions for a lasting peace; and
- A strengthened civil society more effective in peace building.
The British government has an interest in seeing a lasting peace in Sri Lanka which brings benefits to all sectors of society. Conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE/Tamil Tigers) has blighted Sri Lanka for decades. Violence and suffering is a daily occurrence. Only Sri Lankans can create peace in Sri Lanka, and unlock Sri Lanka’s full potential, but we believe that the international community can help create the conditions that are necessary for a sustainable transition to peace.
The UK’s added value in peace building lies in our flexible, cross-government approach and our experience of peace processes, especially from Northern Ireland. Our specialist expertise in key sectors, such as security sector transformation, and our cultural links with Sri Lanka puts us in a good position to support peace building in Sri Lanka.
Why is the UK involved
The UK’s concern for human rights and good governance, and our commitment to advance the Millennium Development Goals, coupled with the need to combat the global threat from terrorism, international crime and the drugs trade, means it is important for the UK to encourage a sustained peace in Sri Lanka. Equally important is the need to reduce the pressure for migration and asylum, and reap the mutual beneficial business opportunities a peaceful Sri Lanka would offer.
The PBS is well grounded in previous research, in particular the UK’s Peace-Building and Reconciliation Strategy of 2002 and the second, multi-donor, Strategic Conflict Assessment of 2005, partly funded by the UK.
How will the UK deliver the Peace Building Strategy?
British Government will support peace building between 2006 and 2009 through a range of activities focussing on four key objectives:
Objective 1: A greater commitment to negotiated peace
Peace in Sri Lanka is not achievable without an inclusive political process. And a political process cannot take place against a background of enduring violence. A critical condition for a lasting peace is gaining the commitment of all parties to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict. For this to be sustainable it must be supported at many levels, by a wide variety of national and international actors. Progress towards this objective requires sustained and consistent political and diplomatic engagement, supported by practical initiatives.
The UK will:
- Support the efforts of the Norwegians, the facilitators to the existing peace process;
- Help foster a supportive international environment for the peace process including through our membership of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN);
- Use the broad range of UK contacts to encourage the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to end violence and commit themselves to dialogue;
- Encourage key opinion formers, including those in the UK diaspora, to pursue every avenue for peacefully resolving the conflict; and
- Support work on peace building from community level to international negotiations.
Objective 2: Improved safety and security in communities and adherence to human rights.
People in Sri Lanka feel insecure in their day to day lives particularly following the increased violence and human rights violations. Violence and human rights violations are a symptom of the conflict, but they also sustain the conflict as trust between communities erodes. For peace to be sustainable, Sri Lankans need to have a greater sense of confidence and control over the security and management of their lives.
The UK will seek to:
- Strengthen local capacity for managing conflicts within communities;
- Increase the opportunities for people to seek redress for grievances and human rights violations, through improved access to justice;
- Support efforts to enhance the conduct and human rights record of the security forces including through training on human rights and international Humanitarian Law;
- Work with local stakeholders, the UN and other agencies to attempt to improve the human rights situation in Sri Lanka;
- Support processes that reduce the availability and impact of small arms, taking action at community, national and regional level; and
- Work with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and like minded countries to promote Human Rights in Sri Lanka, including through the UN Human Rights Council.
Human Security in the East of Sri Lanka
Since 2003, the British Government has been supporting the local NGO Foundation for co-existence (FCE) to design and establish an innovative system of conflict early warning and rapid response. It has 20 field monitors who collect information on a daily basis and an Information Centre that analyses information to identify political and social tensions in the east of the country.
The programme monitors human security in order to help decision-makers in government, international organisations and NGOs better anticipate, prevent, mitigate and respond to conflict situations. The programme also includes a locally managed conflict prevention programme for responding to increased tensions. It translates analysis into action by supporting the development of a network of organisations and individuals with a capacity for early response in conflict resolution. An early warning system was initiated whereby information is sent by text messages to policy makers and local mediators as soon as incidents occur. This enables more rapid responses aimed at reducing tension and violence before it spirals.
An independent evaluation found that, ‘FCE’s Human Security Programme has prevented violence, either directly through interventions by staff members or indirectly by the efforts of the networks that FCE has helped create.
Objective 3: A governance reform agenda in key institutions, particularly the security services, to strengthen underlying conditions for a lasting peace.
The reform of key public institutions is crucial for Sri Lanka to be able to move towards a more sustainable peace. This objective aims to address governance issues, particularly in the security sector. It will, by necessity, be long-term and require sustained international engagement.
The UK security forces have acquired expertise (principally from Northern Ireland and UN Peacekeeping operations) in policing conflict zones in a way that reduces tensions and violence. In 2001 the UK government established the Security Sector Development Advisory Team (SSDAT) as a centre of excellence for UK supported Security Sector Reform (SSR) activity, as part of its Global Conflict Prevention Pool activity. The SSDAT have a broad range of expertise on Policing, Justice, Defence and Intelligence and Security. They are available to provide practical support to the Peace Building Strategies objectives in Sri Lanka.
The UK will work with the Sri Lankan government and security forces to assist them meet international best practice on the accountability and oversight of democratic security forces, through:
- Development of policy and training in peacekeeping operations, civil military relations, international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict;
- Support of initiatives to help develop civil oversight of defence policy and military activity in order to promote transparency and accountability;
- Support for improved civil-military co-operation at regional, national and local level, with more effective co-operation between civilians, security services and government institutions;
- Educational and bilateral exchange activities with Sri Lankan defence force personnel to develop Security Sector Development skills;
- Improving English and Tamil language capacity of the police, military and judicial sector to enable enhanced communications with all sectors of society, and increased access to the services of national and local government; and
- Work with the Sri Lankan Police to support their development of a community based policing programme.
Objective 4: A Strengthened civil society more effective in peace building
To make progress towards achieving PBS objectives, a wider range of civil society actors will need to engage in meaningful dialogue with government, other actors, the public and the international community to influence policy and bring about sustainable change.
The UK will therefore:
- Encourage the engagement of a wider range of partners (including the private sector, religious organisations, the media, regional universities, political groups and other key opinion formers) in initiatives in peace building;
- Support innovative civil society mechanisms for peace building; and
- Help strengthen civil society to play an enhanced role in the search for peace.
Facilitating Local Initiatives for Conflict Transformation
Facilitating Local Initiatives for Conflict Transformation (FLICT) supports local initiatives to build the capacities of people to address conflicts in a peaceful manner. Since 2003, FLICT has supported more than 60 initiatives involving youth, women, regional level politicians, artists, media, the business community, religious leaders and the general public. 75% of FLICT partners operates outside of Colombo, including in areas of ethnic tension. FLICT partners work towards to promoting understanding amongst ethnic and religious groups (including through music and theatre), as well as supporting diversity and tolerance among these communities.
Programmes seek to address root causes of violent conflict by, for example, the establishment of village level citizen communities to address contentious resource and development issues in a peaceful manner, and co-ordinating advocacy for non-violent elections in traditional ‘hot spots’ of the south. These initiatives help prevent political violence by constructively engaging with all communities, their leaders and local and regional politicians.
The UK will work closely with the government of Sri Lanka and other local actors. We will also work in partnership with the international community – especially the Tokyo Co-Chairs, the EU, the UN, international financial institutions and development partners – co-ordinating and complementing our work with theirs.
We have created an innovative Political and Development Section in the High Commission in Colombo which works in tandem with the Defence Section to implement the PBS, using funds from the UK’s Global Conflict Prevention Pool. PBS programmes will take a long-term approach aimed at tackling the underlying causes of the conflict. Evaluation and lesson learning will be central to our activity. The PBS is intended to be a living document: tight enough to give focus to our activities, but sufficiently flexible to adapt to changing circumstances and opportunities as they arise.
Implementation of the Peace Building strategy will be carried out by the British High Commission’s Political and Development Section with 4 UK staff, from the FCO and DFID, and 6 Sri Lankan staff together with the High Commissions Defence section with 2 staff from the MOD. These will be supported by central resources from the three departments in London.
Funding for projects in 2007-2008 will be £2 million from the Global Conflict Prevention Pool.
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