Last week, Sri Lankan foreign minister, Mangala Samaraweera, reaffirmed the importance of post-conflict peace building and development. Samaraweera recently completed a visit to the United Nations to discuss ways to improve the relationship between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Sri Lankan government in order to meet challenges in the current environment within Sri Lanka. This visit involved many meetings with different actors and individuals and was primarily about peacebuilding challenges in Sri Lanka, the success of mechanisms within Sri Lanka and strengthening its involvement in peacekeeping missions around the world.
Sri Lanka was gripped with a 25 year civil war from 1983 till 2009. This war was between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and it ended with the Tamil Tigers’ surrender in 2009. Since then, Sri Lanka has enforced several peacebuilding mechanisms in order to create a sustainable peace in the country. Sri Lanka has approached this task through liberal peacebuilding, a model which focuses on democratisation, liberalisation and development. They have received extensive help from other countries, particularly India, in order to promote peacebuilding in the country.
Since ending the conflict, Sri Lanka is considered a development success story, showing positive progress and a strong performance on the Millennium Development Goals. In February, the World Bank released the Systematic Country Diagnostic Report for Sri Lanka. In this report, the World Bank found that Sri Lanka is currently facing five development challenges that need to be addressed in order to sustain the progress it has seen in the last decade. The first challenge involves Sri Lanka’s tax system. Sri Lanka has a tax and customs system characterised by exemptions and weak administration, meaning they have been unable to invest in people or infrastructure. Secondly, Sri Lanka is facing a challenge of fostering growth and jobs for those living in poverty. The education system in Sri Lanka has not equipped people with the abilities and skills that businesses want, so they are facing the challenge of finding employment to cater towards this. Thirdly, Sri Lanka needs to meet a social inclusion challenge, in that as a way to end poverty and achieve shared prosperity, urbanisation should be harnessed for inclusive growth as the highest number of those living in poverty is located in urban centres. Fourthly, Sri Lanka has governance issues that impede the ability of the state to spend effectively. Finally, Sri Lanka is facing a sustainability challenge wherein they need to create a durable framework for reconciliation in order to address grievances that contributed to the conflict.
Sri Lanka is currently in a crucial position in its development. They have made progress towards reconciliation and rebuilding the economy after the conflict. However, in order for this development and progress to be maintained, it is important that the current Sri Lankan government begin long term planning in order to be able to sustain itself. More importantly, however, is that Sri Lanka needs to strengthen its reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts in order to fully address the persisting grievances from the conflict. If the government maintains its commitment towards peace building efforts it will be able to continue its positive progress and development into the future.
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