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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Colloquium for INGOs on recovery and reconstruction

Daily News: 07/05/2005"

FOREIGN Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar chaired a colloquium for international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and charitable institutions at the headquarters of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva on Friday May 6, convened with a view to maintaining the momentum for recovery and reconstruction of the country in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster states a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a huge response to the invitation, 67 international INGOs sent over 90 participants from 13 countries, from North America and Europe, to the colloquium. Foreign Minister Kadirgamar addressing the packed audience, encouraged INGOs operating in Sri Lanka to become development partners with the government, within a framework consistent with international best practices, good governance, transparency, accountability and the avoidance of waste and duplication.

Minister Kadirgamar thanked the INGOs for the overwhelming support extended for emergency relief in Sri Lanka in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami disaster. He also referred to the spontaneous outpouring of local support from all communities which mobilized assistance in the first instance without any form of discrimination.

These efforts supported by the international community and the resilience of government health and administration systems, together enabled the emergency relief phase to be accomplished successfully; no one had died of starvation or due to lack of medical care, there were no disease outbreaks, the law and order situation was effectively maintained and basic infrastructure such as roads, telecommunication and electricity were restored within a week.

The Minister noted that there had been an unprecedented public response from all over the world to the tsunami disaster, manifested through NGOs many of whom were represented at the meeting. It had become important therefore to develop a framework for NGO activities in Sri Lanka which would enable the large volume of funds available to INGOs for tsunami reconstruction and rehabilitation, to be deployed for productive activities such as housing, micro financing, livelihood support and national capacity building in an accountable and transparent manner.

The Government reaffirmed and emphasized that it would likewise adopt a policy of transparency and accountability in project implementation and the disbursement of donor funds held by the Government.

For this purpose, auditors of international repute will be appointed. It is the policy of the Government not to get involved in the calling for tenders, identification of contractors and day to day micro-management of the NGO funded reconstruction activities.

The donor organizations will be given full responsibility for identifying and selecting contractors and the implementation of projects which they undertake to carry out.

They would thus be able to identify themselves with their own projects. The Minister stated that the Government wished to encourage INGOs to maximize utilization of local employees and local procurement facilities which would contribute to the economic development of the country and overall poverty alleviation.

The Minister advised the INGOs to conduct their humanitarian activities in such a manner as not to create new social inequities and disputes between the displaced and the wider community. It was also important to ensure that INGO humanitarian assistance activities did not disturb prevailing intercommunity and religious harmony.

The Government wished to see the INGOs operating in Sri Lanka with due respect for and understanding of the social norms and cultural traditions of its multiethnic society.

The colloquium included presentations by Mano Tittawella, Chairman/TAFREN and Jeevan Thiagarajah, Executive Director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA). A framework proposal for NGOs to work as development partners with Sri Lanka, prepared by the Ministry of Finance and Planning was also presented. A lively discussion ensued during the meeting.

The conclusions of the colloquium will be presented to the Sri Lanka Development Forum scheduled to be held on May 16 and 17 in Sri Lanka.

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