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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. 

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Co-ordinating education during emergencies and reconstruction

ReliefWeb: Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Date: Jan 2004

Co-ordinating education during emergencies and reconstruction: Challenges and responsibilities
While co-ordination is essentially a method of getting institutions to work together, it is clearly not synonymous with togetherness. Undercurrents of suspicion and distrust between individuals and institutional actors can affect important relationships and give rise to enduring misunderstandings and perplexing challenges. Turf battles involving huge international institutions are a real life illustration of the African adage: "When elephants fight, the grass suffers". In terms of co-ordination: war-affected, displaced, disempowered and traumatized communities constitute the grass.
In this book, the co-ordination, or lack of co-ordination, of education during both emergencies and the early reconstruction period is examined. What constitutes effective and poor co-ordination is also analyzed, with suggestions for enhancing co-ordination of education in emergency and post-conflict settings. This includes the need to recognize that co-ordinated education systems are unlikely to be achieved unless education authorities are willing to decline aid that does not help fulfil the objectives of their agreed and announced plans The study is divided into four parts:1. Background to the study: key themes and contexts.2. Key actors and co-ordination frameworks.3. Field co-ordination perspectives.4. Conclusion: The significance of co-ordinating education efforts.
View the full document (PDF *, 761 KB)

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USAID Field Report Sri Lanka Apr 2005

ReliefWeb: Source: United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Date: 30 Apr 2005

Program Description

USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI) program in Sri Lanka assists in generating greater support for a negotiated peace settlement to end the long-standing conflict. To accomplish this aim, USAID/OTI's two objectives are to: increase collaboration and participation among diverse groups to set and/or address priorities; and increase awareness and/or understanding of key transition issues.

Based on these objectives, USAID/OTI provides grants that: support positive interaction among diverse groups of people; promote participatory decision-making at the community level; improve livelihoods; and facilitate the flow of accurate information from multiple viewpoints.

Working with local NGOs, informal community groups, media entities, and local government officials, USAID/OTI identifies and supports critical initiatives that move the country along the continuum from war to peace. Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) implements the $14.8 million small grants program and manages USAID/OTI offices in Colombo, Trincomalee, Ampara and Matara.

Since the program began two years ago in March 2003, USAID/OTI has cleared 381 small grants worth approximately $10.172 million.

Country Situation

Tsunami recovery moves forward, but not without critics and concerns - More than three months after the tsunami, controversy and lack of clarity remained over the government's prohibition of reconstruction or rehabilitation of housing within a buffer zone - 100 meters in the South and 200 meters in the East - along the coast. Heavy rains in both regions, unusual this early in the year, flooded some areas where tsunami-displaced persons were living in donated tents, underscoring the need for immediate and more lasting solutions for housing. Frustration among tsunami-affected communities continued based on the perception that the government was not distributing relief or facilitating rehabilitation in a timely, efficient manner. The government required all NGOs involved in tsunami recovery to register with a new division of the Ministry of Finance in an effort to more closely regulate, monitor and generate revenue from organizations involved in tsunami response.

Eastern Province remains prone to violence - Security incidents in the Eastern Province continued to test the resilience of the cease fire agreement between the government and LTTE. During the first two weeks of the month, a Sri Lankan navy patrol boat clearly marked as carrying a Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission official came under gunfire from the shore near an LTTE base on the back bay of Trincomalee harbor, a Ministry of Vocational Training official was shot dead in Batticaloa, and a grenade was thrown into the Ampara office of one of the LTTE's rival Tamil political groups. The killings in Batticaloa District continued almost daily during the first half of April, targeting present and former cadres of pro-government Tamil paramilitary groups, arch enemies of the LTTE. The escalation of intra-Tamil violence follows the assassination in March of the LTTE political leader in Batticaloa and Ampara.

Killing of prominent Tamil journalist in Colombo has chilling effect - The body of a well-known Tamil journalist, D. Sivaram, with gunshot wounds to the head, was found on April 29 in a marsh near the Parliament complex outside of Colombo. Sivaram, who used the nom de plume "Taraki," had been abducted late the previous night by a group of armed men in a four-wheel vehicle just opposite a police station along the busiest road in the capital. A former militant with the anti-LTTE People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam, Sivaram traded his gun for the pen in the late 1980s and in the mid-1990s helped start the pro-LTTE website, Tamilnet. Among Tamil journalists he was the most vociferous in chastising former LTTE eastern commander Karuna, a school classmate in Batticaola, for breaking away from the northern LTTE command in early 2003. He was also highly critical of the JVP's opposition to a joint government-LTTE mechanism for tsunami relief and rehabilitation in the North and East. No arrests have been made in conjunction with the killing, though the Sinhalese NGO activist who was an eye witness to the abduction was questioned.

JVP ratchets up rhetoric, targeting NGOs, journalists and joint mechanism - At an April 6 rally of the National Patriotic Front in Colombo, JVP propaganda chief Wimal Weerawansa encouraged "Sinhalese patriots" to "spit on" what he described as "traitors" to the Sinhalese nationalist cause and "the LTTE terrorist called Taraki." Weerawansa's remarks, recorded on a DVD, are being investigated by the Inspector General of Police. The neo-Marxist JVP, junior partner in the ruling coalition government, continued to threaten withdrawal of support for the President's Sri Lanka Freedom Party should the government sign a joint mechanism for tsunami relief with the LTTE. Many bilateral donors, including the U.S., have stated that their funding for tsunami recovery in the North and East is not contingent on such a mechanism. Yet virtually all acknowledge the constructive role the joint mechanism, in the absence of the LTTE's proposed interim administration, could play in rapprochement between the government and LTTE. Analysts have suggested that a mysterious letter in which an unknown organization takes credit for Taraki's killing is a hoax aimed at discrediting the JVP. Police are investigating the letter, dated May 2 and signed by "Colonel Mayadunne, Therapuththabahaya's Brigade," an allusion to a Buddhist monk who in ancient times left the robes to join a Sinhalese army marching from the South to defeat a Tamil king in the North. The letter was first distributed to several pro-peace journalists and civil society activists on May 10 and threatens more violence for supporters of the LTTE.

USAID/OTI Highlights

A. Narrative Summary

OTI cleared 15 new grant activities in April for an estimated total value of $662,738.

Three new grants out of the Ampara office will support dialogues between Muslim and Tamil local government officials in tsunami-affected coastal communities, the repair and rehabilitation of a government youth training center in Batticaloa that OTI had previously assisted, and the clean-up of Batticaloa lagoon through a collaboration between local government, multi-ethnic youth volunteers and the Sri Lanka Navy. A fourth grant promotes collaborative priority setting in the multi-ethnic community of Central Camp, comprised of 12 colonies established as part of a government-facilitated irrigation scheme in the 1950s that relocated Muslim, Tamil and Sinhalese families to the area.

The Colombo office is phasing out coverage of the South now that the new office in Matara has opened. In April they approved seven grants which will support community consultations and/or projects emerging from collaborative priority setting processes in tsunami-affected divisions in the Matara and Hambantota districts.

Three new grants out of the Trincomalee office include three activities that mobilize multi-ethnic youth for relationship-building, peace skills training, volunteer community service activities, and vocational training. A fourth activity builds on two earlier grants to a Sinhalese community-based organization by creating story boards to provide narrative text for the positive, peace-oriented messages carried by 135 murals in four divisions.

B. Grant Activity Summary - March 2003 through April 2005

See Table

C. Indicators of Success

Addressing tsunami recovery needs with peace building approach in Ampara

Not only did the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami result in catastrophic levels of death and destruction along the Sri Lankan coast, but it also presented an unprecedented opportunity for grassroots peacebuilding and for rapprochement between the government and LTTE. OTI's community-based programming has focused on activities that work at two levels - on the surface addressing tsunami relief and recovery needs while also challenging and ideally changing attitudes and perceptions that have fueled the 20-year conflict.

In Ampara, the district hardest hit by the tsunami and home to one of OTI's four field offices, OTI has funded the National Youth Services Council (NYSC) to perform cultural programs in 25 camps for tsunami-displaced persons. The early evening events help break the monotony and temper the stress for everybody in the camps, from the displaced to the camp management and Special Task Force (STF), the government Police unit in charge of camp security. Tsunami-displaced citizens help set up the show, arrange for costume changing rooms, and safeguard the musical instruments.

The peace building impact of the activity stems from the fact that the NYSC's performing troupe is comprised predominately of Sinhalese youth from Ampara town and areas further inland, with only a few Tamils and virtually no Muslims. Due to the perceived security threat, many of these youth have spent little or no time in the Muslim and Tamil villages that alternate along the Ampara coast. In this way, the OTI-supported cultural shows are developing empathy, trust and understanding among the communities.

The NYSC performers, aged between 18 and 30 years, have been well received and expressed surprise at how much they have in common with their tsunami-affected neighbors. Perceptions and attitudes altered through this rich experience, these Sinhalese youth are returning to their communities as change agents, helping to dispel some of the myths and rumors that even they had earlier helped perpetuate.

D. Program Appraisal

Given the Sinhala/Tamil New Year holiday in mid-month, which effectively shuts down all public offices and many private businesses for one week or more, April has never been a high-performance period for OTI's Sri Lanka program. This year, however, OTI cleared nearly twice the number of projects for almost triple the total estimated grant amount in April 2003 and April 2004 combined. More important than the quantity, however, was the quality and strategic fit of many of these new activities from both field offices in the East as well as the new Matara office in the South. This was reassuring considering the significant amount of turnover within the senior management level of the program since March, coupled with the dramatically altered context in which finding local partners with capacity to implement projects is increasingly challenging given the influx of resources and international NGOs and agencies involved in tsunami recovery.

NEXT STEPS/IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES

In May USAID/OTI Sri Lanka will:

* Work with OTI's new Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist to integrate OTI's monitoring and evaluation framework into the USAID/Sri Lanka Mission's Performance Measurement Plan, begin planning for collection of baseline data in strategic locations, and pilot viewer circles and listener groups to measure the impact of OTI media initiatives.

* Fully staff the new Matara office and fill remaining vacancies in the Ampara and Trincomalee offices.

* Discuss on an urgent basis the programming implications of an increasingly strident and threatening Sinhalese nationalist voice, as expressed by parliamentary parties as well as the anonymous letters sent to key figures in the media and NGO sector following the killing of Tamil journalist D. Sivaram.

* Seek to replicate community consultation activities piloted along the southern coast in tsunami-affected areas of the East.

* Enhance integration of local, regional and national media-related activities through visits to OTI's three district field offices by the Colombo-based Media & Information Specialist.

* Provide feedback from tsunami-affected communities to a targeted audience of key government officials and tsunami task force staff through weekly highlights in CD format of the Internews-implemented tsunami radio activity.


For further information, please contact:

In Washington, D.C.: Rachel Wax, Asia and Near East Program Manager, 202-712-1243, rwax@usaid.gov

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Post-tsunami recovery will take about a decade: UN agencies

ReliefWeb: GENEVA, May 23 (AFP)

Countries hit by last December's devastating tsunami around the Indian Ocean will take at least five to 10 years to recover with the help of international aid, United Nations agencies said Monday.

Technical experts underlined after a meeting organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) that recovery efforts needed to tackle problems with poverty, conflicts or land disputes that existed before the tsunami struck, on top of reconstruction.

"You're very rarely talking about a process of less than five years and usually it's more like 10 years," UNDP disaster recovery specialist Andrew Maskrey told journalists.

The UNDP cautioned that the region was in "a critical stage of transition" that would determine the shape of reconstruction and said that it wanted to "build back better, build back stronger".

"We have to be careful of the tyranny of rush: trying to get things done quickly can actually put us behind in the long run," said Kathleen Cravero of the UN's humanitarian coordination office (OCHA), adding that the process was "well underway".

The agency warned against rebuilding "the conditions of risk" that existed before the disaster in the Indonesian province of Aceh, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives.

"Recovery, despite the horrific nature of the disaster, does provide an opportunity to build back better and address the development challenges that had been with these communities for quite some time," Cravero said.

Housing would be improved, protected from recurrent natural disasters, backed by improved health and education services, and the effort would also try to ensure lower levels of malnutrition.

Aceh, the hardest hit area, suffered losses estimated at 4.5 billion dollars, equivalent to the province's entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to UNDP data.

The tsunami, which killed 128,645 people there, directly affected livelihoods by wiping out housing, trade, farming and fisheries.

In Thailand, 500 fishing villages were the most affected, while 120,000 people lost jobs in the tourism industry and some 6,800 homes were destroyed or damaged.

The tourism paradise of the Maldives suffered "stunning" damages in financial terms of 470 million dollars, nearly two-thirds of its annual economic output, the UNDP said.

Damage in Sri Lanka reached one billion dollars, leaving 516,000 displaced and in need of permanent shelter, while 100,000 homes were destroyed in some of the poorest parts of the country.

As the experts toook stock of the shift from the declining emergency relief operation into the recovery phase, they said local and national authorities would increasingly be at the forefont of an ever more complex effort.

"There was one tsunami in Asia on December 26, but there is not one disaster," said Andrew Musgrave of UNDP.

"We cannot talk about a recovery process in the Indian Ocean, we have to talk about different recovery prcesses in each of the affected countries, and within these countries," he added.

Other challenges included coordination of all the actors involved, and financial transparency in using the billions of dollars in aid pledges that have been made in areas that were sometimes blighted by corruption.

Indonesia especially had been lowly rated in corruption assessments, an official pointed out.

"When you have seven billion dollars committed over the next five years, you can imagine how this problem could be aggravated," said Praveen Pardeshi, of the UN's disaster reduction unit.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

University-Company tie up to provide graduate employment

Daily Mirror: 26/05/2005" By Prof. J.A. Karunaratne

It should, perhaps, be appropriate to start this essay with a simple quiz. Therefore, let me request the reader to visualise, first, of a country like Sri Lanka where the demand for goods and services is so high that even the prices of the basic consumer essentials are rising fast and has already risen to yield double digit inflation.

Imagine, then, that, in the same country, there are scores of young graduates desperately seeking remunerative opportunities, which they find hard to come by. For a graduate to be able to secure a job opportunity in his/her respective field of studies is like being able to find water in the Sahara. Consequently, of course, the rate of graduate unemployment in the country runs significantly high.

This state of affairs may pose the reader a major conundrum. How is it possible, the reader may ask, that a high level of graduate unemployment coexists with a market that experiences a high demand for goods and services. To pose an analogy, could infants go hungry, when their mothers are struggling with breasts heavily laden with milk.

The fact that the graduates consider themselves high-skilled workers, one may presume that they should be most attractive to the labour market and hence finding employment opportunities should not be difficult.

The well versed in rational theory may ask how this anomaly is possible? They may ask why Keynesian conditions fail to prevail? They may ask why demand for labour has not been stimulated by the growth in the price of goods and services?

In their attempt to clarify the prevailing situation, some, from various marginal groups of society, venture to suggest that the graduates of Sri Lanka are irrational in their conduct and/or are downright lazy.

Then, there are some, who seem to believe, that the task of providing graduates with remunerative opportunities, rests with the government. They say that graduate unemployment is a sign of failure of the incumbent government, in absorbing them into the economy.

Consequently, there are legislators who run about propagating to the left and to the right of their wish to absorb the unemployed graduates to the public sector of the economy.

But the graduates know that the 'crown is not the cure for the headache'. They know that if the 'crown' (government) is to pursue such policies, it is going to further aggravate inflation and consequently, through falling investment, even private sector employment. They know that one must go beyond the 'crown' to find substantial and sustainable solutions to the issue of graduate unemployment.

First, one must try to eliminate the impediments that contribute to enhancing graduate unemployment.

Two among them are most prominent: (1) the structural causes pertaining to the graduate labour market (2) institutional causes pertaining to the economy.

The structural causes pertaining to the graduate labour market are:

A significant lacunae in vocational skills and subject competence amongst graduates of today is the first;

It has been stated by various major corporation managers that although the Sri Lankan graduates may be highly skilled in their narrow stream of discipline, they often lack the necessary competence in related fields of disciplines and in organisational and managerial skills. Inadequacy in international languages has been suggested as one main lacuna.

Inability of engineering graduates in methods of cost calculation, organisational formulae, and modern marketing strategies have been cited as other major shortcomings.

The inability of social scientists (particularly the economists and marketers), in subjects such as logistics and production management has also been suggested as major impediments in resurrecting graduate labour market. Further, the lack of leadership and managerial skills have also been suggested as a significant shortcoming.

Graduates lacking initiative in starting up their own entrepreneurial projects may be the second structural cause pertaining to the graduate labour market. Viewed from a theoretical angle one may argue that there must be ample opportunities for small groups of graduates from several disciplines to get-together and start entrepreneurial projects . However, most probably due to sociological and institutional reasons such initiatives are not easily forthcoming amongst Sri Lankan graduates.

Then, there are several institutional causes that also contribute to graduate unemployment in Sri Lanka. One of the most significant is the thinning out of the medium enterprises in Sri Lanka.

Therefore, let us survey, first, what constitute medium enterprises in Sri Lanka and, how and why, they are declining.

The large enterprises of Sri Lanka that employ more than 200 workers seem to experience lukewarm growth. This category of enterprises include most of the foreign and a few of the local enterprises that produce goods, mainly for export. The apparel industry belongs to this category.

Then, there are those small enterprises that too seem to flourish. At least the numbers of small enterprises seem to keep growing. These are, basically, the family-owned small enterprises that produce goods and services, mainly for local consumption. The roadside tea/coffee shops and restaurants and barber shops belong to this category.

The medium enterprises, thus, are those that are larger than small enterprise family firms but, smaller than large enterprises that employ 200 workers. These include tile, brick manufacturing enterprises, coir and coir products manufacturing enterprises and the like.

However, in Sri Lanka, the number of medium enterprises are not growing as much as small enterprises do. As a matter of fact, their number is declining in some districts of Sri Lanka. For example, the number of coir mills and coir products manufacturing firms has, over the past decade or so, declined in the Kurunegala, Kegalle, Gampaha and Puttalam districts. This is true also for the furniture manufacturing enterprises from those districts.

There are many reasons for this downturn. Difficulty in obtaining investment capital at rates of interest that the potential entrepreneurs could afford, is the biggest hindrance. The prevailing bank interest rate of over 20% is too high for most potential entrepreneurs.

The fact that the large enterprises are generally labour-intensive by character (which mostly employ unskilled workers) and produce textiles and apparels for export, the number of graduates that these firms are ready to employ are extremely small.

In the same way, small family-owned enterprises, that employ family labour, are incapable of employing graduates. First of all, the small family firms do not employ outside labour by definition. Secondly, they neither have the necessary finances nor, the need, to employ graduate labour. For example, one does not require graduates to run a barber shop or a tea/coffee kiosk.

Thus, it is the medium firms that have the financial capacity and other requirements to employ graduates. It is such firms in Moratuwa, for example, that manufacture furniture for export. Again, it is such firms, that manufacture jewellery and gem products for export.

Thus, if remunerative opportunities for graduates are to be promoted, opportunities for the growth of medium enterprises must necessarily be encouraged. In this process, legislators must ensure that medium enterprises are able to secure capital at reasonable rates.

As it is today, the biggest hindrance for maintaining reasonably lower rates of interest, is inflation. (As per the Fisher hypothesis, inflation pushes up interest rates.) At prevailing rates of interest, the small enterprises are unable to operate. Consequently, they would be crowded-out by public sector activities.

Thus, in remedying the problem of graduate unemployment one requires to seek various solutions for different types of problems. Some may only be long-term solutions whilst others, short-term solutions.

Long-term solutions include promoting graduates that modern economies require. In doing so, the universities require to restructure and to upgrade their syllabi and subject curricula.

It is through new syllabi and new subject curricular that graduates could be provided with interdisciplinary skills required by today's labour market. Then, such syllabi and curricular restructuring programmes must aim to promote knowledge in key subjects that must be buttressed with knowledge in other essential subjects, including the major languages of international communication. Finally, the students must be provided with the leadership and organisational skills that their field of study requires.

Then, there must be programmes within each university to promote groups of students from different disciplines pooling their knowledge for the purpose of developing and launching entrepreneurial projects, which they can continue with after they have completed their formal studies. Universities, through programmes of Entrepreneurial Villages may be able to help students develop entrepreneurial projects to produce goods (or services) for marketing. Universities should be able to help and guide the students in such enterprises through programmes of University Entrepreneurial Villages.

There must be ample lessons, that the universities of Sri Lanka may learn from the experiences of the Tampere University project of cooperation with Nokia the telephone giant of Finland, the IT University (Stockholm University) project of cooperation with Ericsson, the telephone giant of Sweden, Bangalore and Shanghai Universitys’ cooperation projects with IT sector industries of their respective countries, all of which have been very successful in promoting graduate employment in the high-skill sectors of the respective countries.

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Aid Policies Turning Killers

IPS News: Policies Turning Killers' by Sanjay Suri LONDON, May 16 (IPS)

Free market policies have led to more than 4,000 farmers killing themselves in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, says a report by the charity Christian Aid. The report blames the 'reforms' of a hard-line liberalising regime, ''in part bankrolled by the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID).'' The report 'The damage done: Aid, death and dogma' says that unfettered free trade policies ''have led to a crisis in Indian agriculture, spiralling rural debt and an epidemic of suicide among poor farmers.'' ''We are not saying this was a black and white cause and effect situation,'' John Mcghie from Christian Aid told IPS. ''It is a complex situation arising from a 'reform' programme undertaken by the (former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu) Naidu government with money and intellectual underpinning from DFID.'' The British government support involved funding ''the free market fundamentalist Adam Smith Institute to run a privatising scheme that cost some 45,000 Indian public sector workers their jobs,'' Christian Aid said in a statement. The Adam Smith Institute is a free market think tank based in Britain and the United States. The right-wing institute opposes the welfare state and supports a flat tax rate for rich and poor alike. ''This institute closed down or restructured 42 public sector enterprises,'' Mcghie said, leading to a loss of 45,000 jobs. Some of these were enterprises such as the Andhra Pradesh Seed Development Corporation and the Andhra Pradesh Irrigation Development Corporation. ''Such corporations provided a security net for small farmers,'' Mcghie said. These developments ''provoked a crisis of debt and a suicide epidemic that is going on even today,'' he said. The Adam Smith Institute declined to comment to IPS on the Christian Aid report. The report points to the devastating impact of unrestricted 'free' trade on poor people also in Ghana and Jamaica, and calls on the British government to end support for such policies. In Jamaica the report says ''increasing numbers of women have been driven to prostitution and drug smuggling by a continuing round of liberalisation that has wrecked their employment opportunities.'' In Ghana it says democratic institutions have been subverted by the demands of doctrinaire free market policies, where the International Monetary Fund (IMF), backed by the World Bank, effectively overturned a law to protect poor farmers. The report highlights Andhra Pradesh as the place where British support to these policies has been most damaging. ''This report shows in stark detail the damage that is done to poor people when the dogma of so-called 'free' trade is pursued in the name of poverty relief,'' Dr Daleep Mukarji, director of Christian Aid said in a statement. ''It is a scandal that the British government has backed policies and pumped British taxpayers' money into schemes which have contributed to poor Indian farmers killing themselves and Indian workers being laid off in huge numbers,'' he said. The Christian Aid report also scrutinises the last Labour government's recent 'U' turn on development policy and liberalisation. Earlier this year, both DFID and the Africa Commission set up by Prime Minister Tony Blair said that countries should no longer be forced to liberalise and privatise in order to receive aid. But the report makes clear that British development policy, along with that of the World Bank and the IMF, is still strongly based on liberalising principles. Legislation is urgently required to turn Blair's rhetoric into reality, it says. ''Before the election, Tony Blair's government announced it had changed its mind on the benefits of enforced liberalisation and privatisation. This was welcomed,'' said Mukarji. ''But as this report shows, basic policies and principles need to alter radically if such a change is to have a positive impact on poor people's lives.'' Britain must use its position as chair of the G8 (the group of industrialised nations including the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia) and its presidency of the European Union (EU) in 2005 to push real reform through those bodies, the report says. ''The scandals we have outlined in this report must never be allowed to happen again,'' Mukarji said. Christian Aid has called upon the new British government to amend the 2002 International Development Act to bar British aid from being tied to policies of liberalisation or privatization, to make public all its discussions with the World Bank and the IMF so that progress can be monitored, and state clearly that poor countries have the right to raise tariffs to protect their infant industries. (END/2005)

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Symbiotic link between peace and development - Jayantha Dhanapala

Source: Government of Sri Lanka
Date: 18 May 2005

In his presentation to the Sri Lanka Development Forum on Tuesday (May 17th) afternoon Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala said "there is a complex symbiotic link between peace and development." The Secretary General of Sri Lanka's Peace Secretariat said "the peace process in Sri Lanka has been a broad continuum, it has moved from chapter to chapter and there were lessons to be learnt from each chapter". He said, "the peace process and peace negotiations are not one and the same. Negotiation is only one component of the peace process."
The Ceasefire Agreement signed three years ago by the government and the LTTE is the bedrock of the current peace process he said, "Reconciliation was and is an important aspect of the peace process". Mr. Dhanapala referred to the National Advisory Council for Peace & Reconciliation ( NACPR) set up by the President to make the peace process open, transparent and inclusive. He also referred to the President's apology on behalf of the State to the Tamil people and the grant of compensations to those who suffered in the July 1983 riots.
"If you wish to get a feel of Sri Lankan public opinion, sadly the local press presents a cacophony of views", Jayantha Dhanapala told his international audience. He assured them, that surveys have shown that on the ground there is a strong longing for peace.
The former Under-Secretary General for Disarmament said that UN studies have shown that half of the number of countries emerging from conflict lapse back into conflict after around five years. Dhanapala said the present UPFA Government has spared no efforts in reviving the peace process and has been working intensely to recommence peace negotiations. Referring to the failure to recommence peace negotiations he said it was primarily due to the fact that the LTTE was insisting that its demand for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) should be the sole agenda item in the next round of talks.
The Government was willing to discuss all proposals for an interim authority as a prelude to a final settlement based on the Oslo communiqué signed by the two parties on 5th December 2002 which agreed to explore a solution based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. The Government however did not succeed and got the impression the LTTE was not interested in discussions.
Mr. Dhanapala thanked the Norwegian facilitators for their continued assistance. They were first invited by President Kumaratunga in 1999.
The Government has been and still is committed to keeping alive the CFA despite it being a flawed document. Dhanapala thanked the Nordic countries in the SLMM for their yeoman efforts to monitor the CFA and keep it alive under very trying circumstances. Since the Karuna defection in 2004 there have been killings and internecine conflicts making life difficult for the SLMM and everyone concerned in keeping the CFA intact.
He said since February 23, 2002 to date there have been 2,837 LTTE violations of the CFA, of which 55.4% was instances of child conscription. As for the GOSL, there have been 129 violations. 37% of them related to harassments by the security forces at checkpoints.
Mr. Dhanapala said he was encouraged by the interest shown by the World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in Sri Lanka. MIGA promotes foreign direct investment into developing countries in order to support economic growth, reduce poverty and improve people's lives. A global insurer to private investors, MIGA advises countries on foreign investment. It has played positive roles in post-conflict situations in Bosnia – Herzegovina, the Gaza and Afghanistan.
Post-tsunami discussions
Referring to the discussions with the LTTE after the tsunami disaster he said, "Within two days of the disaster, the President through her Secretary wrote to Thamilselvan inviting the LTTE to the high level committee of all political parties to address the massive task of relief and reconstruction. The response was encouraging. Mr.Thamilselvan wrote back on the 3rd of January, thanking the Government for its invitation. The Government began discussions on the directions of the President on the 7th of January with a LTTE delegation. The two teams worked on an administrative mechanism for post tsunami rehabilitation in the North and East."
"This was a largely home-grown formulation. The LTTE withdrew from direct negotiations after one of its senior leaders Mr. Kaushalyan was killed on the 7th of February. From this point the discussions with the LTTE continued through the Norwegian facilitator. There were more delays when the senior LTTE leadership toured western nations for six weeks."
With Norwegian facilitation we have reached some finality to establish a structure to address the post-tsunami needs of the six districts in the North and East. This administrative mechanism will see to the infrastructure needs of the area within two kilometers of the coastline based on needs assessments without any discrimination whatsoever.
This 'mechanism' would comprise three tiers: national, regional and district level. The high level committee will have equal representation from the Government, the Muslim community and the LTTE. The regional committees will have five representatives from the LTTE, three from the Muslim community and two from the Government. The District Committees are already in place.
There would be water-tight safeguards in place to protect the interests of the minorities, whoever they may be in each of the Districts.
This structure will work within a democratic framework. It will make key policy decisions over the optimum utilization of resources and address the reconstruction requirements of the tsunami-hit areas of the six districts. All the finances will be handled by Government agencies.
The structure will be called the 'Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure'.
Dhanapala told the forum that he understands the frustrations of the international community, with the lack of progress in this area. He said "I confess even we in Sri Lanka are sometimes tempted to feel frustrated but we cannot afford to cease our efforts."
Jayantha Dhanapala concluded by quoting a Chinese proverb 'The more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war'.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Women's role in post tsunami reconstruction : Voices in the wilderness...

Sunday Observer: 22/05/2005" by Carol Aloysius

"Women are the real heroines of the December 26 tsunami. They showed immense courage and revealed new inner strengths in surmounting the overwhelming obstacles they faced in their efforts to save both themselves and their families during the sea invasion that destroyed their homes, families and livelihoods.

These new inner strengths are a rich and valuable human resource which should be tapped for future programs in the post tsunami recovery process or they will be lost forever- simply because this positive role of women during the tsunami has yet to be recognised at the highest levels of policy making and resource allocation decisions."

That was Dr Noeleen Heyzer, the UNDP's champion on gender issues and Executive Director of the United Nations' Development Fund for Women talking to the Sunday Observer in an exclusive interview, shortly after addressing a large gathering of women (and men) who packed the auditorium of the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute to participate in a consultative meeting on tsunami Relief and Recovery last week.

She stressed that as, "Women have made such a significant contribution to their community affected by the tsunami, they should be made key players in the post tsunami recovery process as well, by bringing them to the negotiating table at the highest policy making levels, allowing them to express their ideas and opinions on all the decisions concerning the welfare of their families, in resource allocations for infrastructure, for re-building and re-construction of houses, schools, roads, and on programs regarding their future livelihoods.

It is only by listening to what they say that at all stages of the recovery process, can we ensure that the resource allocations reach the right places and benefit the survivors of the tsunami as a whole."

Drawing from her own 'ground level' observations, Dr Heyzer noted that there was a, 'huge gap between policy rhetoric and what was actually happening at ground level.' "When I visited Acheh after the tsunami, I was able to observe the courageous role played by women during and after the tsunami.

I found that the reason why more women had died in the tsunami than men was not because they were reluctant to expose their nakedness when the turbulent sea waters tore the clothes from their bodies as some people believe, or because they were unable to climb trees (many of them did and saved their lives in the process).

It was because they CARED. The women who died in the sea invasion had gone back to their homes to save the lives of their children, rescue their husbands, relatives and friends who were being washed away by the sea. This is why I call them the real heroines of the tsunami."

It would be a great tragedy if this valuable Human Resource was lost because their strengths were not recognised and tapped in the post tsunami recovery process." Referring to the views expressed by the women participants at the Consultative Meeting, she said, "Now that we have heard their voices at last, we need to put their comments into one coherent voice that will be heard at the highest level of the hierarchy and translate these opinions and suggestions to ACTION. To this end we may have to set up hot lines and separate Desks at district level and work out other strategies as well."

"Women's voices are at the heart of the post tsunami recovery process," she stressed. "After a disaster of this nature, those affected need to re-weave the whole fabric of life before there is any recovery. Women play a significant role in this re-weaving process."

Dr Heyzer also noted that the tsunami crisis sat on two other crises: Poverty and Conflict, both of which have largely affected women. "So in any recovery process it is important to look at the impact of these two crises on women as well, and bring women's voices to the negotiating table whether it is to promote peace or to distribute donor aid," she stressed.

She also gave the following women-friendly guidelines to help create a better life for the tsunami survivors so that they may move on from Despair to Hope of a better future.

* Involve women when re-building their homes to make them family oriented.

* Since ownership of land is very important to women especially in Batticaloa where the land is inherited by daughters, give women the ownership of all new houses in such districts.

* Consult women when building new roads so that they can have easy access to markets, schools, banks and other frequently visited places by women.

* Safe water, electricity and access to safe sanitation in temporary shelters are also women's concerns and they should have a voice in the erection of these facilities, she insists.

She reiterated that when aid resources are being allocated women should be in the frontline among the recipients. "It is they who are managing the family budgets and caring for the children who now include newly orphaned children of other women.

Instead of the aid grants being given to the women, they are now being given to the men because they are traditionally recognised as household heads, who in turn waste it on alcohol and cigarettes. The same applies to bank accounts, which should be opened in the name of the woman in the house and not the man, or as a joint account," she said.

Commenting on activities relating to Recovery and Re-construction in the tsunami affected areas, she said that such activities including the passing of new laws must thus address a) the urgent needs of the present b) the injustices of the past and c) prevent the emergence of new injustices and inequalities d) Shelter.

She also emphasised the importance of addressing the issues of poverty and conflict which the tsunami had compounded. "I've worked a lot in the area of Development and Security and realised that there can be no security with development and vice versa," she pointed out.

The women survivors of the tsunami were not prepared to take a back seat in decisions regarding their future and that of their families.

"The women I have met in the areas I visited shortly after I arrived in Sri Lanka, have clearly indicated to me that they do not wish to be seen as 'victims' of the tsunami, but rather as part of the solution to the recovery process.

This means that they want their contribution to society to be recognised and valued." With over twenty years of working with women all over the world, Dr. Heyzer has found that, "Women are the most affected whether in conflict situations, or during a natural calamity or because of poverty. We can address all these issues effectively only by making them participants rather than passive recipients or victims.

At the end, it is the common voice of women heard at the highest policy making levels, that will enable us to achieve our goals of Development, Security and Peace."

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Millenium Development Goals : The poverty gauntlet

Sunday Obsever: 22/05/2005" by Ranga Jayasuriya

Sri Lanka's achievements in reducing non-income poverty, evident in the improved statistics of high literacy rates, enrolment at primary education and low maternity and infant death rates are set against its slow pace in poverty alleviation, which if unaddressed would threaten the country's social gains, cautions a Report measuring the country's progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Sri Lanka's first ever Millennium Development Goals Report released at the donor meeting in Kandy early this week estimates nearly 23 per cent of the population live below the national poverty line.

"Although Sri Lanka has achieved considerable success in the improvement of non-income poverty, it is less clear on the success with regard to reducing income poverty especially when contrasted with that of East Asian countries..." says the report.

There are about five million people living in poverty in Sri Lanka, perhaps more, as there are no exact figures of the population in eight districts in the North East.

The regional disparities in the MDG achievement within the country is a challenge, according to the report which estimates that a greater part of the country's wealth and economic activity is located in the Western Province.

Overall, poverty in Sri Lanka has declined since independence, especially from 1953 to 1985, notes the report, but pointing out that the declining trend slowed during the early 1990s.

"From 1990-91 to 2002 the income of the poorest 20 per cent has increased by about 36 per cent and the income of the poorest 40 per cent has increased by 33 per cent, both significantly low compared to the growth in income of the richest 20 per cent, which was increased by 49 per cent,"it says.

Failure to reduce unemployment and under-employment and to increase the income for unskilled and semi-skilled workers, poorly targeted consumer subsidies and the accelerated inflation are among the reasons for the relative stagnation in the income of the low income groups.

Poverty is concentrated in rural areas and performance in health, education, access to water and sanitation varies among the districts.

The Western and Southern province, which are the most urbanised have the lowest poverty levels, whereas the Uva and North Western, the least urbanised, have the highest poverty levels.

Poverty in Sri Lanka is mainly concentrated in eight districts in the North and East, six districts in the South, including several plantation districts and in a few pockets.

"...Successful poverty reduction must address specific poverty profiles in those areas by either creating productive jobs or enabling people from those areas to move to productive jobs elsewhere".

"The centre piece of this strategy is the massive infrastructure development in neglected areas as the basis for development of agriculture, industry,tourism and other activities to provide employment," says the report which underlines the need for the poor to be involved in rural infrastructure development projects.

The report sounds a note of caution at the rising unemployment figures,especially among the nation's 3.1 million young adults between the ages of 15 and 27 years.

"Given Sri Lanka's experience in youth unrest during 1970-71, 1988-89 and to some extent in the North and East conflict, it is important to take into account the growing unemployment and under-employment among youth, most of whom are educated and are in rural areas," cautions the report.

Moving to the country's performance in improving its non-income poverty, the report commends the net enrolment ratio and retention rate of primary education and literary rates, all above 95 per cent.

The net enrolment ratio in primary education in 2003 was 98.35 per cent, which is an increase from 95.2 per cent in 1990. Youth literacy rates increased from 92.7 per cent in 1990 to 95.6 per cent in 2001. However, there are still a percentage of children from marginalised groups who are out of the school system.

" The challenge remains in ensuring that these students are brought into the system", it says.

As for gender equality, the report says Sri Lankan women have a comparatively better status than women in many other developing countries, but have yet to achieve gender equality and empowerment in consonance with international norms.

It states free education and related incentives have promoted gender equality in the access to education.

"Sri Lanka has still to achieve the universal primary education, but has virtually achieved the gender equality in primary education,"says the report.

It however notes that contrast to the education and health sector, labour market shows wider gender inequalities.

The confluence of positive social policies,slow economic growth, consequent persistent poverty among segments of the population, armed conflict and engendered social norms have contributed to the uneven development that impinges on the quality of life of women, according to the report.

Infant mortality and maternity mortality rates have shown a declining trend over the years.

Infant mortality in the country in 2002 was only 17 per 100,000 live births while the under five mortality was 19 per 1,000 live births, the lowest rates in the WHO South East Asian region.

"The challenging task ahead is to reduce prenatal and neonatal mortality, which are generally linked to the mother's health and nutrition status during pregnancy," says the report.

It describes the country's achievements in the improvement of its other social indicators - other than income poverty- as an example of a "support led" strategy of improving basic capabilities.

A large share of public expenditure, estimated to be around 4 per cent of the GDP has been redistributed to households over the years, in the form of free education and health services, food subsidies, food stamps and subsidised credit to improve living standards to ensure the minimum consumption levels of households perceived to be in need.

However, the report, while noting certain consumer subsidies have not resulted in a "significant favourable outcome" underlines the need of a better targeting of subsidies. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has been low in Sri Lanka, but the report warns of a potential spread of AIDS, unless it is combatted at an early stage.

The report also underscores the fact that policies and programs should be put in place to ensure environmental sustainability. It also underlines the importance of setting up a global partnership that is supportive and contributes to the achievement of the MDG's in the local context.

***

Goals and targets


The Millennium Development Goals are an ambitious agenda for reducing poverty and improving lives that world leaders agreed on at the Millennium Summit in September 2000. For each goal one or more targets have been set, most for 2015, using 1990 as a benchmark:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Target for 2015: Halve the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger.

2. Achieve universal primary education

Target for 2015: Ensure that all boys and girls complete primary school.

3. Promote gender equality and empower women

Targets for 2005 and 2015: Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.

4. Reduce child mortality

Target for 2015: Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five.

5. Improve maternal health

Target for 2015: Reduce by three-quarters the ratio of women dying in childbirth. In the developing world, the risk of dying in childbirth is one in 48, but virtually all countries now have safe motherhood programmes.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Target for 2015: Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability

Targets:

* Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources.

* By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water.

(Source: UNDP)

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After the tsunami: Seenigama children have something to smile about

Sunday Times: 22/05/2005" By Palitha Kohona

I had, with millions around the world, watched with helpless horror as TV screens were flooded with the images of those ferocious waves crashing in to sea walls, gushing past swimming pools, smashing buildings and dragging buses and cars like children's toys while hapless men, women and children were engulfed in furious torrents of water and debris. Later the same media showed a benumbed world, piles of bodies rotting in the tropical sun or bobbing in rivers, lakes and harbours amidst garbage. I desperately wanted to do something but the opportunity was slow in coming.

Ven Piyatissa of the New York Buddhist Vihara (temple) who had been quietly organising relief supplies for the tsunami victims in Sri Lanka requested me to visit the proposed "Lama Pura" - a project being undertaken by the International Vihara (IV) Foundation of New York to assist a group of children orphaned by the tsunami. The project had the blessings of the Sri Lankan authorities. Having arrived in Sri Lanka on a private visit, I grabbed this opportunity and joined a group of local volunteers of the IV Foundation, led by the formidable Ven Dhammasoka, whose enthusiasm and commitment was overwhelmingly infectious. These volunteers were spending their time and money in developing the Lama Pura project and I was immediately absorbed in to the group. They needed the assistance of every one.

We set off towards Galle on a day that was perhaps very much like that fateful Boxing Day. A blue sky seamlessly merged with a warm sea. The beach glistened in the sun soothed by a gentle breeze. The waves, a little rough, were breaking up in arches of spluttering foam, as is normal in the pre monsoonal period. The road to Galle was bustling with activity. The markets were full and the traffic annoyingly slow and noisy. It was difficult to imagine that on a Sunday morning not too long ago this was a massive watery grave. (Over 34,000 perished and in excess of 4000 are still unaccounted for). At first, only a few ruins adjoining the beach seemed to tell a different story. Many buildings were actually being repaired. And business was proceeding briskly in the midst of the reconstruction, creating the impression of a community rapidly returning to normality.

But all changed as the miles sped by.
A sense of incomprehensible devastation began to unfold overcoming earlier thoughts of complacency. For mile after mile, only cemented foundations remained where once people's homes stood and families lived. There was one house where only the marble topped kitchen bench remained. The odd house that suffered only superficial damage was being repaired. Of these, there were only a few. Some houses were boarded up suggesting that some one with a claim was still alive. Sadly, many a damaged house appeared to be totally abandoned - perhaps, no one survived even to board them up. The doors flapped sadly in the wind for someone to return to their home. Some had erected tents on top of the remaining foundations. But five months after the tsunami, hundreds, perhaps thousands still lived in small tents supplied by the relief agencies. In the pre monsoonal heat and humidity, life in these tents must be hell. Life would be impossible once the torrential monsoon arrived in a few weeks. Their toilette facilities were minimal and water was obtained from black plastic tanks located at regular intervals along the main road by aid agencies. Many of the occupants of these tents had lived in decent homes previously.

I had been on this road before and there was one noticeable change. The usual crowds of children splashing in the surf were nowhere to be seen. The beaches were strangely devoid of people. The larger tourist hotels were beginning to reopen for business but many of the smaller establishments that lined the shore remained closed or abandoned. The tourist industry had collapsed completely. Wrecks of large fishing boats were strewn everywhere. In Galle itself, only the concrete shell of the fish market remained. Galle's picturesque cricket ground, where Warne captured his five hundredth wicket, was overgrown and the stands were wrecked. The central bus station where television images showed large buses being dragged away by the waves was almost back to normal. Large banners along the road to Galle expressed the gratitude of the populace for the immediate response of certain countries in the face of Sri Lanka's tsunami crisis. Italy's Protectione Civile was still assisting at the Galle Hospital. Belgian military medical specialists and Australia's AUSAID personnel were remembered fondly.

The government has just identified six companies, which will be assigned the task of constructing 60,000 houses. (97,000 are estimated to have been damaged). President Clinton's appointment as Special Coordinator for the rebuilding effort will certainly expedite the process.

NGOs and international civil servants attached to aid agencies were very much in evidence along the road to Galle and were the main customers of the fancy hotels in the South. One couldn't but notice their SUVs on the congested roads, giving rise to rumblings of resentment that the millions donated by well meaning individuals around the world were being spent on keeping these international civil servants and NGO staff comfortable.

The Seenigama village, where many of the children being supported by the IV Foundation were from, had suffered enormously. This was a village, though not very poor had not been very rich either. But the villagers had led a relatively comfortable life. The tsunami had changed all that. Many of the bread winners did not survive and a large number of the women who carried a heavy burden in their families were also gone. There were so many children without parents. One little girl could hardly raise a smile - she had lost both parents. There was a curtain of pain on her innocent face. Another twelve year old boy was now nick-named hero, "weeraya". He had dragged his little sister to safety and then struggled to save his mother. The little girl hardly left his side now. This twelve year old constantly regretted that he could not help his grandmother and aunt as they were swept away. The kids in the village appeared to be genuinely happy to see the visitors from the IV Foundation. (They had been visiting regularly). The Buddhist nuns working with the foundation had played a seminal role in restoring the confidence of these children. Perhaps the visitors were a welcome diversion from the torment of their memories.

The day after the visit of the volunteers, 120 of these children with their carerers were taken to the Colombo Zoo by the IV Foundation. The children genuinely enjoyed this outing. It was interesting how two kids who were not orphaned by the tsunami but with whose families some tsunami orphans had been placed, also asked to come on the trip to the Zoo. This seemed to highlight another emerging problem. They were not rich kids and their families could not have afforded to take them to the Zoo. It is possible that these children might begin to resent the excessive attention that the tsunami orphans were receiving. In trying to solve an immediate problem, the IV Foundation may be confronted by another.

The IV Foundation group also visited the land allocated to them for building the "Lama Pura" - a village focused on these children. Lama Pura will be on this 50 acre block, originally part of a run down plantation owned by the government. Considerable resources will be required to build this multi purpose complex which will consist of accommodation for the children and the carerers, a health facility and an education complex. These facilities will cater to community needs as well. Subsequently, more resources by way of funding and skilled personnel, including full time staff, will be necessary to run these facilities effectively. Teachers, doctors and nursing staff will be required and volunteers will help to keep costs down. Already a sponsorship scheme for the children has been established. With the abundant enthusiasm and goodwill of the volunteers, the goals of the Foundation would seem to be achievable. As to whether its efforts will suffice to return the smile to that little girl's face, it is too early to predict. But their efforts will certainly make her life's struggles a little easier.

-The writer, originally from Matale and formerly with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, is now attached to the United Nations in New York. (Further details from nybv@newyorkbuddhist.com)

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Rethinking rural development: what strategic changes are needed?

Development Gateway - Poverty

Rural development should be central to poverty reduction. Three quarters of the 1.2 billion people surviving on less than one dollar a day live and work in rural areas. Rural people are twice as likely as their urban counterparts to be poor. However, rural development faces a loss of confidence: funding has been falling, and governments and donors are scrambling to rethink policy. What new directions should rural development policy take?
A journal paper from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) takes stock of the rural development ‘project’ in troubled times. It outlines the evolution of rural development thinking and the key elements of change in rural areas. It analyses what it describes as the Washington Consensus on Food, Agriculture and Rural Development (FARD) and finds it inadequate to the current challenge. In its stead, a ‘post-Washington Consensus’ (PRC) and its counter-narrative is sketched.
Rural areas are highly heterogeneous but low potential areas, where the poor are concentrated and are worst off. Rural reality is changing: cereal prices are on a downward trend, agriculture is increasingly commercial and sophisticated, and a growing share of rural incomes derives from the non-farm economy. Many more of the rural poor are part-time farmers or are landless.
There are many challenging questions to be faced in rural development strategies: Can agriculture be the engine of rural growth? Can small farms survive? Can the non-farm economy take up the slack? How should new thinking on poverty be incorporated and particularly, governance improved? What is feasible, given implementation constraints? And what should be done in the growing number of areas subject to chronic conflict?
The findings of this paper highlight key elements that need to be incorporated into a post-Washington consensus on rural development. These include measures that:
offer different options for peri-urban, rural and remote locations
invest in agriculture, non-farm rural enterprise and linkages between them, while expanding diversification options for multi-occupational and multi-locational households
include a key role for states in supplying public goods, ensuring market institutions are in place before liberalisation proceeds, and supporting democratic deepening in rural areas
promote agricultural strategies consistent with natural resource protection, including water management
invest in infrastructure, human capital, research, and southern-oriented technical change
address inequality in assets and incomes, and include new social protection measures for the poor, including people in conflict areas and those with HIV/AIDS
enhance access to developed country markets.
Policy implications are as follows:
Rural development remains essential to poverty reduction initiatives and requires greater attention. It is important to identify the place for agriculture and rural development in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and sector programmes.
Further rethinking of rural development strategies is needed. New thinking suggests less emphasis on the primacy of a small-farm model, more emphasis on diversification and differentiation, and a larger role for the state than in the current conventional wisdom.
Contributor(s): Caroline Ashley and Simon Maxwell
Source(s):‘Rethinking rural development’ Development Policy Review, 19 (4) Overseas Development Institute, Blackwell Publishers, by Caroline Ashley and Simon Maxwell, 2001 More information.ODI Briefing Paper on Rethinking Rural Development, March 2002 More information.
Funded by: UK Department for International Development (DFID), 2001-2
id21 Research Highlight: 27 May 2002
Further Information:Caroline AshleyOverseas Development Institute111 Westminster Bridge RoadLondon SE1 7JDUK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7922 0300Fax: +44 (0)20 7922 0399Email: c.ashley@odi.org.uk
Simon MaxwellOverseas Development Institute111 Westminster Bridge RoadLondon SE1 7JDUK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7922 0300Fax: +44 (0)20 7922 0399Email: s.maxwell@odi.org.uk
Overseas Development Institute, UK
Other related links:
'Rural change: sub-Saharan Africa in the balance'
'Rural development: what can the sustainable livelihoods route offer?'
'This land is your land. Rights and rural livelihoods in Southern Africa'
The World Bank focuses on Rural Development
See the 'Rural Poverty Report 2001 - The Challenge of Ending Rural Poverty' from IFAD
Further research is available from the Rural Policy and Environment Group at ODI

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Analyzing urban poverty: a summary of methods and approached

Development Gateway - Poverty

In recent years an extensive body of literature has emerged on the definition, measurement and analysis of poverty. Much of this literature focuses on analyzing poverty at the national level, or spatial disaggregation by general categories of urban or rural areas with adjustments made for regional price differentials. Understanding urban poverty presents a set of issues distinct from general poverty analysis and thus may require additional tools and techniques. This paper summarizes the main issues in conducting urban poverty analysis, with a focus on presenting a sample of case studies from urban areas that were implemented by a number of different agencies using a range of analytical approaches for studying urban poverty.
Contributor:

Download the full report

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Are Land Titles the Solution to Urban Poverty?

Development Gateway - Poverty

The promise of land titling as a powerful policy instrument to attack poverty has been recently reinvigorated in policy circles by the work of De Soto (2000). His work argues vehemently that titled property creates capital because formal landholders could use these assets as collateral for loans. In turn, this credit could be invested as capital increasing their labor productivity and hence, the income of the poor. However, rigorous evidence backing up these effects is scant and ambiguous. Are land-titling programs a powerful tool to reduce poverty or will the societies that adopt them face another policy delusion? In other words, what are the causal effects of urban land titling? To answer this question is not easy at all. To identify what would happen to a family if they receive the title to the plot of land they inhabit instead of staying in that piece of land without the legal title is complicated: the problem is that we do not observe the same families in both situations. Thus, any attempt to answer this question has to compare families with and without land titles. The credibility of these studies depends crucially on their ability to show that both groups of families were very similar before one group received the titles, and that the tracks of land they inhabit are also almost identical. In a recent study I did with Ernesto Schargrodsky (Universidad Di Tella) –“The effects of land titling”- we exploit a natural experiment to solve the problem of comparability between titled and untitled families. More than 20 years ago, a large number of comparable squatter families occupied a very small area of wasteland in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The area was made up of different tracts of land, each with a different legal owner. An expropriation law was subsequently passed, ordering the transfer of land to the state in exchange for a monetary compensation. The purpose of the law was to allow the state to later transfer legal titles to the squatters. However, only some of the original legal owners surrendered the land, which was then titled to the squatters. Other owners are still contesting the compensation payment in the slow Argentine courts. As a result, a group of squatters obtained formal land rights, while others are currently living on similar parcels without legal titles. Our study finds the following: Entitled families between 7 and 14 years ago now own much better houses than untitled families. Analyzing an ample set of investment indicators, we conclude that titled houses are 40% better than untitled ones. Do titled households have more access to credit? Our evidence suggests that there is not much difference on this respect. The effect is small. In addition, there are no differences at all in their actual earnings. Thus, should we conclude that entitling the urban poor is not a sensible policy? Not necessarily. Our study also shows that the households in the titled parcels have smaller size and seem to invest more in the education and health of their children. Thus, entitling the poor enhances their investment both in the house and on the human capital of the children of the entitled families, which will reduce their poverty in the future.
Sebastian Galiani and Ernesto Schargrodsky (2005): Effects of Land Titles, mimeo.
De Soto, H. (2000).
The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. New York: Basic Books.
Author: Sebastian Galiani. Associate Professor Department of Economics Universidad de San Andres Argentina
VERSION EN ESPANOL
Using Land Titling and Registration to Alleviate Poverty
Land Titling and Indigenous Peoples

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NHDA publishes modern house building guide

Daily Mirror: 25/05/2005"

The National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) has put out a comprehensive technical guideline for construction of houses and development of housing programmes in the coastal belt of the Sri Lanka in the context of recent tsunami disaster.

The guideline replete with details of background to coastal dwellings, novel construction methodologies identified for the coastal line, proposed physical planning, building materials to be utilized, and basic services etc, was presented to Minister of Housing and Construction Industry, by NHDA Chairman Parakrama Karunaratne recently at 'Sethsiripaya'. According to NHDA, at a time when state institutions, local and foreign non-governmental organizations and international financial institutions are co-operating with the government to reconstruct the houses destroyed by tsunami, the NHDA publication will be immensely helpful in identifying secure methodologies which are resistant to natural disasters. The guideline, in a special analytical exercise reveals data in respect of damages caused to houses and buildings in relation to the velocity of tidals, the situation and nature of the affected buildings including the building materials used for such destroyed and damaged structures.

This guideline helps the people living in coastal areas to plan out and develop their housing with adequate structural stability, aimed at reducing the risk of living in areas prone to tsunami or ocean waves that have a devastating effect on lives and property. It also addresses the safety issue of high wind velocities, an important concern for especially the North-East and South-West areas of the country. It also provides directions on identifying lands and physical planning and designing suited to given nature and elevation of the sites at various distances from the coastal line.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

United States to devote $907 million

Source: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Date: 18 May 2005

Sri Lanka: United States to devote $907 million to tsunami reconstruction

Funds to support infrastructure, debt deferral, early warning system

The United States will be devoting $907 million to tsunami reconstruction efforts in South and Southeast Asia, with funds going to rebuild critical infrastructure, support local businesses and help establish a tsunami early warning system, according to U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Jeffrey Lunstead.
A portion of the funds will go to repay expenses that have already been incurred. The remaining $656 million will be divided among the affected countries of the region. Lunstead said that reconstruction funds are also coming from the relief foundation created by former Presidents Bush and Clinton.
Lunstead said the proposed projects in Sri Lanka include the rebuilding of bridges, sanitation systems, schools, clinics, and fisheries harbors. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development will build 100 playgrounds to help children and families return to more normal lives. Lunstead said a portion of the funds will be used for work programs and psychosocial support designed to help people make the transition from emergency camps back to communities.
Following is the transcript of Lunstead’s press conference:
(begin transcript)
Signing of Supplemental Spending Measure and Tsunami Relief
Jeffrey Lunstead, Ambassador to Sri LankaPress Conference at the American CenterColombo, Sri LankaMay 13, 2005
Released by U.S. Embassy Colombo
PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER PHILIP A. FRAYNE: Good morning and thank you for coming to this press briefing at the American Center. We're happy to have you here. As you know, the sheets we handed out to you two days ago, President Bush signed legislation, which would amongst other things increase significantly the United States aid for tsunami relief and reconstruction. So without further ado I will introduce Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead and Andrea Yates, Acting USAID Director in Colombo.
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: Thank you, Phil. As Phil said, two days ago on May 11, President Bush signed the Supplemental Appropriations Bill, which will provide $907 Million for tsunami relief and reconstruction. Some of this money will go to repay expenses, which have already been incurred, by our Department of Defense and USAID, and some of it will also be used for regional assistance on a tsunami early warning system. Of that money approximately $656 Million will be available for direct assistance to tsunami-affected countries. We don't know yet the exact amount that will be available to specific countries; that will be determined over the forthcoming weeks between the Executive Branch and the Legislature. But we do know the areas we intend to work in, in Sri Lanka and in other countries, and I'd like to discuss, brief you today, on those areas and some of the specific projects we plan to do.
These will all come under our action plan for relief and reconstruction. One of the areas will be what we call transition from camps to communities. On this effort, we will provide money, which will be used for cash for work programs, which will provide assistance to businesses in the affected areas, which will allow them to get back to work. This will also provide psychosocial support for affected individuals and families, especially children. As part of that psychosocial support for children I'd like to mention one area in which we've already begun work on, which is that we are going to build one hundred playgrounds in affected areas, which will help children get back to normal activities.
Some of this money will come from the supplemental; some of it is also being donated from funds raised by former Presidents Bush and Clinton in their initiative. We also -- and you may have seen this, it was in the newspapers yesterday -- are providing $3 Million to the Bounce Back Tourism Campaign. All of this is intended to restore normal life, as it says, to return people from camps to communities, restore normal life, help them get back their normal livelihoods in these areas.
We will also be doing a large-scale infrastructure program. We expect this will be about $35 Million -- that's an approximation, we don't have an exact figure yet. There are several different components to this; one is in the Aragam Bay-Pottuvil area, we will replace the Arugam Bay Bridge, which was badly destroyed, which has a temporary bridge, which was set up by the Government of India, but it needs a permanent bridge. It will be more than just the bridge, in addition to the bridge we will provide a water and sanitation system for the Pottuvil and Aragam Bay area; this will include a sewage drainage system and provision of fresh water, and the hope here is that this entire package will again allow Aragam Bay, which is an important tourist sight, to come back to restore economic activity. We call this the Aragam Bay Project, but it's much bigger than just the bridge, it's an integrated project, which will significantly upgrade the facilities in the Aragam Bay area.
We will also rehabilitate or rebuild up to fourteen vocational education schools, which were damaged or destroyed in the tsunami. These schools are in the south and the east. Two of these schools will be model schools, which will be designed to demonstrate maximum use of environmental principals; they'll be "green" schools, so to speak. We'll also assist in upgrading the curriculum and the teaching methodology for these schools. This is intended not just to rebuild a physical facility but to help in the overall economic development of these areas because we think that vocational and technical education are very important for economic development in Sri Lanka.
We also will rehabilitate or rebuild three fisheries harbors; these will be Hikadua, Marissa, and Dondra. This will include repairing damage from the tsunami, especially damage to the break waters, will include where relevant building new break waters, will also include upgrades to the entire fisheries infrastructure. For instance, facilities for fish waste disposal, so that the fish waste is disposed of in an environmentally sound manner, and also fish processing and flash freezing plants so that the fishermen will have an improved economic opportunity there for fisheries. Again, this is not just rebuilding what has been broken by the tsunami, but upgrading the facility to provide greater economic opportunity. These are large-scale infrastructure programs that I mentioned.
We'll also do small-scale infrastructure throughout the tsunami affected area schools, clinics, sanitation systems and community centers. These will be labor intensive projects which will be opportunities for communities and local authorities to prioritize their own community needs and for getting money back into the communities as we rebuild. Now, all this infrastructure will need to have maintenance and capacity so we will also provide capacity building at provincial and local levels to help governance and to provide better service delivery in these areas.
I mentioned earlier that there's also a component of this bill, which will go towards Tsunami Early Warning. Some of that will be for a regional system, some of it will go towards local capacity in tsunami early warning we haven't worked out the exact amounts yet, but it will be a substantial component. That's what we're planning to do with this bill that's been passed, and I'd be happy to take any questions.
QUESTION: I'm Zainab from Lanka Business Online. I have two questions. The first one is, what was the outcome of yesterday's private sector summit that was held in Washington on tsunami reconstruction, and secondly, what is the U.S. Government position on suspending taxes on Sri Lanka's exports for about three years. This was asked for as tsunami relief. What is the position of the U.S. Government on that?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: I actually haven't seen a report yet on the private sector summit, but of course since we're ten hours ahead of Washington it's a little hard to get the report. I have not seen a report yet on it, so I can't answer the first question. The second question, you're talking about debt relief? I'm sorry, I meant to mention Debt Relief, and it's in my notes and I forgot. The bill also includes funding for short-term debt deferral and restructuring; what the bill would do would be to allow Sri Lanka and Indonesia, if they choose to do so, to defer their official government debt to the United States for a period of one year and then to restructure that debt to repay it over the following four year period; this would allow relief to current budgetary expenditures. Now the bill says that if this is done the resources that are saved must be used to benefit tsunami victims. The government of Sri Lanka has about $40 Million in official debt payments due to the Government of the United States this year, so that would be the amount that's deferred if the Government of Sri Lanka decides that it wishes to do so. That's a decision for the Government.
QUESTION: V.S. Sambandan from the Hindu. What is the total official debt of the Sri Lankan Government to the U.S.?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: I believe it's about $500 million, but I'm not sure. We could check on that and get back to you if you want to leave your name. I don't have that figure with me, but the relevant portion is the amount that's due this year is about $40 Million, which we are willing to restructure and defer over four years.
QUESTION: Dilip Ganguly from Associated Press. Could we have a little bit (unclear) on the debt issue to understand it better? Can we defer it by a year?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: Right, the amount that would be due this year, which is about $40 Million we would defer, the Government would not have to pay it this year, and it would then be paid over the following four years. So it's a four-year restructuring.
QUESTION: (Dilip Ganguly, Associated Press) What if the Government agrees to spend this money on tsunami
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: On tsunami, and other conditions. It's a Paris Club initiative, so the Paris Club sets certain parameters, debt referral and restructuring is a highly technical subject which I'm not an expert, probably none of us are, so the government will have to decide if it wishes to meet specific conditions, but the offer is on the table.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. Government taken a position on suspending export duties, which would largely benefit industries like the apparel industry in Sri Lanka?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: No, there has not been any decision on that. The United States has looked into some measures, which would provide some trade benefit to the tsunami-affected countries. One of those measures is to allow accumulation of GSP benefits to South Asian countries, but there is no discussion of reduction of duties on apparel. I did forget to mention that we'll also provide money out of this funding to Maldives, which also has a great need, and our intention is to provide that money to the Maldives National Fund for Reconstruction, and we'll work with the Government of the Maldives to select specific projects that we will work on.
QUESTION: (Dumeeta Luthra, BBC) I just wanted to ask, this $40 Million, is that capital being deferred, or is that interest, and will there be interest over the four years. I don't know if I missed that earlier.
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: The $40 Million is the amount of payment which is due by the Government of Sri Lanka to the United States this year, so that would be both principle and interest. I don't have a breakdown on it; if anyone's interested we can find somebody to look into that. What was the second part of the question?
QUESTION: (Dumeetha Luthra, BBC) There will be interest accruing on the restructured loan?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: I believe not, but I would have to check on that and we can get back to you.
QUESTION: I am Prasad from Rupavahini (state-owned television). There's an initiative between the Government and the LTTE to build a joint mechanism on tsunami development. As an international donor, how does the United States see the situation?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: Well, we believe that a joint mechanism between the government and the LTTE would greatly help in the effectiveness of the relief and reconstruction effort in the North and the East and we support the initiative, the efforts, of the President and the Government to finalize such a mechanism.
QUESTION: I'm from ABC news. Will the U.S. Government be channeling any aid for LTTE controlled areas through any of the NGOs?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: Well, on the emergency relief assistance, which we have already done, we've provided assistance to a number of NGO's which operated throughout the country, including in LTTE areas. The assistance, which we intend to do, which I've mentioned, will be used throughout the country. I don't think we have specific plans for using it in LTTE areas.
QUESTION: There's no specific channeling of money through NGOs to LTTE controlled areas?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: No, we've never done that.
QUESTION: (Dilip Ganguly, Associated Press) Under the existing laws you cannot channel even indirectly into an area controlled by the LTTE?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: That's not true. The law says we can't do anything that would provide material assistance to the LTTE because it's listed as a terrorist organization. We can provide humanitarian assistance in LTTE controlled areas and we have done that through international NGOs who have received grants from us for various activities.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, I'm from the Daily Mirror newspaper. Two quick questions. Number one, when will the $650 Million dollars be allocated to separate countries, and number two, have you been in communication with any specific ministry with regards to the debt deferral, maybe the Finance Ministry? Have you discussed anything concrete?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: We've had discussions for the past several months with the Finance Ministry about the debt issue, so that is ongoing discussions.
QUESTION: What has the Government response been?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: Well, the Government is interested in debt deferral, but it had to see the final details, and now that we have the details we're in further discussions with the government. Oh, the first question we will have the first breakdown in, shall we say, a few weeks. That's a very vague answer but I don't have anything more specific than that. But we expect that within the next few weeks we'll have a specific breakdown.
QUESTION: You mentioned certain trade concessions that involves accumulation of GSP plus benefits. Could you elaborate what does this mean?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: I was afraid you were going to ask that. (Laughs). I'll have to get somebody to get back to you on it with the details. It's a technical trade question and I don't have more than that on it, but I can have someone call you about it if you want to leave your name and number.
QUESTION: (Dilip Ganguly, Associated Press) One point I found very interesting, one hundred playgrounds for kids? Whose idea was that?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: Do you want to talk about the playgrounds, Andrea?
USAID ACTING MISSION DIRECTOR ANDREA YATES: Shortly after the tsunami we were looking for ways to have what are called safe spaces for families, communities, but especially for children to gather, to play, to interact, to have something to do, and also to get them back to a normal daily life, attitude, etc., and one of the things we looked at was replacing and repairing playgrounds. We fortunately were able to get funding through - or will be able to get funding through - the supplemental bill that the Ambassador has been talking about. We also have funding from the Bush-Clinton fund; they raised funds from a variety of sources including private sector and the U.S. -- individual schools, etc. There were actually thousands of donors who contributed to that fund, and we also have money from a third organization called Joint Distribution Committee, JDC, and combined, that's going to allow us to build one hundred playgrounds. We have in country right now this week a team of people, mostly through the National Recreation and Parks Service Association of the United States and one of their jobs is to look at playgrounds, age-specific, cultural-specific safety issues, placement, all of those things, and they're in Sri Lanka right now, looking at sites, talking to organizations, talking to our government partners about where these might be placed.
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: This is a great example of what we call a public-private partnership, where we have money and expertise from the public sector and the private sector coming together, and we do want to mention the contribution of the JDC, the Joint Distribution committee, which is a relief and reconstruction branch of the American Jewish Committee which is operating here in a number of different areas now.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
USAID ACTING MISSION DIRECTOR ANDREA YATES: And that's one of the issues that certainly we're looking at. The areas are going to be identified through working with local NGOs and local communities. The government may provide some of the land. In some areas, there are going to be playgrounds existing, destroyed, and they're going to be replaced. The land that will be used is not necessarily suitable for housing.
QUESTION: (Dumeetha Luthra, BBC) The donors' conference this weekend -- Will you be attending and what are you expecting to come out of it?
QUESTION: (V.S. Sambandan, The Hindu inaudible)
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: So we're changing subjects, is that it? Ok, Donor's Conference, I'll be attending, Andrea will be attending. We hope to have a frank report from the government on its plans. The conference of course, is not just about reconstruction, but also about the entire poverty reduction and economic growth strategy of the government, so we hope to have a report from the Government for its plans on the entire economic growth package, and a frank discussion between multilateral and bilateral donors and the government on how to move forward.
QUESTION: (Dumeetha Luthra, BBC) How disappointed are you that a joint mechanism hasn't been signed before this conference?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: Was that an attempt to put words in my mouth? (Laughter). As I said before, we think that a joint mechanism would be a very effective way to improve delivery of reconstruction assistance to the North and the East so we hope that it will happen as quickly as possible. You asked about President Clinton you really need to talk to the U.N. about this because President Clinton will be coming under his U.N. hat, but I believe he'll be coming at the end of the month and spending some time in Sri Lanka and in Maldives, but it's really, you have to talk to the U.N. about it because it's their baby.
QUESTION: The U.S. is not going to put any pre-conditions on setting up a joint mechanism with the LTTE? The U.S. will nevertheless go ahead with giving out whatever aid they have allocated?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: Our aid, our assistance reconstruction program will move forward, yes, but we do think that the signing and implementation, which is really the hard part of a joint mechanism, is important both for the reconstruction process and for the entire political process for progress in the peace process.
QUESTION: But it's not a prerequisite?
AMBASSADOR LUNSTEAD: No, no. We've never said that.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER PHILIP A. FRAYNE: Ok, thank you very much.
Released on May 17, 2005
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov/)

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Sri Lanka Development Forum - Documents

HIC-Sri Lanka Google group:
Please find the following documents from the Sri Lanka Development Forum at the HIC home page (http://www.humanitarianinfo.or­g/srilanka/):

SRI LANKA NEW DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY Framework for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction Discussion Paper

POST-TSUNAMI RECOVERY AND RECONSTRUCTION STRATEGY Annex-I Annex-II Annex-III NCED-A Participatory Approach Towards Development

THE PEACE PROCESS J. Dhanapala Secretary General, Secretariat for Coordination of the Peace Process (SCOPP)

NATIONAL PLAN OF ACTION FOR THE CHILDREN OF SRI LANKA, 2004-2008 B. Abeygunawardana Director General, National Planning Department Ministry of Finance & Planning

MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS (MDGS) AND POVERTY REDUCTION B. Abeygunawardena Director General, National Planning Dept Ministry of Finance & Planning

REBUILDING SRI LANKA - POST TSUNAMI ACTION PLAN M. Tittawella TAFREN

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India: Enabling rural folk to overcome poverty

Daily News: 16/05/2005" by Lennart Bage

Targeting rural poverty, particularly among Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, and women, will better enable India to reach its full development potential in a sustainable manner.

This year, as the first five-year review of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals approaches, India can be proud of its accomplishments. In January, the Millennium Project report announced that India was on a better track than several other developing countries to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015. The Beijing +10 meeting, held to assess the progress of commitments to improve the lives of women, shows that India is making strides in addressing gender equality issues. This is also the Year of Microcredit, and India, through its numerous self-help groups and innovations in financial services to poor people, serves as an inspiration to other developing nations.

Since 1979 the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been working with the Government of India to help reduce poverty in some of the country's most remote and fragile areas, targeting the poorest and most marginalised people. Mutual learning and information exchange has been an important feature of IFAD's work with India.

India's commitment to reducing poverty is reflected in the numerous initiatives it has taken, leading to the progress made over the last decades. But the country still faces a major challenge to reduce poverty on a larger scale.

Millions of poor people in rural areas will continue to suffer under the weight of extreme poverty unless progress is made in addressing the plight of vulnerable groups. Three-fourths of India's poor population, or 193 million people, live in rural areas. Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes are among the poorest in India and constitute 40 per cent of the internally displaced population. These groups, and especially women, suffer a higher incidence of poverty, greater vulnerability and lower social status than others.

Targeting rural poverty, particularly among Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, and women, will better enable India to reach its full development potential in a sustainable manner.

IFAD has provided India with more funding than it has to any other country. IFAD is dedicated to working closely with the Government of India to improve the lives of women and other vulnerable groups.

IFAD also uses its expertise to reap benefits for the rural poor that go far beyond its initial investment. It does this by testing and implementing institutional and technical innovations that can be carried forward by others.

One example is the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh Tribal Development Programme, to ensure household food security, livelihood opportunities and an improved overall quality of life. The programme was designed so that it could be easily replicated by government and other agencies.

Another example of an innovative approach is the promotion of self-help groups (SHG). IFAD through its support to the Tamil Nadu Women's Development Project piloted the SHG methodology, which is now recognised as an appropriate methodology for microfinance in the country. In addition, the Maharashtra Rural

Credit Project piloted the SHG-bank linkage methodology that has since been upscaled at the national level by the Government, NABARD and other institutions.

IFAD places empowerment at the heart of its projects and programmes in India. A main goal of our work is to empower people with the skills and assets they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

IFAD supports investment projects and programmes in the populous states of central India where levels of rural poverty are some of the highest in the country. Programmes in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are benefiting 608,000 tribal poor people by helping them improve their livelihood opportunities. IFAD is supporting the Small Industry Development Bank of India through the National Microfinance Support Programme. This programme will reach 1.3 million poor people in underserved areas, helping them to develop an extensive, national microfinance sector which will provide technical assistance so rural poor people can start, expand or diversify income-generating activities.

IFAD has also responded quickly to the tsunami disaster by approving a $30 million loan package to support recovery of livelihoods of affected communities in Tamil Nadu. Promoting grassroots institutions is the cornerstone of IFAD's strategy in India.

(Lennart B{macr}ge is president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialised agency of the United Nations, and is currently on an official visit to India)

(The Hindu)

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