The need for more effective communication, widespread transparency and robust monitoring came out strongly at a workshop that discussed the eight "Guiding Principles" for tsunami reconstruction.
At the workshop, it was wholly agreed that people's participation is key to the entire process of reconstruction and this aspect has been generally ignored by the key players at all levels. The workshop participants agreed that people should not be mere passive recipients but actual owners of the process and the funds that have been raised to address their plight.
The one-day workshop titled "Building Back Better- are we on track?" that brought together government, non-government, international, donor agencies from tsunami affected districts to the BMICH in Colombo, sought to present clear recommendations on implementing the guiding principles. These principles, dealing with equity, transparency, coordination, subsidiary, accountability among others, were introduced to guide the process of reconstruction and minimize discrimination, corruption and inequity in relief and rehabilitation.
At the workshop, it was strongly recommended to share information and improve communication. For example, government circulars to the districts or divisions should be issued in Sinhala and Tamil, and not just in English. Communication between national-level players, whether government or donor, and the people is necessary in order for grassroots views to be incorporated in development plans. People also lack access to basic information about relief, aid or their entitlements. It was questioned whether people are aware of the guiding principles and a public information campaign was suggested.
The need to use existing decentralized government mechanism was reiterated.
At village level there is a need to strengthen community-based organizations and other village committees set up for this specific purpose- so that they can not only participate in the planning and implementation, the reconstruction but also, importantly, in monitoring and evaluating the progress.
The problem with a multiplicity of organizations, players and policies at national levels has to be clarified in order to streamline the process of tsunami reconstruction.
The roles of different sections of government, ministries, local bodies and the policies that affect the resettlement process have to be cleared up for more effective administration. One issue that was discussed in this light was the status of the buffer zone and the ability of people to live and work within its boundaries. In order to ensure transparency, accountability and reduce the chances of corrupt practices it is essential that institutions like the Auditor General's Department and Bribery Commission be strengthened by the central government.
There is an urgent need to clearly state the role, mandate and jurisdiction of the newly established RADA (Reconstruction and Development Agency) that is the successor to TAFREN. The RADA already has a well established role in coordinating and sharing information on tsunami victims, aid disbursement, land allocation etc, but its new and further roles will have to be clearly defined that they do not conflict with the functions of existing institutions and line Ministries.
The workshop was organized by Practical Action (formerly Intermediate Technology Development Group) and the DRMU (Disaster Relief Monitoring Unit) of the Human Rights Commission