Date: 31 Jan 2006
The independent study, commissioned by the five agencies, was launched today amidst new hope for peace in Sri Lanka. The launch event sees the bringing together of key national and international policy makers, from across the divide, to discuss and debate its findings and recommendations at a half-day event in Colombo.
Responding to the conclusions of the study, the commissioning agencies agree that a mix and balance of diplomatic, political, development, security and economic measures is needed to create and support an enabling environment for peace. The agencies hope the study will serve as a principal source of information for the wider donor community as they create and adapt programs to support development in a peaceful post-tsunami Sri Lanka.
Undertaken by a team of prominent independent consultants, the study attempts to do three things:
Firstly, it attempts to provide an analysis of the structures and dynamics of conflict and peace in Sri Lanka since 2000.
Secondly, it examines how international engagement has interacted with conflict and peace dynamics - with a particular focus on aid donors.
Thirdly, it tries to identify how the strategies and approaches of international donors can best engage with and help strengthen domestic peacebuilding efforts.
The primary end users of this work are expected to be aid donors, but the agencies hope that it will be of use to a wide audience of stakeholders and interested parties both inside and outside Sri Lanka.
The study suggests that there are a number of overarching principles for international engagement in peacemaking and peacebuilding in Sri Lanka, namely:
Political commitment and long-term engagement
- that international actors need to keep their nerve and remain engaged for the long-term in one form or another.
- to move from the current state of "pockets" of expertise, and fragmented knowledge to developing greater shared and more disaggregated forms of analysis.
- At times international actors appear to have lost sight of the tackling the underlying causes of the conflict due to short-term pragmatic imperatives. A transformative perspective has to be incorporated into the thinking and strategies of all international actors, whether they are involved in tsunami aid, track one negotiations or development projects.
- Thinking more carefully about the inter and intra-group divisions between leaders and constituencies. This may involve widening out civil society participation, focusing more on the mid-level actors, or strengthening activities at the regional and local level.
- A shift towards more "strategic complementarity" amongst the international community. There is scope for thinking more creatively about the interface between diplomatic, development, humanitarian and human rights actors so that the distinctive approaches of each reinforce and complement one another.
The study points out that by attempting to stand on the same ground as diplomats, the aid donors have not been playing to their comparative advantages. It therefore recommends attention to the three "C"s of; conditionality, consequences, and causes.
Regarding conditionality, the recommendation is that debate should now shift toward thinking about positive conditions on aid and gaining influence through engagement. It reports that the threat of withholding aid in an "over-aided" environment will have very little effect.
To address the consequences of conflict, it is proposed that donors should substantially scale up assistance to the North-East to build a visible peace dividend, helping to meet immediate humanitarian needs and boost confidence in the peace process.
Thirdly, is a recommendation that donors do more to address the underlying causes of conflict, particularly in the South by working in a conflict sensitive way on areas like governance, economic reform, and poverty.
The commissioning agencies take careful note of the recommendations in the study to encourage aid donors to work more imaginatively on governance issues, civil society engagement with the state, the political impacts of economic reform, addressing issues of poverty and exclusion, the need for greater conflict sensitivity, and balanced distribution of tsunami relief and reconstruction funds.
Whilst acknowledging that peace processes almost never involve a smooth transition from war to peace, the study lists a number of preconditions that are necessary for a sustainable transition from war to peace in Sri Lanka. In these preconditions, the study includes the necessity for robust ceasefire arrangements to be upheld, respected by all parties and to reflect political realities on the ground. The release of this study therefore provides a timely reference for agencies and stakeholders who are active in Sri Lanka, at a time of renewed hope and a return to talks between the Government and the LTTE in Geneva.