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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, March 04, 2006

Telecom Demand: Measures for Improving Affordability

World Dialogue on Regulation: Monday, 06 February 2006 Written by Claire Milne et al
Led by Professor Robin Mansell at the Media and Communications Department of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and Claire Milne, Visiting Researcher at LSE, this project has focused on developing a better understanding of affordability as key to understanding telecom demand which, in turn, is central to sound business cases for investment and the achievement of network development in developing countries. The main report and three companion papers are now available. This project has been undertaken for LIRNE.Net and the World Dialogue on Regulation and funded by IDRC, Canada.
The series of papers includes the main report by Claire Milne, a paper by Sebastian Ureta on variations in expenditure on communications, a case study by Sangeeth Varghese of Reliance Infocomm, and a paper by Jeffery Wheatley on price elasticity of demand.
All the reports can be downloaded from this page. You can comment on the papers in the forum at the bottom of this page,
Below is the Executive Summary of the main report, Telecoms demand: measures for improving affordability in developing countries - A toolkit for action
Executive summary
This report is addressed to a wide range of people in and around the telecoms industry. It may prove useful in various ways. For example:
Investors may note the wide variation in potential demand found in our review of survey research, and seek business cases which are firmly based in sound research and with forward-looking marketing strategies.
Readers from the telecoms industry may find some new ideas and challenges in the collection of innovative marketing approaches.
Regulators in developing countries will find a proposed approach to promoting affordable telecoms, together with examples of what other regulators are doing.
Consumer groups and public interest advocates can apply the findings to their own situations, and approach their local industry representatives and regulator in support of best possible local developments.
We start from the idea of universal service and universal access, which is widely seen as having three essential components: availability, accessibility and affordability.
Our focus is affordability. We believe that within any given scenario of overall income and price levels, marketing factors can play a significant role in improving affordability. Furthermore, they are relatively easy to deploy, sometimes even leading to a ‘win-win-win’ situation (where industry gets more profits, consumers get more service and the regulator gets more praise). This report therefore aims to highlight and spread awareness of such tools for improving affordability. It goes without saying that their use should not detract from other relevant efforts, in particular to intensify competition, to introduce lower cost technology and to bring control of undertakings closer to consumers and communities.
Over the last decade, the rapid growth of cellular service has brought phone service for the first time within physical reach of huge populations. And advances in technology, especially but not only GSM, have both brought down costs and provided practical means to target affordable telephony packages accurately at almost everyone within cellular coverage. Two key features of GSM underlie these conclusions – its cost structure, and its software-based service provision.
The report highlights tariff, service and marketing innovations which can make some use of telephony affordable even to people with very low budgets. Micro-prepay is seen as especially significant. For most operators, it is technically and financially easy to deploy – arguments against it are mainly of a commercial nature. It is suggested that regulators in countries where micro-prepay does not soon appear will need to be satisfied on the reasons for this.
The phenomenal spread of mobiles has given rise to a perception in some circles that affordability is no longer an issue. The report shows that for large populations this is too simple a reading of the available evidence. A growing number of studies reveals high priceelasticity of demand for telephone service in developing countries, which suggests that some operators may be rewarded by more adventurous pricing than is current. While the focus of the report is not on further extension of coverage, the evidence would support arguments for wider telephony coverage of developing countries.
The report reviews recent user research and household expenditure surveys to improve understanding of user perceptions of affordability and percentages of income actually spent on communications. It also presents a new analysis of communications spending based on household expenditure surveys in four developing countries. It concludes that all countries, when setting targets and strategies for achieving universal service and access, should take account of their own population’s spending patterns. Apparently common patterns are shown which could warrant further research. There is particular uncertainty over the spending patterns of low income groups.
Our study strongly suggests that the technology exists to enable mobile service to be provided profitably in rural areas of developing countries – which has to mean at prices which are affordable to many if not most rural residents. If existing operators cannot or choose not to offer low-priced service in rural areas, there is a clear case for offering these opportunities to other companies, including to local start-ups with NGO or community support whose primary objective might be service, rather than profit.
Where affordability goals are demonstrably not achievable on a commercial basis, various shared universal service funding schemes, often originally devised for speeding up network roll-out, may be adapted to balance any unfair net cost burden. In many cases, no such device should be needed. In an open market environment, technological advances and farsighted marketing strategy can do the job, with the regulator’s role being one of oversight rather than intervention. Of course, in many countries there is still a long way to go before markets are open enough; but efforts to improve affordability can usefully proceed in parallel with market opening.

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Telecom Use on a Shoestring

World Dialogue on Regulation: Friday, 10 February 2006 Written by Ayesha Zainudeen, Rohan Samarajiva & Ayoma Abeysuriya
As a part of LIRNEasia’s Telecom Use on a Shoestring project and within the overall WDR theme of diversifying participation in network development, the use of ’strategic’ behaviour to curb communication costs amongst the financially constrained in Sri Lanka and India was explored. The findings relating to such ’strategic’ behavior are available for comment in the paper Telecom use on a shoestring: Strategic use of telecom services by the financially constrained in South Asia.
Abstract:
When one talks of a ‘shoestring’ budget, it is understood that reference is being made to constrained finances, where individuals make attempts to cut costs through various methods without harming utility. This paper looks at the use of ‘strategies’ by such ‘shoestring’ users to reduce their communication costs. While the use of ‘long-term’ strategies, relating to the investment in a phone, is evident, that of ‘short-term’ strategies, relating to everyday use are looked at is found to be low. It is concluded that this is a result of a series of constraints on users, rather than a lack of a concern for controlling spending on telecoms.
Also in this series is a Powerpoint presentation on Telecom Use on a Shoestring: a Study of the Financially Constrained in South Asia and a paper Telecom Use on a Shoestring: The Case of Bangladesh.
Comments are welcome on the LIRNEasia website at http://www.lirneasia.net/2006/02/strategic-use-of-telecom-services-on-a-shoestring/

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Participatory Communication Strategy Design.

FAO: SD : Knowledge: Over the past thirty years FAO has field-tested successful Communication for Development approaches and methods for sharing information and knowledge and promoting development action, using participatory message design and the combined integrated use of traditional and modern media. Participatory Communication Strategy Design, A Handbook (2nd ed.) has been prepared as a training and reference guide for designing and implementing Communication for Development strategies for field projects. The Participatory Communication Strategy Design (PCSD) methodology is used to build on the results of the Participatory Rural Communication Appraisal (PRCA). PCSD outlines how to involve people in decision-making processes for effective communication planning and action.

It presents a step-by-step methodology for participatory communication strategy design, and the principles for communication planning, message development, multimedia material production and the implementation of communication activities in the field. Although the book does not deal with the technical aspects of media production, it specifies the requirements for effective use of communication approaches, media and materials among rural communities. In this way users of the handbook will be able to plan, supervise and monitor the implementation of the communication strategy whole process. The methodology proposed by the PCSD handbook has been tested through several training workshops in Africa. It has also been applied with success to various development projects dealing with agriculture, health, education, income generation, gender, water and sanitation, animal husbandry and poverty alleviation. For information please contact us at this email address: ComDev@fao.org.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Getting Nanotech Right: A New Report on Government Oversight of Nanotechnology

Project On Emerging Nanotechnologies: Getting Nanotech Right: A New Report on Government Oversight of Nanotechnology: "In October 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the manufacture of a new type of carbon nanotube under the ``low release and exposure exemption'' of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). It's the first time the agency approved a new chemical specifically identified as being ``nano.''
All major government environmental, health and safety regulations, like TSCA, were designed before the emergence of nanotechnology -- the ability to measure, see, manipulate, and manufacture things at an atomic and molecular scale, usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide.
In a nano marketplace, are existing oversight mechanisms adequate or do they need to be reassessed and changed? Does it make sense to consider a new law? Does government have the necessary human and financial resources to anticipate and manage the possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology? Are there incentives to speed nanotechnology applications for environmentally beneficial uses? Davies' report examines these and other questions.
Download the full report
Related posts
http://servesrilanka.blogspot.com/2005/04/nanotechnology-and-developing-world.html
http://servesrilanka.blogspot.com/2005/11/nanotechnology-and-developing.html
http://servesrilanka.blogspot.com/2005/11/nanotechnology-and-developing_08.html

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The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Nanotechnology Development Gateway: The Project, established as a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts, is dedicated to helping ensure that as nanotechnologies advance, possible risks are minimized, public and consumer engagement remains strong, and the potential benefits of these new technologies are realized. It 'collaborates with researchers, government, industry, NGOs, policymakers, and others to look long term, to identify gaps in knowledge and regulatory processes, and to develop strategies for closing them.' The Project staff seek to 'provide independent, objective knowledge and analysis that can inform critical decisions affecting the development and commercialization of nanotechnologies.'
Project on Nanotechnology

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Aid, conflict and peacebuilding

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID)
Date: 31 Jan 2006

Executive Summary

1. INTRODUCTION
This Strategic Conflict Assessment (SCA) follows and builds upon a previous assessment conducted for the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) in 2000 (Goodhand, 2001). Like the previous study, it aims to do three things: First, to provide an analysis of the structures and dynamics of conflict and peace in Sri Lanka since 2000. Second, to examine how international engagement has interacted with conflict and peace dynamics, with a particular focus on aid donors during this time period. Third, 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 report are expected to be aid donors, but it is hoped that it will be of interest to a wider audience inside and outside Sri Lanka. This volume is the first in a six-part series that includes five supplementary studies that are part of the SCA.
2. BACKGROUND
The period under study can broadly be divided into four phases: 1. Run up to the ceasefire: in a context of an enduring military stalemate and declining economic conditions, the United National Front (UNF) wins elections in December 2001. 2. Ceasefire and peace talks: a ceasefire agreement (CFA) is signed within a month and the UNF government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) embark on six rounds of peace talks. 3. The breakdown of talks and political instability: Talks become deadlocked; the LTTE suspends its participation and subsequently submits a proposal for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA). This sparks off a political crisis in the South, with the President taking over three key ministries, then proroguing parliament and declaring new elections for April A coalition of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) or People's Liberation Front wins the election. The combination political instability in the South and an LTTE split to the elections that leads to growing violence in East, means that the prospects for resuming peace appear to be remote. 4. The post-tsunami response: Negotiations between the government and LTTE a post-tsunami response mirror the political dynamics the peace process. It takes almost half a year to reach agreement on a Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS), thus boosting the hopes for despite the lack of legal clarity and the turmoil generated among both Sinhalese and Muslim constituencies.
3. CONFLICT STRUCTURES
In spite of the ceasefire agreement and peace negotiations, the structural dimensions of the conflict within Sri Lanka have remained relatively stable. has been no "seismic shift" in the "tectonic plates" underpinning conflict in Sri Lanka. The constellation factors that contributed to the outbreak and sustenance of violent conflict - including the nature of the state, political culture, the institutional framework of uneven development patterns and competing nationalisms - remains largely unaffected by the process. In many respects the "peace" that followed signing of the CFA has had the effect of freezing structural impediments to conflict resolution. On the other hand, there has been a significant in the external context at both the regional and international levels. The global "war on terror," growing international engagement in "post conflict" contexts, and Sri Lanka's integration into a dynamic and increasingly assertive wider Asian region have together created new (and sometimes competing) incentives for domestic actors. Though these changes in the external context may have helped create the preconditions for peace talks, they have not yet led to a radical reordering of political forces inside the country.
Sri Lanka Strategic Conflict Assessment 2005 A Six-Part Series
Vol. 1 - Aid, Conflict, and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka, 2000-2005 (1.1MB)
Vol. 2 - Donors and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka, 2000-2005 (440KB)
Vol. 3 - The Politics of the South (541KB)
Vol. 4 - The Politics of the North-East (444KB)
Vol. 5 - The Economic Agenda and the Peace Process (805KB)
Vol. 6 - Sri Lanka's Vernacular Press and the Peace Process (466KB)

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The strategic conflict assessment - Aid, conflict and peacebuilding

ReliefWeb - Document Preview : Source: United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID)
Date: 31 Jan 2006

Senior executives at The World Bank, The Asia Foundation, and the Governments of the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK describe a new study, released today, as "a seminal study on the relationship between aid, conflict and peacebuilding in Sri Lanka".
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.
Shared analysis
- to move from the current state of "pockets" of expertise, and fragmented knowledge to developing greater shared and more disaggregated forms of analysis.
Transformative Approach
- 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.
Inclusivity
- 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.
Complementarity
- 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.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

ActionAid assessment is biased, lacks credibility says RADA

Daily Mirror: 21/02/2006"

ActionAid made no effort to officially verify perceptions of the distribution of reconstruction funds it confidently declares as facts.

The Government’s Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA), in a statement dismissed the claims made by ActionAid, a British Charity headquartered in South Africa in its report titled “Tsunami Response: A Human Rights Assessment” as being biased and lacking depth & credibility.

The report contains inaccuracies and misinterpretations, and carries several unsubstantiated allegations.

An example of its superficiality is the broad statement that ‘A fact-finding mission found that conflict-affected eastern districts received the least attention from the Governments’

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC) actually conducted the said fact-finding mission early last year, and published its report in April 2005. This report did document allegations made by various parties, but it is not accurate to quote these as the findings of the HRC mission. RADA points out that the ground situation that prevailed at the time of the original HRC reports was just three months after the Tsunami, and there is no evidence of any post-report consultative process undertaken by ActionAid to build on the initial findings.

The ActionAid report goes on to say that “complaints of discrimination from survivors are widespread” although it has failed to identify any specific form of discrimination that has taken place. The HRC report, which appears to be the source of a substantial amount of information reproduced by ActionAid, has indeed mentioned that discrimination is apparent between Tsunami-affected population and war-affected communities since Tsunami affected displaced persons received a more rapid response, but in no way does it indicate that the Government of Sri Lanka discriminated people based on their ethnicity.

The HRC mission, was not on issues pertaining to Tsunami and their observations were on the general perceptions among the members of the public that the eastern province receives far fewer resources and facilities than other provinces and that this sense of discrimination has not been assuaged by the Tsunami.

Therefore, ActionAid has quoted the HRC report out of context thereby creating a false impression that the Government of Sri Lanka has discriminated Tsunami affected minorities in the east.

ActionAid made no effort to officially verify perceptions of the distribution of reconstruction funds it confidently declares as facts. RADA therefore provides the following information;

As of February 06, 2006 US$ 307 million has been disbursed from primary donors for projects in the North & East, whilst only US $ 131 million has been disbursed to the south.

Out of the three districts in the east, Trincomalee received the lowest allocation of funds, which amounts to US $ 72 million However, this is still US $ 17 million higher than the amount allocated to Hambantota district, which received the highest amount of fund disbursement out of all Tsunami affected districts in the south.

This information may be accessed by the public through the RADA Development Assistance Database at (www.dad.tafren.gov.lk)

Immediately after the Tsunami, country’s armed forces were deployed to maintain law and order and to protect people and property. There were also many incidents of military personnel engaged in dramatic rescue operations regardless of ethnic or religious differences. However, ActionAid’s reference to armed forces being deployed in the Tsunami affected areas is taken out of context and gives a biased view.

ActionAid report has also alleged that Buffer Zones’ have been used to remove people from the coastal areas under the guise of safety. This is a grossly inaccurate statement, and demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the issues addressed. Many of the lives lost along the coast were from the population living in informal accommodation in reservations and restricted areas. The Government imposed emergency buffer zones in the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami to prevent further loss of life in the event of a repeat wave. Subsequent study has resulted in the relaxing of the arbitrary distances and merging them with the set-backs from the Coast Conservation Department coastal zone management plan of 1997. The Government does not feel that inadequate reinforcement of previously existing construction restrictions needs to be repeated.

One of the glaring shortcomings found in the ActionAid report was the non disclosure of the sample of people interviewed to ascertain their findings. Therefore, RADA officials feel that the sample selected is not representative of the population that was affected by the Tsunami in the North & East.

The under-researched ActionAid report has been unduly critical of Sri Lanka’s Government. At a time when peace and communal issues are top on President Mahinda Rajakapksa’s priority list, it is non-constructive, and unnecessarily inflammatory.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Tigers threatened walk out at Swiss talks: negotiator

ReliefWeb � Document Preview � : Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 24 Feb 2006

by Amal Jayasinghe
CELIGNY, Switzerland, Feb 24, 2006 (AFP) - Tamil Tiger rebels extracted an agreement from Sri Lanka to uphold a controversial truce after threatening to walk out of talks, the top rebel negotiator told AFP.
The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they were ready to storm out of discussions in a chateau in this Swiss village when Colombo insisted on amending the Norwegian-brokered 2002 truce.
The LTTE's chief negotiator Anton Balasingham said he told his government counterpart Nimal Siripala de Silva that the Tigers would not agree to tinker with the ceasefire agreement, something demanded by Colombo's new administration.
Balasingham told AFP that he said to his opposite number: "If you are questioning the validity of the ceasefire agreement, then we will walk out."
"From our side it is a success. What we wanted was a commitment from the government to implement the ceasefire," Balasingham said in an interview with AFP Friday morning at the 18th-century Chateau de Bossey, which overlooks Lake Geneva.
He was speaking just hours after the two sides agreed over two days of talks to stop violence and decided to meet again here in April.
"We had told the Norwegians also that we will talk only about implementing the agreement," he said.
"On the first day we could not agree on the agenda because the government wanted to take up revising or amending the ceasefire. We firmly said no. The government's chief negotiator said the ceasefire was seriously flawed and they want to revise it.
"What we told them is that this ceasefire is not just a document between two parties. Five Nordic countries monitoring the ceasefire are involved. The international community is involved. We can't just tear it up."
A Sri Lankan government delegate admitted that there were differences but played down the Tiger threat to storm out.
However, Balasingham said the government ate humble pie and climbed down on the issue of militias that allegedly receive the backing of Sri Lankan security forces to attack the Tigers.
"The government has agreed to implement a clause in the agreement in relation to the paramilitary groups. This is a good sign," Balasingham said.
The Tigers faced an unprecedented split in March 2004 and the main rebel group has since accused Colombo of backing the breakaway faction.
Balasingham said although the just concluded Swiss talks focused only on issues relating to the truce, they were also ready to take up contentious political matters at a later date.
He said both the new government of President Mahinda Rajapakse and the Tigers were poles apart on a political settlement. Colombo wants an accord within a "unitary state," while the Tigers are seeking at least a federal system.
"Both parties are living in two different ideological universes," Balasingham said.
Full blown political negotiations were still not on the horizon although they have not been ruled out. Balasingham said the pace of political talks could be dictated by the improvement of security on the ground.
Some 153 people were killed in a spike of violence between December and January, before Norway's top peace envoy Erik Solheim clinched a deal for both warring parties to meet here and save their truce.
In a brief joint statement late Thursday, the two sides said they had agreed to stop the cycle of violence but later gave separate press conferences underscoring the lack of confidence between them.
More than 60,000 people have been killed in Sri Lanka's three-decade ethnic conflict, which has seen the Tigers battle for independence for the country's Tamil minority. Four previous peace attempts have ended in failure.
aj/jwf/rl
Copyright (c) 2006 Agence France-PresseReceived by NewsEdge Insight: 02/24/2006 08:21:18

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Tsunami response: a human rights assessment by INGOs

Daily Mirror: 21/02/2006"

A five-country study by international charities ActionAid, PDHRE and HIC-HLRN and backed by UN has revealed how, after the December 2004 tsunami, governments frequently ignored human rights principles and failed to protect survivors from discrimination, land grabbing and violence. The report, released in UN Headquarters in New York recently, criticises official relief, compensation and rehousing programmes on a number of counts including forced relocation, shoddy construction, and neglect of the needs of vulnerable groups including women, children and ethnic minorities. The study of more than 50,000 people, in 95 towns and villages, was conducted in November 2005 in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia and the Maldives. It found that in many places, survivors had been driven from land, cut off from their livelihoods, and denied food, clean water and a secure home. After the release Mr. Bijay Kumar, ActionAid International Sri Lanka Country director, answers some questions about Sri Lanka.

Q; What are the main issues that ActionAid’s report highlights in Sri Lanka?

A: One of the main concerns is the buffer zone. Throughout 2005, regulation on the buffer zone was debated affecting the rehabilitation in the ground and did create confusions among the families. Particularly the families living in temporary camps did not know when or whether they would be able to rebuild on the site of their old homes. The final declaration of the buffer zone (35 metres in the south and west, 50 metres in the east) has brought some clarity but this is yet to reach the large affected population.

This report also emphasizes the need of adequate housing for all tsunami affected people. There is still a long way to go before adequate housing is achieved for tsunami survivors. In some areas of Sri Lanka, overcrowding and inadequate lighting has left women and children exposed to violence and abuse, and shoddy construction and lack of toilets are setting many problems for these people. Regarding livelihoods recovery, a large number of poor fishing families who do not own boats themselves but earn money by working on other people’s boats are yet to receive meaningful compensation whilst most of the owners of big boats received compensation. The report also expressed concerns on the ensuing rehabilitation processes that have been insensitive to women’s rights. Most of the times, they haven’t been included on the decision making process and in some areas, widows and women have frequently been denied compensation which has almost always been handed out to male members of the family.

Q: The report also suggests that in Sri Lanka, there is a significant discrepancy between the southern and north-eastern provinces. Any comments?

A: The main reason is the security situation and the accessibility to these areas. Reconstruction and rehabilitation process has developed very fast in southern areas compared with the conflict-affected eastern districts, where the accessibility was adversely affected due to the volatile security situation. The failure to reach the affected population can partially attributed the failure of the joint mechanism. The sustained peace is definitely a necessary condition to adequately reach the large section of the tsunami affected population.

Q; The report is very critical of the Governments in the Tsunami affected countries.

A: The report aims to analyse human rights standards pursued by all those involved in tsunami response –governments, (I)NGOs and community groups. But end of the day we believe it is “the political will” of governments involved with active participation of the communities and their agencies can make the big difference. It is governments who are the signatories to international human rights agreements.

It is governments who ultimately have responsibility to ensure that human rights are protected, both through providing social services as well as regulating those involved in emergency response. We hope that this report will help to put human rights firmly on the agenda to improve policy and practice of emergency response and reduce risk of future disasters.

Q: The report paints a bleak picture. Are you saying the tsunami response is a failure?

A: When it comes to upholding human rights standards, sadly the answer is “yes”. There is ample evidence from this research, covering more than 50,000 people, that the dignity, the human rights of survivors have been neglected and abused in the wake of the tsunami. On the other hand, we must also recognise that a great deal has been achieved by communities, NGOs and governments responding to the tsunami. But these are pockets of success that we must build on. The overall picture is still far from rosy.It is not too late for governments, NGOs and communities to put things right and protect and promote the human rights of tsunami survivors. The report, which provides practical recommendations for policy makers and practitioners, represents a firm step in that direction.

Q; How the conflict is affecting the rehabilitation process in Sri Lanka?

A: Conflict and rising tension hits the poorest and most vulnerable people hardest. Some of the areas hit hardest by the tsunami are historically the areas hit hardest by conflict. We are pleased to learn that, for the first time since the CFA was signed in 2003, now, both the parties have once agreed to hold direct talks in mid-February in Geneva. We urge all those involved to reach a peaceful conclusion.

Q: What would be the plan of action to take this process forward?

A: In Sri Lanka, the People’s Planning Commission (PPC) has built up a strong consultation process with the tsunami affected communities through more than 34 public hearings across the affected regions. PPC has also come up with a report on the Human Rights issues involved in the tsunami affected areas. The report has been launched on the last 24th January with the involvement of 134 community based organizations, trade unions, NGO and civil society representatives.

A people’s agenda has been drafted as an outcome of the consultation process with the involvement of the international community as well those who represented as commissioners on the specific issues of land, shelter, livelihood, education and women’s issue. The process has created a space to facilitate a dialogue among all the stakeholders involved in the tsunami recovery. We are also aware that the people’s planning commission process is currently engaging the government and international agencies to take note of the perspective of the affected communities.

Both the reports have raised similar concerns on all these issues that are stated earlier. The current report reaffirms the situation of the affected communities in five Countries; hence, there is an opportunity to link up with the initiative taken up by the PPC with the other regional and international forums to influence the rehabilitation process.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Humanitarian Situation Report - Sri Lanka: 10 - 16 Feb 2006

ReliefWeb Document Preview : Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 16 Feb 2006

Overall Situation
The UNCT retreat was held from the 9-11 February with all heads of agencies including World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the International Monitory Fund. The aim was to orient all agencies to the CCA/UNDAF (United Nations Development Assistance Frame Work) process and linkages to country planning processes, provide conceptual clarity on MDGs, conflict, human rights, gender and disaster and introduce tools to be used in the UNDAF process. A training for programme staff in all agencies on the CCA/UNDAF took place from 15-17 February in Colombo.
On 9 February, the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR) presented the findings of their research on the Tsunami Aid Delivery System: a view from six districts in Sri Lanka, with the particular meeting focusing on Galle. The meeting was well attended by local and international NGOs, as well as politicians and local government administrators. The research findings underlined the obvious shift from the previous need of coordination for relief efforts to the present need for planning and sustainability. OCHA Galle office indicates this as a good indicator of how the situation in the Southern Province for development actors and the government is geared for more long-term planning, and the move away from information sharing and coordination meetings for relief effort.
The European Commission has earmarked (EURO) 6 million from the humanitarian aid budget to step up its natural disaster preparedness efforts in South Asia. The funds will be channeled through the Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO).
UNICEF this week urged “that the protection of children affected by the conflict is at the center of upcoming talks. Of particular importance remains the unresolved situation of child recruitment, which led UNICEF to yet again appeal to Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to cease the recruitment of children and to release all children within its ranks," the agency said. While cases of child recruitment have declined in the past six months, only a few children have been returned to their families by the Tamil Tigers, as previously agreed with UNICEF, the statement quoted Joanna VanGerpen, the agency's Sri Lanka representative as saying.
OCHA Ampara hosted a mission from the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery from 14-15 February. Nazare Albuquerques., Strategic Partnerships Specialist for NGOs & Civil Society met with OCHA staff and a wide range of actors in the reconstruction process.
Some of the leading INGOs in Batticaloa district have received a letter from the 233 Brigade asking for details of activities carried out by INGOs/NGOS in the Batticaloa District. A similar letter was sent by the LTTE early January and presently some Divisional Secretaries are also requesting the same details. The INGO Forum has decided to give the same details to both the Government and the LTTE which includes only the name, job title and the official identity card number.
On 14 February GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) organized a one-day workshop with the collaboration of the Department of Fisheries on the Review of Relief and Rehabilitation Activities in Batticaloa District.
The reduction in the buffer zone has seen local authorities requested by the DSs to get new beneficiary lists for the donor driven housing scheme. This has further delayed permanent housing construction in Thiraimadu, Batticaloa. Helvitas with the collaboration of the Sri Lanka Tsunami Trust has started building their model house in Thiraimadu.
UNDP under its Strong Places Programme gave 1,500,000 rupees worth of office equipment and emergency material to the IOM office in Matara.
A hartal was declared in Muslim areas on 10 February in protest of the cartoons published in a Danish newspaper. However, the hartals/demonstrations never turned violent.
The issue of finding divisional lead agencies has been addressed during the reporting period in Ampara. The following actors agreed to take up the responsibility: Practical Action for Kalmunai Division, Islamic Relief for Ninthavur Division, IOM for Alaydiwembu Division, OXFAM GB for Thirukkovil Division, ZOA for Navithanveli Division, CARE for Sammanthurai Division. GOAL was contacted regarding Sainthamaruthu and/or Karativu Divisions. Addalachchenai Division still lacks a lead agency.
Main challenges and response
Under the housing project of the Spanish Red Cross, 27 houses were to be built in the Godadenikanda area of Akmeemana division. After starting construction work, two weeks ago, the Irrigation Department has protested against the construction as part of the land belongs to the catchments area of a nearby lake and thus Spanish Red Cross had to cease its construction work temporarily. Although the Irrigation Department has given the approval to start work in the remaining parts of the land this week, Spanish Red Cross urges for a clear plan of the land identifying the boundaries that does not fall in the catchments area. Accordingly less than 27 houses can now be built on the land. The Survey Department is trying to expedite the process.
USAID/OTI (Office of Transition Initiatives) advised that they had received reports from a variety of sources in and around Padavisiripura in Trincomalee district of a higher than normal level of kidney problems, reportedly due to the water supply in the area and requested any organization involved in water supply to assist in identifying the cause. ACF is to help after further discussions.
The Additional District Secretary for the tsunami in Galle organized several individual meetings to finalize the beneficiary lists of each division. Currently the new buffer zone is being demarcated in Galle district and finalization of the lists is a bit problematic.
The Sri Lankan Red Cross Society (SLRCS) has been providing hygienic packs to families in transitional shelter sites in Trincomalee district on monthly base since September 2005. The packs are valued at US$ 10.
Eight cases of dengue were reported in Trincomalee since the start of the year. A map detailing these locations is to be circulated. The dengue cases were attributed to the high incidence of dengue mosquitoes, due in part to the high level of garbage accumulating as a result of the recent number of hartals experienced. Rabies has also been reported in Trincomalee district with one or two new cases monthly.
Coordination and common services
OCHA presented the format for activities on various governmental approval procedures at the UN/INGO meeting in Ampara on 8 February. For the time being, the information contained is on building hospitals, fisheries facilities and the donation of medical equipment. The format will be regularly sent out to the UN/INGO community in order to seek inputs to it.
UNOCHA in Trincomalee started to work with the North East Provincial Education Department. The contact directory will be updated and activities related to the sector will be mapped in the future.
In collaboration with local resource personnel, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is conducting a series of workshops on psychosocial Training of Teachers (TOTE) for 85 teachers from 30 tsunami-affected schools that are being rebuilt by the NRC.
The World Bank on 14 February opened its Public Information Center where the “Sri Lanka Country Assistance Strategy Progress Report” was presented.
The UNV DRMU (Disaster Risk Management Unit) organized a workshop to review the district Disaster Preparedness Plan on 14 February.
Food security
Under WFP’s Food for Work Programme, 14 projects are under way in Matara district -- five in Weligama, one in Matara and eight in Devinuwara. Under WFP’s Mother and Child Nutritional Programme, Corn Soya Blend was distributed in Devinuwara and Dickwella Ministry of Health Divisions through the Deputy Provincial Director of Health Services (DPDHS) office for a total of 7039 pregnant/nursing mothers and children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years.
WFP indicated that 3200 MT (of dry food) have been allocated for the whole of the south with several distribution programs planned for this year.
Health
The World Health Organisation Country Cooperation Strategy for 2006-2011 for Sri Lanka was launched on 15 February.
The Government of Japan handed over five Mobile Diagnostic Units worth over Rs. 45 million on 14 February to improve healthcare services in tsunami-affected rural areas. These units are equipped with essential medical instruments, such as Ultrasonic Nebulizers, Glucometers, ESR stands, Automated Bio-Chemistry Analyzers.
Barnet Council in the UK donated £10,000 on 10 February to help rebuild a children's hospital in tsunami-affected Kaluthara in the south. Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Andreas Tambourides, handed over the cheque to Dr Tush Wickramanayaka and her husband Gary Cutter who are running the campaign. The couple needs £100,000 to start rebuilding the hospital in March and the council's donation has brought fundraising up to £97,000.
Water and sanitation
A project to construct 54 permanent toilets and renovate 118 toilets commenced in Polhena, Matara Division under American Red Cross funding recently.
UNICEF reported the construction of 182 permanent latrines for tsunami-affected families in Devata, Siyambalagahawatta in Galle, which commenced on 13 February.
Non-food items and shelter
Fieldwork for new data collection is nearing completion in Government controlled areas in Muttur, Trincomalee district while it is expected to be completed in LTTE controlled areas next week. This fieldwork has been completed by ASM (Assembly of Social Mobilization), a local NGO. IOM performed fieldwork in Eachchilampattai, and their data is being combined with data from NRC (Norwegian Refugee Council) who have also completed their fieldwork there. NRC also checked two sites in Seruvila. ZOA is currently contributing information for their sites in Eastern Muttur and in Seruvila. The existing database has been finalised using comments and corrections provided by agencies in Trincomalee. Updates to existing maps and the designing of new TSST (Transitional Shelter Site Tracking) mapping products can now commence.
Permanent Houses were handed over by the Eastern Rural Development Foundation to 20 tsunami-affected and conflict affected families in Sirupity, Illupaikulam, Kuchchaveli DS division in Trincomalee.
The OCHA Trincomalee office reports that permanent housing coordination is not working very well in the District. ICRC called on agencies working in Trincomalee to meet as there are still many unresolved questions on understanding the circulars from the government with the circular on the buffer zone as one example.
In Killinochchi, under Phase I of the North East Housing Reconstruction Project (NEHRP), 501 houses have been completed while common facilities and wells are been looked into. Phase II will see 1500 houses built in 6 months.
The Tsunami Housing Reconstruction Unit reports that a total of 512 permanent houses have been handed over to beneficiaries in Matara district under the donor driven housing programme.
In Matara district a total of 4097 partially damaged houses have received the first installment of 50,000 rupees while 3,729 partially damaged houses have received the second installment of 50,000 rupees as of 3 February 2006. Also in the Matara district a total of 758 fully damaged houses have received the first installment of 50,000 rupees, while 669 houses have got the second installment of 60,000 rupees, 532 received the third installment of 80,000 rupees and 998 fully damaged houses have received the fourth and final installment of 60,000 rupees.
Under the Donor Driven Housing Programme in Hambantota district 150 permanent houses have been handed over to beneficiaries.
As of 7 Feb 2006, 99.38 per cent of all required semi-permanent shelters (12,447 out of a total of 12,525) are complete in Batticaloa district while 78 shelters are under construction and will be completed within this month.
On 13 February, a workshop was carried out in Galle by GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) to provide Capacity Building for government organizations in the areas of communication, information sharing and coordination within tsunami housing programmes.
The Coast Conservation Department, Survey Department and the officers of the divisional secretariat are currently identifying the houses that are not included in the new buffer zone in Galle Four Gravets and Balapitiya division in the South while Habaraduwa division has already been surveyed.
The Government of Venezuela signed an agreement with the Sri Lankan Government to build 1,000 permanent houses for the tsunami-displaced on 13 February.
Seventy permanent houses completed in Siribopura, Hambantota division by the Hungarian Friendship Association were handed over to beneficiaries on 11 February.
On 16 February 30 houses in Monrovia Stage I, Hikkaduwa were handed over to beneficiaries by Unilever Lanka Ltd.,
Education
Tsunami Education Rehabilitation Monitor (TERM) with facilitation from OCHA reviewed the work in progress of school rebuilding and educational programmes. Twelve schools were affected by the tsunami and 24 schools were used as IDP Camps in Matara District. Among the 12 schools, six needed to be relocated and two were amalgamated while four schools were renovated. Among the 24 schools used as IDP camps, 11 schools have commitments from donors, while 13 schools are still reported to be without donor assistance.
A special donor meeting was held in the (ZDE) Zonal Director of Education Office on 9 February by the Tsunami Education Rehabilitation Monitor (TERM) of the Ministry of Education. The aim was to review the progress of the construction of tsunami-affected schools in Batticaloa district and get the contribution and support of donors towards the rehabilitation of IDP schools which are still without committed support from donors.
ILO has collaborated with the National Worker’s Congress to provide a total of 60 children between the ages of five and 16 with non-formal education/catch-up education. Among them are three tsunami-affected students who have been re-admitted to school.
On 13 February UNICEF organized a meeting with Government counter parts and NGOs to discuss the 2006 education project proposals.
Livelihoods
RADA Livelihoods unit, with the technical assistance of ILO Income Recovery Technical Assistance Programme (IRTAP) started the process of divisional planning in Habbaraduwa, Galle on 2 and 3 of February. This is the first in a series of 35 divisional livelihood plans that will be developed in the coming month that will capture the planned activities of government and development agencies as well as the demands expressed by communities on how to restore livelihoods. Partner organizations involved in this planning process are the University of Colombo for Galle, Batticaloa and Trincomalee; The University of Jaffna for Killinochi and Jaffna and INGO Practical Action for Ampara and Hambantota.
The National Workers’ Congress (NWC) inaugurated a Vocational Training Centre for provision of skills training in labour market driven courses for tsunami-affected children and youth between the ages of 14 to 18, their elder siblings and their parents. The project site is located in Koggala in the Galle District. This has been done with technical and financial assistance from ILO’s International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour project (IPEC). An NGO funded by USAID, namely REVIVE, is providing micro-grants to 250 of these beneficiaries to start their own business enterprise post-training.
On 6-7 February, FAO held a two-day workshop-- Sustainable Livelihoods and Post-tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka with Italian Cooperation funding. On February 8, FAO delivered two 4WD vehicles to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (MFAR) to better enable MFAR to administer its programme in tsunami-affected areas.
Under the Environmental Sanitation Cash for Work Programme the Sri Lankan Red Cross is continuing to refill abandoned coir pits, clean blocked drains and mosquito breeding centres with financial assistance from the American Red Cross.
The Sri Lankan Red Cross (SLRC) started a five-day vocational training course for two batches comprising 25 youth each at the Thalalle Vocational Training Centre in Matara district.
Three new films that focus on key issues facing Sri Lanka had their premiere February 11. The films are the culmination of a program sponsored by the United States that trained 75 aspiring cinematographers from tsunami-affected areas in all facets of filmmaking.
Protection
UNICEF held a one-day workshop on child protection at Tangalle Bay in the South on 6 February, which aimed to develop a district strategy for child protection post-tsunami.
A radio programme was conducted by CCF (Christian Children’s Fund) on 15 February at the Child Centre in Thal Aramba II transitional shelter site in Weligama Division in the South. Over 150 children from 11 child centres of other transitional shelters participated in child psychosocial activities

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