A Way Forward for post war recovery published by the IRDG

A Way Forward for post war recovery published by the IRDG

A Way Forward for post war recovery published by the IRDG



“An informed society with sustainable capacity for good governance and development”

Objective of this document is to start a dialog with key stakeholders to gain consensus on understanding the current situation, identifying key issues and collectively decide on the way forward. Certain positions and analysis canvassed in this document are intended to stimulate discussions in order to evolve a shared framework for recovery and development.

“A Way Forward”

  1. Context

The fundamental fabric of family and community life in the North and East remains endangered due to the ethnic conflict that prolonged over three decades. Although most of the displaced population has been resettled in the recent past, basic conditions necessary to address recovery, rehabilitation, reconciliation and development in a sustainable manner remain deficient and require immediate attention. Specific needs such as psychosocial assistance, welfare and livelihood for the disabled, elderly, ex-combatants, and women are still left unattended.

Serious concerns are continually expressed by cross sections of society locally, within Sri Lanka and from abroad regarding our post war recovery and development. Lack of cohesiveness and diligence are the core complaints. The mounting frustrations from concerned professionals are resulting in offers to help address the situation. The challenges faced are diverse and complex and require unity of purpose.

Over the last six years, policies aimed at post war reconstruction focussed primarily on re-building infrastructure, enhancing connectivity to the market for consumer goods and vehicles and expanding credit. Despite impressive economic growth stemming from such development efforts, war inflicted poverty remains and livelihood interventions in traditional sectors have failed to take hold. A significant proportion of the population of the north and east is entrapped below the poverty line. They are hostage to unsupportive and weak systemic institutional arrangements, regulatory mechanisms, national policies, development projects and structural conditions.

The year 2015 has given us some hope to be able to address the war affected communities, particularly those who are living in dire poverty.  In order to do this there is a need to have the right knowledge at all levels of administration; be aware of issues; options and potential consequences and coalesce under one framework to find “a way forward”.  Local ownership and participatory post war recovery and development will be a significant catalyst for community restoration and peace building.

  1. Issues and challenges

Some of the key issues identified as requiring immediate attention include: -

Resettlement and reintegration

  1. Progress in the areas of resettlement lacks transparency, there is no base line or monitoring system to base a realistic assessment of progress.
  2. Economic opportunities are very limited, and livelihood programs which are only micro level activities and home based productions are touted as the panacea for all. They are often ad hoc interventions and too simplistic to be sustainable. There are almost no marketing strategies for the mainly home based production.
  3. Vulnerable people becoming exposed to greater exploitation due to poverty, become severely debt burdened for which little or no supportive mechanisms are available.
  4. The most vulnerable categories remain the female headed households or families with disabled members. There is highly inadequate safety net for orphaned and special needs children and those from single parent households.
  5. Institutional arrangements required to enable and support new returnees from, other parts of Sri Lanka including Muslims, returnees from India and overseas are seriously lacking (It is important to note that the increase in population will increase the critical mass required for economic advancement and must be encouraged and assisted).
  6. Resettlement Authority is being dismantled, its replacement and provision of new arrangements have not been spelt out clearly. The Resettlement Ministry which has been doing a marginal role and has been functioning without even a declared policy framework on resettlement. If an alternate arrangement to address resettlement and reintegration of communities with appropriate local representation is not taken soon, this could be seen as another example of the national decision making model being insensitive to local realities.

Welfare and appropriate resettlement of the war affected must be a key focus area that is as high priority as seeking transitional justice.

Impact of Psychological, Psychosocial issues

Despite identification of the urgent need to address the effects of psychological and psychosocial issues very few concrete psychosocial actions have been taken to address this key post war issue.

Local experts, determine that due to the length and the extent of devastation of war, every single person has suffered a psychological and psychosocial impact to some extent and in a significant number, the effect is profound. As evidenced in any war affected community, symptoms of such impact would include negative, entrenched and introverted social reactions. Redressing such impact should be a pre-condition for effective post war recovery and if unaddressed there are possibilities of delayed manifestations of social disorders.

Post war development experience so far

The main area of post war development was observed in infrastructure development. While it cannot be denied that a good road network and constant energy supply is a must for a reconstruction process, it cannot stop there. It has also been noted that there was an inequity in the distribution of this development, much of what was undertaken had no or very low linkages to local socio economic benefits and was often not in the local interest.

Critics of the post war development experience so far have highlighted the following key issues: -

  • The rapid growth of financial institutions, their inappropriate financing modalities and the growth of wholesale and retail trading organisations have encouraged consumerism resulting in significantly high debt levels of households.
  • Inadequate initiatives to start up value added enterprises using local resources. This includes the elements of design, storage, processing, efficient production technologies and marketing.
  • Livelihood programs are failing due to inadequate marketing, supply chains and systems.
  • There are inadequate economic opportunities to generate decent work.
  • There is inadequate attempt to create enabling community level support initiatives, legal, institutional, financial modalities.

There are no ongoing key result indicators or monitoring mechanisms that would serve to record progress or act as an early warning system.

Haphazard or ad-hoc actions

The local perception of ongoing development activities and the current mode of operation is one of fragmented and ad hoc “fixing” response rather as part of a cohesive and comprehensive plan. There is no clear leadership or sense of direction and a widespread preoccupation with issue level activism during this critical time.

For positive reconstruction of lives and communities to become a reality, local feeling is that major reorientation and change management at both the local and institutional levels, particularly in political and public institutions is required. And national level political support and commitment is required to create this conducive platform for change.

National Centralized controls

There is no doubt that local ownership of the recovery and development process will be a significant peace enabler. To facilitate this, the prevailing institutional structures that are part of the cause of the original conflict must be addressed.

In this respect the following impediments must be removed to ensure an effective transition to a conflict free society.

  • Institutions, structures and culture controlled at the national level are continuing to have influence at the local level, and as a consequence local level planning, development and operational efforts of the provinces are impacted by multiple forces.
  • Long delays, lack of action, adverse and often contradictory effects caused by multiplicity of actors, with overlapping and blurred responsibilities, operating in the central and provincial level administrations- Ministries, Authorities, District Secretariats, Provincial Administrations, other Public Officers, MPs, Governors and the Civil Defence and Security Forces.
  • International agreements, economic policies, national economic development priorities are centrally controlled, made in isolation and done not in collaboration with the provincial and local authorities to address the need for effective recovery of the war affected areas.
  • Access to international agencies to articulate needs and seek knowledge and skill inputs are currently curtailed through intermediaries, approval processes and policies.
  • Absence of an appropriate mechanism with required independence and authority together with a diligent and thorough understanding of the elements required to independently manage recovery and development and proactively manage friction and potential conflicts during transition for effective recovery.

Critical issues

  • Identify possible challenges during redesigning, reallocating planning and execution powers to support recovery and local ownership.
  • Identify the elements of the existing policy framework and ethnic parochialism, together with political and bureaucratic monopoly at the central level that would cause significant local level impediments and frustrations.
  • Identify local capacity constraints at the provincial level, lack of appropriate institutional structures and restrictive bureaucratic policy framework which result in dealings with unequal partners (in political, administrative, legal, economy and environment) at all levels.
  • Clarify the role, functions, authority and composition of the district coordination committee (DCC) as a planning and control system.
  • Review the outdated, inefficient and complex bureaucratic policy framework that is unable to support profound and substantial change management

Reasons for the dysfunctional institutions

Some of the possible reasons for the current state of dysfunctional institutions include

  • Symptoms of years of victimhood and post traumatic experiences have not been addressed and there are widespread sings of intrapersonal conflict resulting in interpersonal and group conflicts.
  • Impacts are exasperated by having to refill the governance leadership space vacated after nearly three decades and in an environment unsupported by mature democratic and stable institutions.
  • In an emerging post war environment that is a long way from a post conflict environment, time and efforts required for reorientation in a planned manner has not been comprehended and addressed.
  • Due to the nature of the transitioning environment, initiatives at all levels appear to be tentative and lacks certainty.
  • Depleted skill levels and the need to catch up on technological advancement.
  • Transitioning challenge are addressed using outdated organisational and institutional structures and policy framework.

All of the above combine to cause serious internal conflicts that manifest as mounting resentments from within and persistent tribalism, blame, finger pointing, complain, gullible, untrusting, fear, defensive outlook and hopelessness.

Community values and cohesiveness has broken down

It is accepted that the situation at each district in the North and East is unique and commonalities and differences exist. There is no “one size fits all” formula applicable here. However, it has also been observed that there is no trustworthy forum for the individual communities to express their local infrastructure and other needs and, as a result community restoration is not taking place.  A system of institutionalised welfare dependency is perpetuated by default.

This is accentuated by the absence of access to individual rights and justice systems and institutions. Social and community trust and cohesion, a historical hallmark of the communities of the North and East, is rapidly failing.  There is widespread Illiteracy, vulnerability, dependency, tribalism and inequality. All of which serve to prevent positive change and recovery.


Apart from the District Economic Coordinating Committees (DCC) seeking list of projects for their purview, there are no institutional structures that attempt to evaluate and gain an overview to enhance effective reconstruction and development. As a result, it is observed that the Socio economic development of the war affected areas is on a steep declining trajectory. But using the improved political context, it is vital that an appropriate development model is put in place to arrest the rapid and intensifying decline.

  1. Key considerations for effective recovery

Capacity development needs

Lack of capacities in any post war environment is a well-recognised phenomenon. Such post war challenges have been accommodated in post war development models of the World Bank and UN agencies. There is an urgent requirement for a rapid needs assessment of human resources skills and other capacities and an accelerated capacity building action plan for strong resilient community restoration.

Capacity of the locals to absorb recovery efforts and understand its direct linkage to their socio economic advancement is critical in designing initiatives for recovery. It is expected that such a planned approach will also result in local level capacity enhancement.

Restoration and empowerment of communities

There is a desperate need for a bottom up approach that will review the rural productive infrastructure, develop a restoration plan, empower communities to enhance sustainability.

Achieving the right balance between economic growth Vs socio economic advancement and economic justice is key. Introduction of a simple and effective complaint mechanism, weeding out of welfare whilst introducing sound safety net for the vulnerable, improve rights, access to law and institutions at community level are key to accelerate community restoration. This will lead to improved resilience and ensure sustainable recovery and development.

Economic priorities decided to address National economic challenges need to have appropriate consideration to the unique and specific needs of post war recovery. A mechanism must be developed for a well-informed local representation and input from the war affected communities developed in a participatory way to be incorporated in to the national plans.

During this period of increasing trade liberalisation empowerment of community groups will help convert opportunities to their full potential.

Consolidate and recover

The major impact of the final war (2006 to 2009 and the subsequent development policies until 2015) is markedly different to that of the previous wars. This final war went on to significantly damage the community fabric by destroying local institutions and family values which severely impacted on self-rejuvenating- resilience mechanism of the population. Even though such overt and deliberate actions have ceased, the consequential trend has not been arrested as there were no attempt to articulate local needs and begin to address reversal.

There is a well-founded fear in the local community that in general, development efforts and initiatives (however well meant they may be), have the potential to cause more harm to the war affected and to reinforce the process of marginalization of the past.

The current political environment has enabled space and a concerted and united effort must be taken to convert this opportunity for the betterment of all in this country. Community restoration and right based constitutional solution are not mutually exclusive course of actions. The need of the hour is to find a middle ground to balance between the campaign for political aspirations and building community resilience while the discourse for a political solution is in progress.

Due to the aforesaid reasons, freedom to own the recovery process is fundamentally important. In this transitioning environment it is important to ensure widely accepted policy leadership and a credible framework to avoid the victor’s peace agenda to continue unchecked and by default. Whereby, vested interest groups at local, provincial, national and geo-political levels can cause greater harm than good. There is a desperate need to have a credible and actionable recovery and development policy framework and plan that is also compatible with the national development agenda.

In order to assist speedy recovery there is an urgent need for concerned and informed locals to engage and interact with the international community including UN, INGOS and multilateral donors to solicit specialised state of the art expertise and knowledge. All stakeholders must understand that it is critical for those directly affected and as the potential beneficiaries of any action are able to articulate their needs directly to redress and recover.

The inability to exert economic policy influence at the national level, lack of a cohesive and shared vision and a transition plan at the local level are important challenges to address. An enabling police and land powers, ability to address environmental controls and control over resources and use of language are also other key challenges that require addressing.

National administrative laws and policies were developed over many years to respond to the needs of its times. A large and profound transformation of this magnitude require policy and law reforms at the national and local levels that enable effective transformation and avoid conflicts and frustrations. Ability to review, refine or change impeding policies and laws need to be an integral part of transformation.

The steady decline and accelerating challenges require immediate consolidation of a baseline to work on building an economic future.

  1. Social aspirations, portrayal of a future and elements for Vision

In planning for an outcome it is important to describe and establish the form of that outcome. There are challenges in deciding social aspirations and vision and in articulating, as trying to seek an insight into aspirations will pose vague, imprecise answers and a tendency to force a view on others.

The hard question of “preserving Identity” carries the burden of defining what that identity is, if we could sustain it and who decides what is the make-up of this identity. Hence, a post war recovery and development framework must not comprise the potential for the choice of what our identity is and who makes.

As a safe position for the purpose of developing a recovery and development framework the following propositions are presented for discussion

Do we want to be recognised as a

“Progressive Community”, “A community of Global Citizens” whilst preserving our culture or “a community that has the freedom at all levels for upward socio economic advancement”.

This is obviously a people’s choice. However, can we be all? and the answer is perhaps yes.

Elements for Vision

The following list of elements are choices to be used to plan socio-economic advancement and has the potential to serve as a catalyst for peace building.

People of the North and East maintaining excellent relationship and harmony with all communities within Sri Lanka and overseas with people feeling free to reassert their identity, no person or group discriminated on the grounds of religion, race, caste, national or regional origin, age or gender, language, sexual preference, nonviolent cohesive vibrant democracy with the sense of social belonging

·         Empowered communities with potential for upward mobilisation based on their skills, variety of options for education, diverse and futuristic skill base with commitment and hard work.

·         Improved law and order efficient dispensation of justice, highly respected and meritocratic pubic administration and system, a society that leaves no room for bribery or corruption, planned and preventive environmental protection, effective

local policing system and control over land, natural resources, marine and offshore resources and the power to regulate access.

·         Socioeconomic indicators of progress are acclaimed, far improved household income, improved physical and mental health, choice of recreation and increased leisure time, active and engaged senior citizens, improving quality of life

  1. Recovery and Development Framework

Need for a framework approach

A well planned and widely agreed framework will increase the chance of protecting the community from unintended consequences and also offers opportunity to accelerate recovery and development in a secure manner.

Why do we need a framework?

  • To help navigation through the highly complex challenges
  • Substantial multi sector multi-dimensional transition not be possible without a framework
  • A framework will assist in the creation of a holistic and comprehensive plan that directly addresses the unique post war recovery and development challenges
  • To avoid causing frustrations leading to a dysfunctional society
  • To retain ownership and responsibility for development
  • Opportunity to benefit from extensive post war development lessons learnt
  • Ability to base recovery and development on a stable platform
  • Opportunity for human capacity development
  • Improve on the potential to gain hope and target creating positive peace
  • Ability to manage complexities that will continue to emerging during a transitioning environment

Features of a framework must include elements to

  • Take the people through the journey in a participatory way
  • Address the associated support structures, systems and process simultaneously
  • Directly advances millennium development goal indicators
  • Take advantage of global technological development in finding solutions
  • Engage seek input and resources from all well-wishers in a planned and productive manner
  • Relook and address institutional needs such as public sector and associated by laws
  • Provide a wider view and convey an economic vision of the people to the private sector
  • Enable a phased approach to suit the stages of economic development with district and province specific plan to maximize potential for social advancement

To guard against

  • Vulnerable groups being exposed
  • Increase in unemployment and poverty
  • Widening income gap
  • Social disorder and conflict manifesting in new forms
  • Productive energies being blunted
  • Companies that may act to take unfair advantage
  • National economic priorities dominating over post war recovery socio economic needs
  • Adverse impacts of national / international trade policy commitments and agreements made
  • Structural tensions caused by national intermediaries for donor interactions
  • Inappropriate investment and interventions

Considerations for a recovery and development framework

Developing a recovery and development framework to “get back on our feet and catch up on the lost decades” need to focus on actionable narrow scope that is critical to rapidly register progress.

Quality and effectiveness of the recovery framework will be enhanced with a long term vision and a view of the kind of economy appropriate for each of the provinces to serve as a backdrop to ensure all efforts are aligned and reap long term reward.

Other key aspects of the framework include

  • People policy statement
  • Process for annual updates and validation
  • Emphasis on evidence/fact based analysis
  • Mechanism for annual policy reviews

All the above will serve to minimise misaligned course of actions that could cause community frustration and resentments when needed to be changed mid-way.

An analysis of environment, constraints, opportunities, threats and aspirations will help develop an economic vision.

  • A sector specific high level strategic view together with a high level infrastructure requirement needs to be an integral part of this economic vision for the provinces. Whilst such views will evolve over a period and considering the purpose, this must be done in a timely manner to serve as the backdrop to develop a short to medium term recovery and development framework.
  • A high level time phased targets, measurement criteria, monitoring and reporting system will then need to track the progress on an ongoing basis for corrective actions. Such rolling plan presided over by high level key stakeholders will become important to manage the recovery and development in a fluid and transitioning environment.
  • A value based vision and strategies reflecting the aspirations of the people of the provinces would assist in the journey to work towards achieving the objectives, strategies, enable articulation to national and international stakeholders a cohesive plan and its rationale.
  • It is critical to develop processes to engage at national political and bureaucratic levels and gain ability to table alternate point of views in a positive and productive manner.

Once the recovery and development framework is finalized actionable scope and programs that is critical to register progress must be set in motion to focus and deal with critical issues such as: -

  • Addressing post war psychological and psychosocial impacts
  • Community restoration and empowerment
  • Human capacity development and
  • Address governance challenges

Sustainable lively hood will be at the core of community restoration and must be addressed promptly and the following actions will help in the process.

  • Secure skilled personnel to commence first tier recovery process and rapidly enhance the use of digital and other technologies to find solutions.
  • Institute enabling support structures such as improved access to resources, supply chain systems and marketing, introducing appropriate financing systems, reinvigorating producer organizations co-ops and community based supply chain solutions.
  • Allocate clearly defined responsibilities and rewards for achieving key targets as a part of implementation.

The challenges faced in progressing this ambitious agenda can only be carried out by co-opting as many partners as possible, linking in to various institutions and processes and collaborating with partners who are already engaged in recovery, development and peace building. Such partners will include the Central Government, Provincial Councils, Other Civil Society Organisations, Development Partners, other stakeholders and the ONUR.

The approach canvassed in this initiative will result in an indigenous view and perspective expressed as a Framework for Recovery and Development of the War affected provinces.

This positive approach will complement initiatives that are being taken elsewhere and serve as an input that will enable proactive engagement to achieve local expectations.

  1. Where to from here “A Way Forward”

Diverse input and a shared recovery framework could serve to send a timely positive signal of hope and prosperity to all key stakeholders. If this process is followed and demonstrable quick gains achieved, would inspire people, create a positive momentum, raise hope and confidence.

A wider consultation process to enlist participation and consolidate a shared view is in progress. To this end IRDG will provide the back office support, initiatives and momentum and enlist cross section of people such as local administrators, academics, political leaders, non-state actors, general community and diaspora.

Naga Narendran

Naga Narendran ACMA, CPA, CGMA A Management Consultant with over 40 years of experience in Finance and large scale Business Project Management gained mainly in Australia and has served in senior executive positions in top tear corporations including IBM.

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