The Counsellor for Development Cooperation of the Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka, Ms Victoria Coakley, visited IRDG Kilinochchi office on the 27th March 2018. Ms Coakley was accompanied by Ms Dulani Sirisena Program Manager and Sivasuthan Ramanathan Senior Program Officer.
This was the first visit to the Northern Province by Counsellor Coakley, who took her appointment only a few weeks ago. The meeting gave IRDG the opportunity to introduce their views of the ground realities, development strategies, project models and outline the list of its projects and progress.
Representatives from the University of Jaffna (UoJ) also participated and outlined details of their MOU with IRDG. This MOU will engage all 10 faculties of the UoJ in community outreach and assist IRDG with its rural sustainable livelihood initiatives.
Prof Atputharajah (Dean of the Engineering Faculty), Prof Mrs Mikunthan (Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture) and Dr Sooriyakumar (Dept of Agriculture Economics) represented the University of Jaffna.
The Regional Manager of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Mr Sivatheepan also attended this meeting to express the support provided to IRDG and similar civil society organisations, to engage and assist the development initiatives of the government and the provincial council.
Naga Narendran thanked Ms Coakley and the program team of the Australian High Commission for their visit and also recognised the contribution the Government and the people of Australia have made to Sri Lanka's development and peace.
Param Paramanathan Consultant IRDG, outlined the details of the Organic Model Farm Project being initiated by IRDGs Center for Agribusiness Development and its potential to contribute to reduce adverse impact of use of chemicals on soil, water and health of the people in the province.
Naga acknowledged that Australia has provided over $250 million in aid to the Sri Lanka's North and East since 2009.
In 2017-18, Total Australian ODA Estimate is $27.7 million, which includes an estimated $19.9 million in bilateral funding managed by DFAT.
Sri Lanka has experienced strong economic growth for more than a decade. Sri Lanka has reduced its rate of extreme poverty from 28.8 per cent of the population in 1995 to 6.7 per cent in 2013. However, poverty and economic marginalisation remain in many rural areas particularly in districts directly affected by the civil conflict that ended in 2009. As the Sri Lankan economy continues to grow, opportunities for greater two-way trade and investment will increase.
Australia is transitioning its program toward an economic partnership approach, with the aim of maximising the number of Sri Lankans who benefit from economic growth.
At the end of the visit of the AHC development team, a discussion on the current state of the province and the requirements and avenues for development took place among the university representatives, Mr Sivatheepan and the IRDG team.
IRDGs approach of private sector based development was recognised as a good model that could significantly contribute to the provincial and country's development, but this development model needs to be mindful of the general lack of appetite for private sector among the people of the Northern Province. There is a definite need for IRDG to be cognisant of such issues, which may pose more challenges in the implementation phase of its projects.