|Saturday, 10 May 2003|
Peace, development and fundamentals : as key source and resource
by Susil Sirivardana
I intend dealing with three fundamentals regarding "peace and development: The Road To Tokyo". They are:
First, revisiting the ethics and values of the peace process
Second, the need for a political than a technocratic approach
And third, innovation as a fundamental premise of the road to be travelled. Revisiting ethics and values: I wish to recall some first principles and ground rules of this whole engagement with peace-building, I believe that civil society is particularly privileged to grasp them concretely.
Given the nature and the complexity of the task. I assume that all of us are agreed on the need for a paradigm shift. In other words, there must be a basic shift of mindsets between the pre-ceasefire and the post-ceasefire phases. The old scepticisms and distrusts must give way to new empathies and mutualities. This is what that oft-repeated cliche about partnership and trust is all about. And most importantly this has to be at a high level. It cannot be at the lowest level of accommodation. Hence a great deal of hard work is called for.
The paradigm shift challenge behoves us to raise the sights of both parties. Two simultaneous processes of challenging are critical to this effort. One is self-challenging. The other is challenging conventional wisdom. Self-challenging is an essential part of our own preparation for the task. We have baggage to get rid of ourselves.
The other is to see beyond conventional limits which have been fetters in the past. The raised sights demand honesty, boldness, large-mindedness, political commitment and justice. They will define new standards and criteria. They will generate new premises. Issues that appeared to be unthinkable and unacceptable will now be perceived to be doable and even desirable. Many existing conventional models and practices will become irrelevant and inadequate. The paradigm shift perspectives have to be relentlessly and convincingly communicated to the country at large.
Equally important is the view that North and South represent sharply different realities. They can no longer be equated as was done in the past. They are characterised more by their differences than their similarities. The issues, the problems, the time-perceptions and psychologies vary immensely. They are in no way comparable. I have the feeling that many of us are unclear on this.
The South represents a case of anomie and disarray arising out of normalcy. The North is a post-conflict disaster and emergency, a rising from the ashes. Everyone dealing with the two entities should understand this as a first principle. When it comes to governance of the North there is an important implication arising out of this premise.
That is the need for dual structures and dual authorities. Of course, structures will be subject to multi-level monitoring and checks and balances. Accountability and transparency is a common cross-cutting principle.
This brings us to another fundamental value and ethic. That concerns the role of people, the common people and all strata of the conflict-affected poor. They are the first priority, they are the heart and core of the process. They are the prime civil society constituency demanding urgent attention. They are in fact engaged in a key nation-building task as they are potential agents in building the new plural Sri Lankan state and a new civil society.
Parallel and complementary is the need for a reoriented Support System. Reoriented in terms of possessing the required sensitivity and values to empathise with the suffering people. Gender and family dynamics are important. They must be capable of taking challenging and unconventional decisions consistent with the values of equity and justice.
They need to have a vested interest in creativity and learning. Therefore bureaucratism and technocratism are irrelevant and harmful to this environment. To the extent that the Support System incorporates these new norms, they will be trusted and accepted. Such people can be found and also trained. This is a realistic premise to work from.
The upshot of such an ethical and value-based approach will be a "momentum of peace". This is different from the momentum of peace quoted often. This momentum must directly flow out of the practice of values and ethics and not from aid and rhetoric. I am not saying that aid is unnecessary. It is that there is a prior dynamic in the sequencing.
Trust, empathy, human engagement and partnerships are powerful forces which are capable of producing a new "development value added", a new "development creative surplus". This is the authentic momentum of peace.
A political than a technocratic approach: The Tokyo Conference is rightly called a "milestone" in linking peace and development. But how exactly does one fulfil this milestone feature and make it reality? By using a political rather than a technocratic approach. This requires both the Government and the LTTE to concretely and jointly demonstrate their maximum political commitment to the interlinked peace and development process.
This can be most convincingly demonstrated by capturing in words and visuals (video) the achievement on the ground of sixteen months of dialogue and cooperative working. In other words, Tokyo will be witness to that development value added and development creative surplus that we mentioned above. Such an approach could ensure fulfilment of the milestone feature. But that does not seem possible now. The LTTE's withdrawal "for the time being" from talks seriously impugns the partnership. But setbacks can be turned into blessings if we use it as a strategic opening for decisive self-analysis and self-appraisal.
For a political approach to be authentic it must be founded on an adequate appreciation of the reality. In this particular case, the reality is extremely complex, convoluted and mystified. The conflict started from before Independence and due to the lack of perspicacity and rigour, it has never been understood in its real perspective. The understanding of the historical contradictions and errors have been insufficient.
A political approach also means rooting it in the people. Their primacy as agents and owners of peace and development must be visible on the ground. The space must be expanded for them to occupy the centre. We must continually go to them communicate with them share and answer their concerns and doubts and build up a compact of trust and credibility. This is where the December 2001 mandate matters. The fund of goodwill is immense. How do you sustain it and secure it from the spoilers? There is a ready guideline available. To make the whole dialogue highly participatory. A technocratic approach cannot do that. Almost by definition it functions at a remove from the people and is too mechanistic.
In this regard, I must say that we have missed an opportunity. The centrepiece document for Tokyo should have been an Immediate Term Performance Report faithfully reflecting the situation on the ground in the affected area in relation to actual performance and non-performance with the reasons for same.
The report would have attempted to record factually the achievements of micro communities at village level in terms of what people have done on their own, what people have done with Support System assistance and where nothing has been done because of mines or other impediments.
This could have been done by all concerned working continuously to evolve data bases and geographical information systems which would have been highly functional when needs assessment needed to be done. It would have been an accurate "ground situation map" with annotated notes and analyses. It would have been truthful and hence capable of speaking for itself, It would have recorded the inputs of all actors - of the people, the Government, the NGOs, the LTTE and everyone else working in the affected area. It would leave nothing out. Let us not forget 300,000 Internally Displaced People have already resettled. Thousands of other categories have begun rebuilding their lives. A potentially grand drama has been struggling to mount the stage.
The affected people have demonstrated capacities to cope with an almost inhuman situation. They have through their sufferings and resilience developed certain innate capacities. This point must be recognised. Hence the need is to build on strengthen and deepen these capacities they already have.
Let us not forget another important dimension, namely, Reconciliation. These unseen and unheard of initiatives of affected people are also the first potential manifestations of reconciliation. Rehabilitation and Reconciliation in this perspective are inseparably linked for one flows organically out of the other.
Reconciliation to be authentic demands that it be founded on Truth. This is an issue of raising the sights. The truth is not immediately evident. Conventional wisdom conceals a lot of what we would not like to be known. The truth must be impartially and rigorously probed in such a way that people are enabled to own up the mistakes made in the past. It's matter of conscience not guilt.
Equally these seemingly insignificant actions are also potentially the first fruits of growth. They are invaluable economic and non-economic increments.
This concept of an Immediate Term Performance Report is quite different from the Needs Assessment which has been done for Tokyo. The Needs Assessment would have come out of the first and would have been complementary.
Innovation as fundamental premise: Innovation is a key ingredient of the whole peace process. It is particularly so when it comes to designing institutions and programmes. All what has been emphasised in the first two points suggest that the challenge of innovation demands the practice of inclusivity, equity, creativity and imagination. Business as usual and bureaucratic and technocratic routines will not get us far in this search. Whatever positive developments there have been in the process - and there have been many - has been due to this practice of innovation. Let us be aware that we are dealing from within a Failed State. Its outputs and products are highly suspect in the eyes of the LTTE and its critics.
In this respect we have a body of solid past experience to turn to. There is a memory and a body of written documentation of the successful practice of participatory development both in the North and the South. The practice of rigorous social mobilisation, self-reliance, self-management, saving mobilisation, labour intensive metrologies, new gender relationships, new forms of assertion by the urban and plantation poor have been practiced and in some cases sustained to date over a significant canvas.
The State itself can speak of many such programmes like the Janasaviya Programme, The Million Houses Programme, the Roads Week Programme, the Change Agent Programme, and Participatory Water Management, etc. They have several valid lessons to offer us today. For example, total simultaneous coverage of every micro community and hamlet, the poor deciding-doing-and-managing their own operational process with the state playing the role of active supporter and facilitator, the practise of rigorous social mobilisation and conscientisation underpinning the whole effort, formation of (mainly) women-led small-groups and savings and all this implemented within a fully decentralised and devolved (to household and community levels) framework. Much of this can rightful claim to be highly cost-effective and affordable with an admirable level of value-added.
As development practice and theory goes, these past programmes contradistinguish themselves from today's Triple RRR's and Poverty Reduction strategy's thinking and conceptualisation. In the best of these programmes, we saw the State joining the development process of the people instead of inviting the people to join processes of the State which is the conventional practice. This is where Participatory Development and Delivery-oriented Top Down Development part ways. They clearly signify different paradigms. What is sad and unacceptable is a failure on our part to learn and draw inspiration from this memory and practice. Especially where in the minds of the people the memory is fresh.
I find that the Poverty Reduction Strategy or PRS is more a macro economic shopping list of proposals rather than a carefully analysed and evolved poverty reduction national strategy.
While 'Regaining Sri Lanka' is useful as a statement setting new directions to the international community, it leaves out many unaddressed areas. Hence it is not a document that will be friendly to the local communities. It is silent on the role of the poor and the less port. They demand separate programmatic treatment. The PRS also does not adequately focus on them. After The Report of the Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation (1992), we know how strategic this third sector is in national development.
The Report argued that it is capable of adding around 2 percentage points to national growth. The reform of the public administration though alluded to is not strategised. Today the collapse of public administration is on everyone's lips. We have been talking of this for the last two decades. We have all the thinking and analysis necessary in the ten slim reports of the Administrative Reforms Committee of the 80s.
Here lies another strategic area - capacity. The capacity to use donor money efficiently is a major national concern, which should earn the highest priority. Local government is also ignored in the document. This after the sound analysis and recommendations of the Presidential Commission of 1999. As was stated earlier many of us accept the concept of a Failed State. The reconfigursation of the State is a key agenda item in the peace negotiations. Equally so are the visions of the new civil society and the socially responsible market.
We have a considerable body of homegrown thinking on these burning issues. But they are not within the covers of Rebuilding Sri Lanka. Perhaps we should think of a second improved draft. The point is to do justice to ourselves.
(Text of a presentation made at workshop on "Peace & Development: The Road to Tokyo" held by the Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Berghof Foundation on 26th April 2003).
Three-day peace program by CPA in Jaffna
Following are details of a peace program to be conducted in Jaffna by the Centre for Performing Arts, on May 14, 15 and 16.
Day 1: Arts Festival
The Arts Festival, the first event of its kind to take place in Jaffna represents a bold, path-breaking move for CPA in its work for peace through creative arts. The festival will be comprised diverse groups of Sinhalese artistes from the South to present a cultural program that will encompass the rich traditions and changing state of Sinhalese culture.
Artistes will include, among others, members of the Sarachandra Drama Group, Somalatha Subasinghe's "Playhouse". Theatre and Jerome de Silva's "Workshop Players". The program will expose the audience to a wide miscellany of contemporary themes through which issues of particular social relevance to the Sinhala community as well as issues which transcend ethnicity and religion are explored to both heighten awareness among communities and to underline the many unifying elements which we inevitably share as human beings and as one family.
* To promote and to heighten awareness and understanding of Sinhalese culture in an area where there is little if any knowledge of these forms or of Sinhalese people.
* To create understanding of the "other" * To foster reconciliation
The purpose of such expositions of tradition, cultural forms and ideas is to enliven respect for the other's culture, forms of expression and ideas so that they may relate to this "other" in a context outside of these prescribed notions. This is in keeping with CPA's overall long-term objective of fostering a lasting peace through the creative arts.
The festival will include the performance of a number of traditional Sinhala folk plays, as well as modern Sinhala drama and children's drama and traditional Sinhalese dance forms. These items will showcase the talent, viewpoints and feelings of Sinhala artistes to an audience who has had little exposure to these traditions and has little understanding of how similar their feelings, if not their experiences, are. Through performances, these notions will be easily, readily accessible and thought provoking.
They will go a long way in propagating the message of peace and the act of reconciliation - the ultimate objective of this project and of all of CPA's activities.
During the festival, Sinhalese performers from the South will interact with members of the community in Jaffna. As such, both will be informed by each - other regarding culture, values and beliefs not only overtly through performances but indirectly, through the interactions which take place over this time.
While a Tamil audience will gain understanding of Sinhala forms, Sinhala artists will gain invaluable insights into the lives of Tamil people living in areas which have been devastated by the war. By being exposed to war-torn areas, artistes will themselves become aware of the plight of the "other". This awareness will travel back with them from their time in Jaffna and be conveyed to their families, peers and communities, thus expanding the pronunciation of the message of understanding and of peace.
Day 2: Peace Camp
The Peace Camp will involve 1,000 children, representing each of CPA's 15 districts as well as 30 teachers and 20 resource staff. This Peace Camp will be the largest undertaken by CPA, providing the opportunity for a greatly increased number of children to have access not only to the positive psychosocial and developmental impact of this project but to the strong message of reconciliation and harmony that CPA posits through the Peace Camp activities.
Through this increased number of direct beneficiaries CPA's objectives will also be given voice in a larger context, indirectly, as children convey their positive experiences and the development of new relationships with the "other" to their families, peers and their community, therefore breaking down deeply ingrained misconceptions and addressing the lack of inter-cultural, inter-religious awareness among a significant constituency.
* To inculcate human and humane values
* To identify and foster literary and artistic talents of youth and children
* To promote peace, harmony, understanding and reconciliation
* To create inter-cultural awareness
* To build cultural bridges amongst various communities
* To create social consciousness
* To help children who are victims of stress and trauma
* To create zones of peace with and for children
The Peace Camp will include workshops on drama, art and matters relating to the peace process, games, sport, a talent contest, sharing of experiences both formally and informally through discussion, cultural performances, learning of traditional cultural forms and a campfire, at which children are free to sing, dance and express their opinions in an informal and enabling environment.
These items and events are selected and organised in order to make the participants cheerful and content, give them opportunity to discover their talents, state their own opinions and make decisions on matters affecting their lives, respect and accept the opinions and feelings of others, empathise with others and relate themselves to others. Another unique feature of the Peace Camp will be that it will be held on the highly significant Vesak Day. Children will take part in a perahera, a key symbol of the Vesak.
Day 3: CPA congress
The CPA congress will be a forum at which staff, trainers and the youth who will steer the Centre for Performing Arts and its message of reconciliation and peace into the future can express and share their views, ideas, experiences and strategies is the subject of this proposal. Such an undertaking will address the need for such a gathering at which all of its members can meet, express views and have access and contribute to the planning process.
The Congress will be the first of its kind to be held by CPA. One thousand CPA members, co-ordinators, trainers and staff will take part in the event, which will incorporate presentations, field visits, photographic and book exhibitions, sharing of experiences and ideas, meeting with other cultural groups as well as evaluation and planning sessions.
* To initiate the first meeting of all adult CPA members islandwide
* To further solidify the means by which CPA will continue in its work to foster reconciliation and build peace within Sri Lanka
* To develop the ideas and feedback of both trainers, co-ordinators and CPA members into overall strategies for the future
* To identify ways through which CPA can draw on expertise gained by overseas centres and apply this knowledge to individual centres and the organisation as a whole.
Produced by Lake House