Does Sri Lanka have public policies? | Daily News

Does Sri Lanka have public policies?


The answer to the question maybe off course, it does. I also certainly believe we do. why is so much spent primarily on consultancies writing policies which do not refer to what existed previously? As an example in a project over 5 years with a budget equivalent to 5Mn$ a sum of 2.735Mn$ has been the direct cost of the Consultants on a policy set in place by Cabinet in 1990 (not on internal displacement). Public officials enter service with degrees and a majority possess post graduate qualifications from thereon. It follows public policy and formulation should be eminently possible by them. We though continue to treat many with disdain and thereby undervalue their true worth. The piece today makes the link between past and proposed on internal displacement.

National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict Affected Displacement

As the title indicates a policy was discussed addressing conflict affected displaced.

The draft refers to the 2010 "Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report", findings of the September 2008 "National Consultation on the Status of Internally Displaced Persons (due to conflict) within the framework for Durable Solutions;" the Draft bill on protection of IDPs (2008 August, Human Rights Commission of SL) and the MOR's Draft Resettlement Policy (2013).

When does displacement end?

When does displacement end? In other words when should the internally displaced no longer be regarded as such. Knowing when internal displacement ends is also important to determining when national as well as international responsibility, attention and resources should shift from a specific focus on the needs and vulnerabilities of IDPs to a holistic, community-wide approach of rehabilitant and development of society as a whole.

Three possible approaches to the question- a) cause-based (whether the cause that compelled flight had changed); b) needs-focused (whether IDPs still had needs emanating from their displacement); and c) solutions-based (whether the displaced had returned, integrated locally, or settled in another part of the country). The specific needs and vulnerabilities created by displacement should be addressed so that solutions are effective and durable. It must be recognised however that cause-based criteria will often be a key factor in determining the end of displacement.

Development of Policy Framework in Sri Lanka

The Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Social Welfare had in 1993 a set of Resettlement Guidelines for resettlement which emphasized "....resettlement should not be understood only as moving the displaced population to their original places of residence. It is a process of moving the displaced populations to their original places of residence, creating a congenial environment to live without fear and providing the necessary social and economic infrastructure for the resettlers to recommence their normal lives with confidence."

In July 1999, the Government initiated the Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation (RRR) Framework process to address these challenges. It recommended the "adoption the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement as official policy for assisting internally displaced persons affected by the conflict and commit the concerned ministries to bringing their policies and programmes into alignment with these principles." On the legal front, it is recommended that the competent authorities: Review the legal framework of laws relevant to the displaced using the Guiding Principles as the analytical instrument; Develop a "National durable solutions policy" for the displaced to ensure a comprehensive and consistent approach to the resettlement of the displaced in their areas of origin or in other areas,Support the Human Rights Commission in its effort to provide enhanced protection and assistance to the displaced using the Guiding Principles to set the standards.

After three years of internal consultations and international encouragement following the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, in 2011, the Government of Sri Lanka adopted a five-year National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights. A whole section of the Plan is dedicated to the rights of IDPs and includes the goal of developing a "broad national policy on displacement which takes into account all forms of displacement (conflict, natural disasters, economic development, etc.) drawing from the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement Framework with specific attention to vulnerable groups;" the protection of IDPs' right to vote; access to legal documentation and justice; the promotion of safe return, notably through landmine clearance; the promotion and protection of IDPs' rights to land and housing; access to clean water and sanitation in a gender-sensitive manner and with due consideration of vulnerability, including disability; the enhancement of psychosocial support for displaced persons and communities, including host families; the promotion of adequate livelihood options for IDPs, including through training and education; protection for especially vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the disabled; and the prevention of displacement due to natural disasters.

In 2013, the Government developed a Framework for a Resettlement Policy addressing conflict-induced displacement. The draft policy has important objectives, including the improvement of livelihoods and the restoration of land ownership and other lost documents. It mentions consultation with IDPs in project planning and implementation, and includes national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as partners. The Special Rapporteur on Internal Displacement, while recognizing the importance of the draft policy, noted that it falls significantly short of both the goals of the National Action Plan and of the comprehensive 2008 draft IDP bill since it focused on the initial phases of conflict-induced displacement, and did not encompass displacement caused by natural disasters and development projects, and is not consistent with international terminology on the three durable solutions.

At the time of the Special Rapporteur's visit, he was concerned that no time frame for the revision and adoption of the draft policy had been provided. During that process, he called for the draft policy to be based on the recommendations of the LLRC, the National Action Plan, and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons (2010).

Designated Institutional Focal Point on IDPs

The country does not have a specific law on IDP's. However, policy initiatives have consistently addressed the needs of IDP's including safeguards for protection. The Resettlement Authority Act No. 9 legislated by Parliament in March 2007 vests authority to formulate a national policy, plan, implement, monitor and coordinate the resettlement of internally displaced and refugees. The Act amongst its unique features has a sunset clause to dissolve the Authority with a time set to accomplish its task and requires of it, amongst others, to forge a better understanding between the internally displaced persons and host communities ; facilitate the restoration of basic human rights including cultural rights to empower internally displaced persons ; receive representations on the needs of the displaced and to make representations regarding the same to agencies mandated to find solutions; mobilize the displaced to initiate and implement partnerships for the recovery and development in accordance with individual or community needs; promote livelihood activities among displaced persons and refugees; provide reasonable access to information on policies, resources and progress on activity earmarked for their recovery and facilitate dialogue with concerned intervening agencies; and to ensure a conducive physical environment for resettlement, by clearing land mines and debris and repairing damaged infrastructure.


The phenomenon of displacement in Sri Lanka commenced before the Guiding Principles on Displacement was developed and concludes with many of the best practices recommended becoming part of government policy.

Any policy on Displacement must in the words of the UN Special Rapporteur on Internal Displacement focus not only conflict-induced displacement, but also those caused by natural disasters and development. It must also look at the definition of when Displacement ends described earlier. Legislative Authority to form this policy vests with the the Resettlement Authority. It is also vital the policy links with Development. The 2013 Policy makes detailed pronouncements on entitlements, a pre requisite for beneficiaries to claim rights.

My comments are based on learning from the Brookings Institute IDP project for over a decade. The examples cited show in detail the status quo derived from 1993 until now in Sri Lanka. I refrain from critiquing the new policy draft discussed this week. The authors and key functionaries of the Ministry of Resettlement may draw inferences if needed. 


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