Sri Lanka: Confidence Building "Policies and Practices"

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Sep 2 15:34:57 UTC 2008

Confidence Building "Policies and Practices"

Tue, 2008-09-02 06:33
By Dayani Panagoda - Director (Policy), Secretariat for Coordinating
the Peace Process


The Government of Sri Lanka in its great endeavor to eradicate
terrorism and ending a three decade old protracted conflict, has made
many policies and practices in order to build confidence among all
communities in Sri Lanka. However with the intense humanitarian
intervention by the present regime in its policy decision on
eradicating terrorism, the people of the conflict affected areas have
had to face many difficulties. The Ministry of Human Rights has taken
a step forward in establishing a steering committee on Confidence
Building and Stabilization Measures (CBSM) as a policy decision which
is fully supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) office in Colombo.

One of the objectives of this Committee is to prepare guiding
principles on CBSM and implement them at the grass root level. In
order to monitor and practice such principles the Ministry went ahead
with one more step in appointing Coordinators for 6 districts (Ampara,
Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna) and a National
Coordinator. The first ever training programmes on CBSM for those who
were appointed as the Coordinators together with the Disaster
Management Coordinators held at the Sri Lanka Foundation
Institutes(SLFI) on the 29th and 30th of August 2008.

At this training the emphasis had being given on the tools, mechanisms
and best practices on CBSM. The people at the grassroots have been
applying these measures but have never realized that those were the
policies of the government. Also it was obvious that there is a lack
of awareness on comparative cases in other parts of the world as best
practices and policies. With that note I thought of writing this paper
having two objectives in mind (i) to give due recognition to the work
on CBSMs and (ii) to provide the reader with a wider knowledge on this
area of work in Sri Lanka and abroad. In this paper cases quoted have
no preference merits, do not have a similar or identical situation to
Sri Lanka in terms of root causes thus would like the reader to read
this article with an open mind and policy based approach. In this
paper I am focusing on a few such imperative and realistic measures
the government has taken.


In multi-stage peace processes, parties often undertake actions that
encourage confidence in their intention to negotiate in good faith.
These actions, known as Confidence Building and Stabilization Measures
(CBSMs), may be unilateral, bilateral, or multilateral actions that
serve the purpose of reducing tensions between conflicting parties
before, during, or after actual conflict. Implementing CBSMs often
provides opportunities to advance a negotiated political solution to
the conflict by initially identifying and addressing points of
agreement and over time, developing a relationship of cooperation.
CBSMs can be used to address various points of impasse in conflict
situations, including minority and language rights, reconstruction
programs, and the resettlement of displaced persons.

Implementation of the Establishment of Multiple Official State Languages

States seeking to build confidence in an ongoing peace process often
address the issue of language rights for minority groups. States may
adopt and implement laws recognizing minority languages as official
state languages as part of a program to address minority grievances.
The implementation of these language laws varies from state to state
but typically addresses government administration, access to media and
communication, and the use of minority languages in the education

For Example in the year 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement for Macedonia,
the parties agreed to develop minority-language media outlets and
establish professional media training programs for minorities. The
Agreement also provided that Members of Parliament may address plenary
sessions and working bodies of the Assembly in any official language
of Macedonia and that all laws be published in all official languages
of Macedonia. The Agreement defines the official languages of
Macedonia as any language spoken by at least 20 percent of the
population. In another case in 1977, the Canadian Government adopted
the Charter of the French Language, which provided that French would
become the official language of the province of Quebec. Additionally,
the Charter provided that all .legislative bills shall be printed,
published, passed and assented to in French and in English, and the
statutes shall be printed and published in both languages. Also in
Kalmykia, a self-governing republic of the Russian Federation,
recognizing the significance of promoting the Kalmyk language to
younger generations, the government established the study of Kalmyk in
schools as part of the core curriculum with compulsory exams in Kalmyk
in the 9th and 11th grades. The government also provided teachers of
Kalmyk with a 30% bonus to their salary. Other implementation measures
included requiring all legal proceedings and record keeping in the
courts and with judicial authorities to be carried out in Kalmyk and
Russian, as well as the publication of newspapers and magazines and
the broadcast of TV and radio programs.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

There are a number of policy initiatives taken by the Government of
Sri Lanka and also have been looking into new areas of policy and
implementation. For example public records by state and regional
institutions shall be maintained in English, Sinhala, and Tamil. The
proposals presented to H.E. the President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 25
January 2008, by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC)
regarding the official languages provision of the Constitution shall
be approved and implemented as an immediate step. Regional and
provincial administrative business may be conducted in Sinhala or
Tamil, depending on the linguistic majority, provided that the
majority encompasses greater than 90 percent of the population so that
for example the Eastern Province can now take policy initiatives and
work in both languages and English as a link language. Alternatively,
both languages may be used. Both Sinhala and Tamil shall be the
languages of instruction in all primary and secondary schools. All
primary and secondary schools shall teach English and shall have
compulsory exams in English at the secondary education level.

Freedom of Religion

Multi-ethnic states commonly encounter conflicts regarding the
practice and proliferation of cultural beliefs and religious
principles. States seeking to ease tensions often begin by promoting
religious tolerance. States emerging from conflict often work to
create a supportive environment for different beliefs through adopting
and implementing new legislation, conducting community outreach, and
revising education curricula.

For example in Sudans Machakos Protocol recognizes that Sudan is a
multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and
multi-lingual country and confirm[s] that religion shall not be used
as a divisive factor. It further provides numerous ways in which
freedom of religion shall be protected in Sudan, including, barring
discrimination on the basis of religion allowing for personal and
family matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance to be
governed by the religion of those concerned and requiring that
eligibility for public office be based on citizenship, rather than
religion, beliefs, or customs. Additionally, the parties to the
Protocol agreed to .establish and maintain communications with
individuals and communities in matters of religion and belief and at
the national and international levels. In 2008, the OSCE Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) drafted a publication
entitled the Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and
Beliefs in Public Schools for the fifty-six OSCE participating states.
The publication serves as a guide for educators, legislators, and
teachers that .choose to promote the study of religion and belief in
schools, particularly as a tool to enhance religious freedom. The
publication aims to ensure that the teaching of different religions
takes place in a balanced manner providing guidance in preparing
curricula and standards for assuring fairness in the curricula.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

Sri Lanka is a multi religious society in which certain districts and
areas have specific majorities from each religion. Recent reports have
indicated a few incidents of disputes and conflicts based on religion.
The Government of Sri Lanka has reaffirmed its constitutional
guarantee of freedom of religion. In reaffirming its Constitutional
guarantee of freedom of religion, the government should adopt
guidelines that promote the fair and balanced teaching of religion in
schools. Recognizing the need to promote religious tolerance and
understanding at the grassroots level and establish a schedule of
annual meetings of diverse members of the community to discuss issues
and address potential problems pertaining to religion and/or religious
groups in the community. Citizens of Sri Lanka may practice the tenets
of any faith of their choosing without fear of persecution. Thus the
government should establish and maintain communication with
individuals and communities in matters of religion at both the
domestic and international levels.

Minority Rights

Minorities often receive minimal protections under state laws.
International human rights norms provide guidance for the protection
of minority rights. In order to increase broad-based support for
negotiations, states may create additional mechanisms or protections
that bring minority groups into the peace process. Some states provide
support for non-discrimination provisions. Other states create
consultation mechanisms during negotiations.

For example in 2006, the Government of Serbia emphasized the
significance of adequately training police to enforce the protection
of minority rights. After determining that the police needed to
improve their ties to the communities in which they were serving, the
government provided various trainings on policing diverse communities.
The Serbian Ministry of the Interior, in conjunction with the OSCE,
created a project on diversity and minorities which included
roundtables and trainings additionally, the government took steps to
implement ODIHR's Law Enforcement Officer Programme on Combating Hate
Crime. Following the adoption of new criminal codes meant to increase
protection for human rights in Kosovo, the Kosovar Government
established local crime prevention councils. The councils hold
meetings once a month to bring together religious leaders;
representatives of each community in the specified municipality; board
of education representatives; and representatives from the NATO Kosovo
Force, the Kosovo Police Service, and the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At the meetings the various
representatives identify security problems facing communities and
discuss potential solutions. The councils seek to build confidence
between the communities through continuous dialogue, while also
providing the Government with information regarding security issues.

In 1999, the Government of Hungary approved the Medium-Term Package of
Measures for improving the situation of Roma to address problems
facing Hungary's minority Roma population. The package focused on
reducing inequalities in the areas of education, culture, employment,
healthcare, and housing, as well as counteracting ongoing
discrimination. The Inter- Ministerial Committee for Roma Affairs
coordinates the implementation of the Package and reviews reports made
by the various ministries charged with implementing the Package.
Macedonia's Ohrid Framework Agreement provides that police services in
the state will reflect .the composition and distribution of the
population of Macedonia. To this end, the government hired police
officers from minority groups throughout Macedonia and established a
program whereby the minority officers would be deployed to regions
predominantly inhabited by their respective minority group.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

The government has recognized the need for an all inclusive policy in
the peace process, especially on legal, political and economic rights.
Therefore the government should reaffirm its commitment to providing
all citizens equal protection under the law without regard to gender,
race, religion or caste. In order to promote equal access for
minorities to social services provided by the government, the
government should establish programs to reduce existing inequalities
in the areas of education, employment, healthcare, and housing, as
well as to counteract ongoing prejudice. To promote the security of
minorities in Sri Lanka, the government should provide local police
forces with targeted trainings on combating hate crimes and policing
diverse communities whilst the language skills in the official
languages is mandatory.

Additionally, the government will make efforts to recruit minorities
into the police (for example a batch of 175 graduated on the 16th
February 2008 form the Kallady Police Training School in the Eastern
Province who were recruited within the Province) force and deploy such
minorities to regions predominantly inhabited by their ethnic and/or
religious community. Recognizing the need to promote tolerance and
integration of minorities into society at the grassroots level, the
government should establish a schedule of annual meetings of diverse
members of the community to discuss issues and address potential
problems minority groups face in the community.

Conflict and post-conflict states often face the issue of resettling
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees. IDPs and refugees
suffer from instability caused by loss of their homes and also
perpetuate an atmosphere of instability in parts of the country that
are not directly involved in the conflict. Therefore, the safe and
dignified return of IDPs and refugees is crucial for the affected
individuals, as well as for the promotion of stability throughout the

For example in negotiations between the Georgian and Abkhaz
representatives, the conflicting parties agreed to establish
mechanisms for the safe return of Georgian refugees and IDPs to parts
of Abkhazia. The parties established a Coordinating Council to assist
in the return of refugees and IDPs and a reporting mechanism to keep
the Coordinating Council informed of implementation efforts. In
Guatemala, a Technical Commission (CTEAR) prepared a strategy for
implementing the Agreement on Resettlement of the Population Groups
Uprooted by the Armed Conflict. CTEAR was composed of six individuals:
two representatives from the Guatemalan government, two
representatives from local grassroots groups representing displaced
persons, and two members of the international community (serving as
non-voting participants only).

Under the United Nations Development Programme, CTEAR agreed to
establish a trust fund, which by 1998 garnered eight million dollars
from international donors for projects in health, agriculture,
infrastructure, documentation and land acquisition. The Government of
the Philippines, in conjunction with the European Commission and the
United Nations Development Programme, established the GOP-UNDP
Programme on Rehabilitating Internally Displaced Persons and
Communities in Southern Philippines. The GOP-UNDP Programme provides
assistance to IDPs affected by the ongoing conflict in Mindanao and
has three components: (1) Relief Assistance and Confidence Building,
(2) Rehabilitation, and (3) Culture of Peace and Access to Justice.
The Relief Assistance and Confidence Building component focuses on
facilitating the return and resettlement of displaced families.

Through this component, the Programme provides IDPs with food
packages, non-food essentials, and health services. Prior to the
return of the displaced families, the Programme also conducts local
discussions on the rights of IDPs and consults with the local
government, the military, rebel groups and others in the community
regarding the creation of an appropriate strategy for resettlement.

Through the inclusion of the local community in the resettlement
process, the Programme aids in building trust amongst various groups,
which helps ensure the safe return of IDPs. The Rehabilitation
component focuses on providing the IDPs with structures and services
necessary to support their long term reintegration into the community.
Such structures and services include the establishment of various
workers associations and cooperatives, as well as the construction of
water and sanitation facilities, health clinics, and day care centers.

The final component of the Programme focuses on promoting a culture of
peace and access to justice. To this end, the Programme assists in
facilitating dialogue between former combatants, government
institutions, and various ethnic and religious groups. Additionally,
the programme works toward improving the local court systems through
capacity building for judges and legal practitioners in the areas of
IDPs and human rights.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

The government has adopted the policy of having a steadfast commitment
to the continuous resettlement of refugees and IDPs and the protection
of their rights as citizens. The newly created Ministry of
Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services (under H.E. the President
Mahinda Rajapaksa regime) is mandated with policy and implementation
in this regards. The government thus coordinates with both the local
and international community to establish the necessary mechanisms to
support the process of resettlement. Through this Ministry, the
government continues to provide the necessary humanitarian relief to
those resettled refugees and IDPs and will establish structures and
services to promote their long term reintegration into the community
together with international organisations such as UNHCR, WFP and other
Ministries such Ministry of Nation Building and Ministry of Disaster
Management and Human Rights. Such structures and services shall
include education, health care, irrigation and sanitation systems, and
access to courts.

Humanitarian Reconstruction Programs

Conflict and post-conflict states inevitably encounter the need for
reconstruction and stabilization efforts in war-affected regions.
States may begin reconstruction programs as soon as they are able in
order to increase confidence in the peace process. Such programs may
include the reconstruction of infrastructure, resumption of service
delivery, and rebuilding of institutional capacity. Additionally,
states may adopt economic policies to assist the conflict-affected
region in moving away from a conflict-based economy.

For example at the time of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, the province
of Aceh was under military control and closed off to humanitarian
assistance. The increased need for reconstruction assistance presented
an opportunity for the conflicting parties to resume peace talks. The
Indonesian government immediately reopened Aceh to humanitarian
assistance. In 2005, peace talks between the Indonesian government and
the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel group resulted in the signing of a
Memorandum of Understanding, providing for the disarmament of GAM, the
demilitarization of Aceh, and the establishment of limited
self-government in Aceh with Aceh receiving seventy percent of the
revenues from its natural resources.

In support of the peace process with the Mindanao Islamic Liberation
Front, the Government of the Philippines and the World Bank
established the Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development
Program (MTF-RDP). The MTF-RDP is an international multi-donor fund
created to assist in infrastructure and capacity-building projects
throughout the conflict-affected region of Mindanao. In Abkhazia, an
autonomous region located in Georgia, the United Nations Development
Programme sought to promote confidence-building between the state and
the region via the rehabilitation of telecommunications

This rehabilitation included the installation of telephone lines in
IDP settlements, the restoration of a damaged telephone cable system
and the improvement of TV transmission. Also in Abkhazia, the European
Commission established a program for the rehabilitation of the Inguri
Hydropower Plant. The plants rehabilitation was an important
confidence-building measure as it is located between the parties (the
Arch Dam in Georgia and the Station in Abkhazia) and its
rehabilitation required mutual cooperation.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

Recognizing the importance of humanitarian reconstruction efforts in
conflict-affected areas, the government has been committed to
establishing mechanisms to pursue urgent humanitarian reconstruction
activities. In the future these mechanisms may include the creation of
a redevelopment trust fund and/or the establishment of a task force
consisting of the affected parties to identify and implement
humanitarian reconstruction activities. The government should work
with the local and/or international community to establish projects
that adequately address the reconstruction of basic infrastructure in
conflict-affected areas. Such basic infrastructure includes, but is
not limited to, hospitals and medical facilities, schools,
telecommunications, water and sanitation facilities, and the
rebuilding of roads that are damaged.

De-mining Programs

States emerging from conflict often undertake programs to remove
landmines. Landmines can undermine reconstruction and the development
of sustainable livelihoods by inhibiting access to natural resources,
such as arable land and infrastructure. Additionally, landmines also
make it difficult for IDPs and refugees to safely resettle.

For example in 2007, the Government of the Philippines and the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front rebel group agreed to allow Swiss de-mining
experts to recover unexploded landmines in the Southern region of the
state. Both parties concluded that the unexploded mines posed a
serious threat to the safety of civilians in the affected areas. In
2002, the Government of Cyprus began a de-mining program of its
National Guard minefields located in the buffer zone between Greek and
Turkish Cypriot controlled areas. The Cypriot Government established
the program as a goodwill gesture and without the guarantee of
reciprocation on the part of Turkish Cypriots.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

The government adopted a policy to reinforce the humanitarian mine
action. The government through a combined committee on de-mining under
the Ministry of Nation Building supported by the Ministry of Defence
has established programs for the safe removal of landmines in the
affected areas throughout the state. The government is in partnership
with the independent organisations in these efforts and receives a
UNDP certificate before re-settling people in mine cleared areas. The
government utilizes the expertise of the international community in
establishing the above mentioned programs for the safe removal of
landmines in the affected areas throughout the state.


The government has taken significantly effective policy decisions and
measures thus far. Therefore the government must maintain its
commitment towards implementing the policy decisions and monitoring
the progress of implementation. The establishment of the CBSM Steering
committee and the appointment of the Coordinators is a timely decision
and it will prove to be extremely beneficial in building confidence at
grass root level across the country. Confidence building measures
being adopted across all ethnic communities will prove to have a
positive impact upon the eradication of terrorism and establishing a
sustainable peace in the post-conflict Sri Lanka.

(The Author would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Public
International Law and Policy Group for the research on comparative

- Asian Tribune -

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