After three decades of war, Sri Lanka is on a path to reaping the benefits of peace. It has now been almost five years after the end of the armed conflict with Tamil separatists and Sri Lanka's leaders and citizens are confronting the daunting challenge of recovering lost economic ground, bridging regional disparities, and healing social divides. The Asia Foundation is committed to helping Sri Lanka achieve long-term peace and prosperity by strenghtening institutions of governance and improving the environment for economic growth, security, and justice. Foundation programs seek to improve the regulatory environment for broad-based economic growth and development; to advance local democracy and access to justice; to help communities and individuals recorver from trauma and violence; and to promote citizens' participation in the decisions that affect their communities. Read country overview, descriptions of key projects to improve local governance, community mediation, and psycho-social services, and a book on the Foundation's history in Sri Lanka.
CRITICAL ISSUE: ACCESS TO JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Much remains to be done to heal the deep psychological wounds from Sri Lanka's long, brutal civil war, and we are committed to helping the county achieve long term peace and prosperity by strengthening institutions of governance and improving economic growth, security, and justice. Five years after the end of the war, Sri Lankans are still confronting the daunting challenge of recovery. In the conflict-affected North and East, we support healing of the psychological scars of survivors of violence by improving the quality of service and clinical capacity of mental health psychosocial support providers. Our staff also continues to work with government agencies to provide a sustained response to people in need. Our local partners, active in either district, are respected for their clinical services, which offer counseling, medial care, physiotherapy, and relaxation techniques. Many of the psychosocial works and volunteers are themselves coming to terms with overwhelming loss, but are motivated to support their communities as they consider this work to be a public service. A counselor in Jaffna recently told us, "This has brought changes to my life. It has made me listen to others and their views; I respect other perspectives now."
A tested program makes justice more accessible in the North and East
Asia Foundation support extends the community mediation boards
Restoring workable avenues for citizens to resolve personal conflicts and seek redress is badly needed in the Northern and Eastern Provinces where the justice system was impaired as a result of the armed conflict. Disputes between individuals, if not addressed and effectively resolved, can simmer and escalate into wider conflict that further divides communities.
With assistance from the Foundation, Sri Lanka's Ministry of Justice extended its community mediation boards program for the first time to the North and re-activated boards in the East where the war had interrupted this important service. Sri Lanka's mediation boards were initiated in 1990 as an alternative form of dispute resolution, providing accessible, timely and affordable justice by settling disputes between individuals, families, and small groups. However, boards had never been established in some areas of the North and many boards had become inactive in the East due to the war. Today, 13 boards are active in Jaffna District and 39 boards in Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and Ampara Districts with over 600 mediators trained on interest-based mediation to serve communities in these areas. Mediators are drawn from their communities and serve voluntarily. Both parties to a dispute have to agree on the settlement before a case is considered resolved. The Foundation is currently supporting the Ministry of Justice to increase the number of women mediators and establish new boards in Vavuniya, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Mulaitivu Districts.
Read an overview of the Sri Lanka Community Mediation Boards project.