The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation
Addressing the Critical Issues Facing Asia - 60 Years
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Sri Lanka

In any endeavor to rebuild a nation, a society's safety, emotional well-being and ability to prosper is critical. In Sri Lanka, we are improving the enabling environment for local economic growth, strengthening the compact between state and society, building trust between citizens and their government, reducing conflict at the local level, and healing survivors of a quarter-century of civil war. 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.


Police and residents now coming together to prevent and solve crimes

Sri Lanka is seeing concrete signs that one of its deepest societal wounds, the relationship between the police and the community, is improving. During the war, residents, particularly in the North and East, were often treated as threats by police; and interaction between the public and the police was tense and tended to happen at police stations or vehicle checkpoints. But throughout this island nation there is a gradual shift from a "securitized" form of policing to a community-oriented one; we are a partner in this pathbreaking progress. Last year, our research revealed Sri Lankans want more engagement with the police, with an overwhelming 91 percent stating they want the police to work more closely with their community to address local safety issues. Using these findings as a departure, in 2012 we helped 27 police stations start regular community police forums—monthly meetings where residents, together with police, discuss safety, security, and ways to prevent and solve crimes. We launched these pioneering forums as pilots in 2010; now the police have introduced community policing practices in one in five police stations across the country. To strengthen the success of these forums, we supported the training of 379 police officers in community policing.

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.

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