Sri Lankans are eager to move beyond the good governance rhetoric that ushered in the historic coalition government in 2015 and are now focused on concrete challenges like rising prices, growing unemployment, and weakening momentum in national reconciliation. Ongoing sporadic ethnic clashes highlight the fragility of the hard-won peace dividends. The Foundation’s portfolio includes strengthening subnational governance to advance local democracy; enabling access to justice and community security; facilitating post-trauma psychosocial support; supporting localized inter-ethnic peacebuilding efforts; and creating opportunities for ethnic groups to strengthen economic linkages.
Educating communities to press for vital resource management
The lush Kelani River is the main source of drinking water for over four million people in greater Colombo. It is also Sri Lanka’s most polluted river. The Asia Foundation and local partner the Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) have been educating communities to press for better stewardship of the river on which they depend. In 2017, EFL extensively mapped the most polluted 40 km of the river and produced a comprehensive guidebook identifying 150 pollution sources, primarily from industry. Sixty-three volunteers from 15 community-based organizations received training to monitor water quality and identify pollution sources. In partnership with other experts, the project has begun to enable communities to engage with polluters and bring their findings to the government’s Central Environment Authority to spur investigations of illegal discharges and make much needed changes.
NEWS FROM SRI LANKA
Addressing Voters’ Priorities
Sri Lanka’s economic growth has accelerated since the end of the war, but investment, and employment are still concentrated around the country’s capital Colombo. Sri Lankan government, private sector, and civil society all acknowledge the need for lagging regions to catch up if future conflict is to be avoided. Although the end of the conflict ushered in opportunities for reviving economic growth, peace may be threatened if economic disparities are not addressed. To help these regions evolve as robust economic centers and identify and promote new business ideas at the local level, we facilitated a more participatory mechanism for citizen input on budget allocations to support these new projects. We then piloted an Online Budget Management tool that helped local governments prioritize the citizens’ priorities, and as a result, nine local governments were able to jumpstart practical revenue-generating projects citizens really wanted, including a large supermarket complex in Jaffna and a Pilgrim Resting Center in Katargama for travelers to the sacred city.
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