Social Cohesion and Reconciliation

Social Cohesion and Reconciliation

IOM’s approach to social cohesion and reconciliation in Sri Lanka advances the implementation of the Peacebuilding Priority Plan, which supports the efforts of the Government’s broader actions in promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. It also supports three major undertakings of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL): 1) Sri Lanka’s implementation of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution which GoSL subscribed to in September 2015; 2) Sri Lanka’s National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict-Affected Displacement approved by Cabinet in 2016, and; 3) GoSL’s overall National Policy on Reconciliation introduced in 2017.  IOM’s work on social cohesion and reconciliation aims to contribute to building a Sri Lankan society which works towards the well-being of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust, and offers its members the opportunity of upward social mobility. Civil society’s engagement is an integral feature of IOM’s work in this space. There is currently a window of opportunity for traditional and newly emerging civil society actors, including the media, to contribute to peace processes by addressing ethnic divides and public opinion through education and awareness-raising programs, cross-ethnic dialogue, advocacy work, informal diplomacy, and reconstruction and development. IOM will work alongside the civil society to increase their ability to participate in the reconciliation process through enhanced dialogue and capacity building.  The undertaking by IOM of organizing an international conference on reparations in Colombo in March 2018 brought together a number of actors representing conflict-affected communities, civil society activists, development partners, donors, the diplomatic community, local and international NGOs, the UN, international experts  and the GoSL, further illustrating both IOM’s commitment and capacity to lead and support work in this area.

Technical Assistance on Reparations

Building upon IOM’s technical assistance to the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) and other relevant line Ministries for the establishment of a credible, feasible and inclusive reparation mechanism, IOM will support the Government in the operationalization of the Reparations Office, soon after the passing of the reparations legislation in Parliament, by provision of technical advice in addressing a number of related issues which are relevant for the feasibility and efficiency of the reparations programme. These technical areas include, but are not limited to: a) How to organize a reparations process for a massive number of claims; b) How to inform potential beneficiaries about their eligibility and the process itself; c) How to organize the intake and registration of claims and ensure these are processed within a reasonable timeframe, and; d) What type of resources are needed to be in place at the various levels. Technical advice on the establishment of the Reparations Office will be complemented by related capacity building and training for members and officials of the Office, following due appointment/recruitment processes. IOM will further support the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) in developing a referral mechanism with the Office of Reparations as mandated by the OMP legislation to ensure there are clear standard operating procedures in place. 

Symbolic reparations such as apologies, memorials, and commemorations can be just as beneficial, healing, and meaningful as material reparations, if implemented in a conflict-sensitive and context-specific manner. To complement IOM’s work on supporting the establishment of an administrative reparations programme, IOM will work with its local partners and civil society organizations (CSOs) to conduct a mapping of existing events and spaces created for memorialization in the island as the basis for the Reparations Office to draw from and align with, in designing its symbolic reparations framework, to the extend this will be pursued by the GoSL.

Following IOM’s support to SCRM for the convening of a technical workshop on land and property restitution targeting key Government interlocutors, IOM will continue to facilitate, as requested by the Government, dialogue around the following aspects of a possible land and property restitution program: a) Conceptual and practical links between land and property restitution/compensation, transitional justice and durable solutions for displaced populations; b) International standards and best practice; c) Legal framework and institutional models; d) Mechanisms and processes; e) Restitution models such as restitution, compensation, alternative land allocation, hybrid models, innovative solutions, and; f) Resources, outreach, public relations and managing expectations.

Strengthening Independent Commissions

Recognizing the need to improve the reporting and data analysis capacity of the National Police Commission (NPC) and streamline the communication between the NPC, Police and other relevant stakeholders, IOM, alongside the implementation of a Public Complaint Management System, will seek to further support two other units of the NPC: 1) Establishment and Disciplinary Division (EDD) which is responsible, amongst other duties, for disciplinary controls, and;  2) Policy, Legal and Appeals Division (PLAD), responsible for policy formulation, implementation and coordination pertaining to issues relevant to public/police relations, dispute settlement between the State and the police personnel, and the liaison with international agencies through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. IOM’s extended support to the NPC envisages the introduction of automated information systems to strengthen service delivery and further boost public confidence in the NPC.

Referral and Support for Marginalized Groups

IOM plans to profile and screen former combatants and their families based on IOM’s current database and additional information available with the Ministry of Resettlement to determine their eligibility for related support programs. Following the screening and selection of beneficiaries based on clearly established vulnerability criteria, IOM will develop a three-pronged approach to reintegration by offering the following pathways and options: 1) market driven job based skills development through career guidance and trainings; 2) job placements and self-employment through referrals to private sector and business counselling, and; 3) livelihood assistance through cash or in-kind support.

Worst affected by the conflict, women are also heavily committed to seek avenues to prevent the recurrence of violence. With a view to enabling women to play a leading role in peace building and reconciliation processes, IOM will foster mutual understanding, trust and socio-economic ties through sustained dialogue on peace-building and conflict transformation, and economic exchange programs for women entrepreneurs by facilitating north-south business networking and the promotion of ‘markets for peace’ as a powerful symbol of inter-ethnic business bonds.

As reconciliation mechanisms are designed and instituted by the GoSL, systems are to be in place for victims to access psychosocial support thereby enabling them not only to heal and recover from the trauma suffered but also to build their agency to participate in the transitional justice process. IOM is in the process of developing a Victim Case Management Protocol as a mechanism to facilitate seamless, victim-friendly and confidential referral and support mechanisms for all victims in need of psychosocial support in a timely manner. IOM will introduce non-clinical trauma awareness and psychosocial support and referral for conflict-associated groups through the mobilization of community-based structures and mechanisms with a view to contribute to community healing efforts as well as to the prevention of reoccurring conflict violence and extremism, thereby enhancing community resilience to ongoing and future stressors.

Representing about a third of the total population of Sri Lanka, youth are one of the most affected groups in post-conflict Sri Lanka, struggling with issues such as a lack of employment and their exclusion from reconciliation and social integration processes and their exposure to polarization and extreme ideologies. IOM will seek to enable the active participation of youth in social, economic and political processes by promoting equal access to employment and civic engagement opportunities through a series of mutually reinforcing activities which include multi-ethnic career guidance programs, North-South job driven vocational training, conflict transformation and peace building workshops for youth leaders and the facilitation of youth reconciliation forums, and reconciliation through sports events and tournaments.