Sri Lanka

National policy on durable solutions for conflict-affected displacement

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The search for durable solutions for internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugee returnees and displacement-affected populations resulting from Sri Lanka’s 30 year civil conflict is both a human rights imperative and a critical step towards national reconciliation and peace consolidation. This policy acknowledges the adverse impact of the war on all communities in Sri Lanka and accordingly affirms the need to respond to all IDPs and displacement-affected populations in a manner that is non-discriminatory (e.g., on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, caste, gender or age), fair, just and equitable. To this end, the policy provides a rights-based set of principles and standards to guide all stakeholders working with IDPs and displacementaffected populations, in accordance with Sri Lankan law and policy and international law and humanitarian standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

Well over a million Sri Lankans were displaced by the war, both internally and externally to other countries. A majority of those displaced have returned to their places of origin or relocated in other areas of Sri Lanka. While most have received some assistance to return, relocate or locally integrate, many still await the assistance and protection to which they are entitled. Uprooted from their homes and deprived of the normal protection of community services and structures, those still displaced continue to require assistance to address their vulnerabilities, and to remedy and repair the damage and loss inflicted by long-standing, and in many cases multiple and protracted, displacement. Even among populations who have returned, there are those who have not found a durable solution and continue to be vulnerable as a result of their displacement.

The policy recognizes that the provision of durable solutions to displacement, whether this is return to places of origin, local integration, or relocation in other areas of the country, is central to addressing the rights of IDPs and displacement-affected populations. The provision of durable solutions is also inextricably linked with the wider political task of healing the wounds of war and forging a strong sense of unity within a diverse polity. The policy takes a conflict-sensitive approach, paying due regard to the perspectives of the various groups of displaced communities, as well as communities hosting IDPs, to ensure that assistance is designed and implemented in a manner that resolves rather than exacerbates tensions, strengthens peace and promotes justice, unity and reconciliation.

The rights of IDPs must be respected, protected and fulfilled while they remain in displacement, and at all stages of their search for durable solutions. More than six years after the war, it is time for urgent and comprehensive solutions that leave no one behind. The new Government has since 2015 made its intention clear that the displacement relating to the war needs to be urgently addressed and durable solutions found for IDPs, returning refugees and those who have chosen settlement options but are still struggling to find durable solutions.

The development of this policy has been based on wide-ranging consultations with key stakeholders, both in the war-affected areas and the centre, consultations that began in June 2015 and culminated with a presentation to, and endorsement by, the National Steering Committee (NSC) on resettlement in Colombo on 21March 2016. This involved, inter alia:

  • two consultations with IDPs, refugee returnees, and other displacement-affected persons in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces;
  • meetings with district- and provincial-level officials;
  • consultations with civil society actors working in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and at the national level;
  • bilateral meetings with line ministries;
  • consultations with an Advisory Group of individuals with expertise on key displacement issues such as resettlement, humanitarian assistance, protection, land, gender, child protection, transitional justice and reconciliation; and
  • regular consultations and/or briefings with UN agencies, other humanitarian actors, and representatives of the diplomatic and donor communities.

In addition, the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement, and Hindu Religious Affairs (MoR) published drafts of the policy on its website and invited comments from the public.

The draft also drew upon earlier efforts to address the displacement issue including the 2011Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report which recognised the importance of finding durable solutions for IDPs in the medium and long term and noted that, absent this, “a sustainable and all-inclusive reconciliation process cannot be achieved.” It incorporated the findings of the September 2008 National Consultation on the Status of Internally Displaced Persons (due to conflict) within the framework for Durable Solutions; the Draft bill on Protection of IDPs (2008 August, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka) and the MoR’s Draft Resettlement Policy (2013).

While the Government has taken measures, including drawing up this policy, with a view to rapidly ending the war-related displacement, this policy notes that for specific populations the struggle to achieve durable solutions, particularly in securing adequate shelter, employment, safety, security, and equal access to essential services, may take longer and will require targeted assistance. A listing of the most critical problems to be addressed if durable solutions for all are to be achieved is set out in Section VII below.

A meaningful and effective implementation of the policy will positively impact on the lives of IDPs and those affected by displacement. By adopting this policy the Government commits to taking all the necessary measures to end displacement including the commitment of adequate monetary and human resources for this task. It also commits to ensuring coordination within the State, and between all levels of government, and affirms its commitment to work with its partners in civil society, the private sector and the international community, to find durable solutions for all remaining conflict-displaced populations.