Media Center / Address by UN Resident Coordinator: Donor Conference on the Comprehensive Policy Framework and Formulation of the Resettlement Action Plan

Address by UN Resident Coordinator: Donor Conference on the Comprehensive Policy Framework and Formulation of the Resettlement Action Plan

Posted on: 11 / 06 / 2015

Address by UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Subinay Nandy
At the Donor Conference on the Comprehensive Policy Framework and Formulation of the Resettlement Action Plan
COLOMBO: 4 June, 2015

Honorable D.M Swaminathan, Minister of Resettlement, Reconstruction and Hindu Religious Affairs,

Honorable Governor of Eastern Province,

Honorable Governor of Northern Province,

Honorable Chief Minister of Eastern Province,

Excellencies High Commissioners and Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic Corp,

Representatives from the Government;

Representatives from development partners in Sri Lanka – donors, International and National NGOs, Civil Society Groups and Red Cross Movement,

Representatives from the Humanitarian Country Team and UN colleagues,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the UN Country Team and the Humanitarian Country Team, I am honored to address you today on the occasion of this important consultation with development partners for the formulation of a Comprehensive Policy Framework and a Resettlement Action Plan for Sri Lanka.

I take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Resettlement, Reconstruction and Hindu Religious Affairs for their leadership in working towards securing durable solutions for all internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka.

I would also like to note the positive efforts being taken by the new Government to engage and embrace international norms and principles to address the issues of internally displaced persons, with full regard to rights of the displaced.


2015 has been a very important year for Sri Lanka marking significant transformation in policy landscape after the January Presidential Elections and this change is very visible in the approach toward finding resolution to long standing issues of displacement and deprivation.

As part of the One Hundred Day Programme, the government has laid the groundwork for national reconciliation by taking immediate actions, upon taking up office, to address some of the core grievances of minorities and internally displaced persons. The release of land occupied by the military is a key initiative in this regard, enabling families currently living in welfare camps or with host families to return to their original land. We are encouraged by the Minister’s commitment in his speech today that work will continue to release more land – currently under different forms of occupations – to legitimate owners.

As many here today will be aware, the Secretary-General in his dialogue with President Sirisena, expressed his commitment to support Sri Lanka’s peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts. The UN is thus engaging comprehensively with the Government, by providing technical assistance and financial support to advance reconciliation and build sustainable peace.

In particular, we are working with our counterparts – coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – and finalizing an initiative for support from the UN Peacebuilding Fund. The Peacebuilding Fund will support Sri Lanka, initially with $3 million, to establish and operationalize processes for building peace through reconciliation and accountability by addressing the critical core grievances of minorities in an inclusive and consultative manner.

In particular, with the support of the Fund, the UN is looking at supporting the Government in four areas:

  • First, technical support to establish an inclusive and credible mechanism to address human rights violations and accountability and provide redress to victims and conflict affected groups, including families of the missing, in line with international standards. This component will be led by OHCHR.
  • Second, to initiate inclusive, broad-based mechanisms for inter-ethnic trust building, reconciliation and social cohesionworking with the recently established Office for National Unity and Reconciliation. This component will be implemented by UNDP with technical advice from the Reconciliation and Development Adviser based at the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office
  • Third, to provide technical support to the Northern Provincial administration to better plan and undertake development programs, generate revenue and reach out to communities, for consultation and feedback. This component is to be implemented by UNDP
  • And finally, to implement quick impact resettlement initiatives strategically targeting conflict affected and vulnerable internally displaced persons in the North and the East. This early implementation component will be done by UNHCR and UNICEF.

On this final point, support for resettlement of internally displaced persons, the UN will partner with the Ministry of Resettlement providing catalytic support to the return processes in Jaffna and Trincomalee, through a $1.2 million project. The project will include provision of transitional shelter and protection of newly resettled households, alongside basic services like securing permanent drinking water sources for vulnerable households and schools, creating household level toilet facilities, mobile clinics and mine risk education.Assistance will be targeted towards the most vulnerable, including female headed households, and will be delivered inclusively and consultatively, to ensure the resettlement process is sustainable. We hope to be able to initiate this project later in June.

Whilst speaking of IDP resettlement, let me also note that the UN family is encouraged and carefully following the developments regarding the announced solutions for landless IDPs from two locations, Poonthoddam and Sithanparapuram in Vavuniya. Landless families are an especially vulnerable group, for whom finding durable solutions can be extremely complex. However, thanks to the commitment of the Government and the support of the private sector, we understand that durable solution for 115 families (or 351 persons) displaced since the early 1990s, is finally in sight.

Joint Needs Assessment

While there are clear humanitarian needs associated with internally displaced persons, there are also residual needs amongst the returnee community that we must not forget.

Indeed, the recently published Joint Needs Assessment (or JNA) provides a detailed account of these, and since we have not had a separate formal launch for the final report, I would also like to take this opportunity to say just a few words about the process and some of the key findings.

The JNA was a process that began initially in 2013, and was an intensive exercise, led by a steering committee comprising of senior representatives from Government and the Humanitarian Country Team.

The Assessment itself was conducted during 2014, with both returnee families and internally displaced families awaiting solutions. It was a sample survey of over 6,000 households, covering all districts in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. However, it is important to note that the survey was constrained by the lack of agreement on the total number of internally displaced persons. We hope that the work on Future strategy will entail durable solution framework and embrace international accepted norms and criteria to define displacement and IDPs. This will help resolve the ongoing debate about the veracity of IDP data.

In terms of the process, it reflected strong collaboration at the working level, with colleagues from government including provincial authorities and local government bodies, the UN and NGOs working side by side, but it required significant negotiations at the national level. On behalf of the Joint Steering Committee and the Humanitarian Country Team, let me take the opportunity to thank everyone involved for their hard work.

I would also like to especially thank the bilateral partners – Japan, Norway and South Korea – who not only supported the process financially, but also provided strong advocacy support to ensure the process stayed on track.

Looking at the JNA findings, perhaps the clearest priority that stands out is the need to provide greater opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. From the returnee families interviewed for example, over 60 percent reported a monthly income of less than LKR 10,000 (equivalent to about $2.50 a day), and in some Districts the percentage was closer to 80 percent.

Addressing this issue will require a multi-pronged approach that not only looks at providing jobs in new sectors such as IT and tourism, but that also reaches out to the more traditional sectors. Agriculture, for example, employs about one third of the returnee population, and with the application of new technologies coupled with a strong understanding of the local context, has room for significant improvements in terms of productivity and marketing.

Key vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, elderly people and single parent families also cited provision of livelihood support as their top priority during the survey, and no doubt warrant very specialized attention.

Closely linked to the issue of livelihoods is food security and nutrition. While overall the JNA found food consumption to be at an acceptable level, 46 percent of families admitted to having used coping strategies at some time to access food, usually through borrowing food itself or money, or limiting food intake of adults.

These are just some of the highlights, but the report itself includes an analysis of multiple sectors including shelter, water and sanitation, education and health amongst others.

Indeed, I am confident that the recommendations of the Joint Needs Assessment will assist the Government, development partners and the donor community to better target and prioritize their programs for the Northern, Eastern and the North Central Provinces. Overall, as we see programmes shifting from having a strong humanitarian focus, to being more linked to longer term development priorities, the JNA will help us to ensure sustained attention to the residual needs and a continual eye on the promotion of durable solutions for all.

For ease of reference, the findings and recommendations from the JNA have been captured in an infographic that is available in your folders.

Going Forward

Returning to the focus of today’s event, the preparation of a Comprehensive Policy Framework and Formulation of the Resettlement Action Plan. This is an initiative that the UN fully supports.

Indeed, we would like to especially thank HE Ambassador of Norway and HE High Commissioner of Australia for extending generous support from their respective governments to enable the UN to deploy a technical expert to support the Ministry of Resettlement in developing the Policy and Action Plan.

While we encourage a fully nationally led policy development process, we very much hope that the additional capacity, alongside ongoing technical support from the UN and other development partners, will be of value in supporting the Ministry to map out a process that on one hand is both consultative and robust and on the other hand fully embraces international norms and standards.

It will be important for example to ensure that space is created at each stage in the process for consultation with a range of stakeholders, specifically the internally displaced persons themselves, local government officials, and civil society organizations.

A key first step in designing the policy itself will be to establish criteria for the definition of an internally displaced person, in accordance with international standards.

The Policy and Action Plan will then need to accommodate the full array of multi-dimensional issues that impact upon durable solutions. Typically, when asked about the obstacles that they face, internally displaced persons for example, speak about challenges in accessing their own land and property; housing needs; the continued influence of the military in civilian spheres of life; and difficulties in achieving full reintegration as a result of lack of services, livelihood opportunities, and documentation issues.

For women in particular, and especially female headed households, security is the prime concern, often linked to the high prevalence of sexual and gender based violence. Many families also suffer from psychological trauma, often linked to a lack of closure on cases of missing or disappeared persons.

As the UN, we stand ready to support the Government in understanding the nature and scale of these issues, and together looking at joint and innovative solutions. We would also encourage the adoption of a coordinated approach by all development partners to maximise aid effectiveness.

I will conclude here, by thanking the Government of Sri Lanka and development partners for their continued commitment towards resettlement.

We in the UN are encouraged as we continue working closely with the Government of Sri Lanka, and see the consultation today as an important step in part of a longstanding partnership to ensure durable and lasting solutions for all internally displaced persons.

Thank you all for your kind attention.

*NOTE: This is the final version of the Address delivered by Mr. Nandy and has been edited on the 10th of June 2015 to incorporate a correction in use of terminology.