Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2557

Confidence Building "Policies and Practices"

By Dayani Panagoda - Director (Policy), Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process

Introduction

The Government of Sri Lanka in its great endeavor to eradicate terrorism and ending a three decade old protracted conflict, has made many policies and practices in order to build confidence among all communities in Sri Lanka. However with the intense humanitarian intervention by the present regime in its policy decision on eradicating terrorism, the people of the conflict affected areas have had to face many difficulties. The Ministry of Human Rights has taken a step forward in establishing a steering committee on Confidence Building and Stabilization Measures (CBSM) as a policy decision which is fully supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Colombo.

One of the objectives of this Committee is to prepare guiding principles on CBSM and implement them at the grass root level. In order to monitor and practice such principles the Ministry went ahead with one more step in appointing Coordinators for 6 districts (Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna) and a National Coordinator. The first ever training programmes on CBSM for those who were appointed as the Coordinators together with the Disaster Management Coordinators held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institutes(SLFI) on the 29th and 30th of August 2008.

At this training the emphasis had being given on the tools, mechanisms and best practices on CBSM. The people at the grassroots have been applying these measures but have never realized that those were the policies of the government. Also it was obvious that there is a lack of awareness on comparative cases in other parts of the world as best practices and policies. With that note I thought of writing this paper having two objectives in mind (i) to give due recognition to the work on CBSMs and (ii) to provide the reader with a wider knowledge on this area of work in Sri Lanka and abroad. In this paper cases quoted have no preference merits, do not have a similar or identical situation to Sri Lanka in terms of root causes thus would like the reader to read this article with an open mind and policy based approach. In this paper I am focusing on a few such imperative and realistic measures the government has taken.

CBSMs

In multi-stage peace processes, parties often undertake actions that encourage confidence in their intention to negotiate in good faith. These actions, known as Confidence Building and Stabilization Measures (CBSMs), may be unilateral, bilateral, or multilateral actions that serve the purpose of reducing tensions between conflicting parties before, during, or after actual conflict. Implementing CBSMs often provides opportunities to advance a negotiated political solution to the conflict by initially identifying and addressing points of agreement and over time, developing a relationship of cooperation. CBSMs can be used to address various points of impasse in conflict situations, including minority and language rights, reconstruction programs, and the resettlement of displaced persons.

Implementation of the Establishment of Multiple Official State Languages

States seeking to build confidence in an ongoing peace process often address the issue of language rights for minority groups. States may adopt and implement laws recognizing minority languages as official state languages as part of a program to address minority grievances. The implementation of these language laws varies from state to state but typically addresses government administration, access to media and communication, and the use of minority languages in the education system.

For Example in the year 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement for Macedonia, the parties agreed to develop minority-language media outlets and establish professional media training programs for minorities. The Agreement also provided that Members of Parliament may address plenary sessions and working bodies of the Assembly in any official language of Macedonia and that all laws be published in all official languages of Macedonia. The Agreement defines the official languages of Macedonia as any language spoken by at least 20 percent of the population. In another case in 1977, the Canadian Government adopted the Charter of the French Language, which provided that French would become the official language of the province of Quebec. Additionally, the Charter provided that all .legislative bills shall be printed, published, passed and assented to in French and in English, and the statutes shall be printed and published in both languages. Also in Kalmykia, a self-governing republic of the Russian Federation, recognizing the significance of promoting the Kalmyk language to younger generations, the government established the study of Kalmyk in schools as part of the core curriculum with compulsory exams in Kalmyk in the 9th and 11th grades. The government also provided teachers of Kalmyk with a 30% bonus to their salary. Other implementation measures included requiring all legal proceedings and record keeping in the courts and with judicial authorities to be carried out in Kalmyk and Russian, as well as the publication of newspapers and magazines and the broadcast of TV and radio programs.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

There are a number of policy initiatives taken by the Government of Sri Lanka and also have been looking into new areas of policy and implementation. For example public records by state and regional institutions shall be maintained in English, Sinhala, and Tamil. The proposals presented to H.E. the President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 25 January 2008, by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) regarding the official languages provision of the Constitution shall be approved and implemented as an immediate step. Regional and provincial administrative business may be conducted in Sinhala or Tamil, depending on the linguistic majority, provided that the majority encompasses greater than 90 percent of the population so that for example the Eastern Province can now take policy initiatives and work in both languages and English as a link language. Alternatively, both languages may be used. Both Sinhala and Tamil shall be the languages of instruction in all primary and secondary schools. All primary and secondary schools shall teach English and shall have compulsory exams in English at the secondary education level.

Freedom of Religion

Multi-ethnic states commonly encounter conflicts regarding the practice and proliferation of cultural beliefs and religious principles. States seeking to ease tensions often begin by promoting religious tolerance. States emerging from conflict often work to create a supportive environment for different beliefs through adopting and implementing new legislation, conducting community outreach, and revising education curricula.

For example in Sudans Machakos Protocol recognizes that Sudan is a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual country and confirm[s] that religion shall not be used as a divisive factor. It further provides numerous ways in which freedom of religion shall be protected in Sudan, including, barring discrimination on the basis of religion allowing for personal and family matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance to be governed by the religion of those concerned and requiring that eligibility for public office be based on citizenship, rather than religion, beliefs, or customs. Additionally, the parties to the Protocol agreed to .establish and maintain communications with individuals and communities in matters of religion and belief and at the national and international levels. In 2008, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) drafted a publication entitled the Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools for the fifty-six OSCE participating states. The publication serves as a guide for educators, legislators, and teachers that .choose to promote the study of religion and belief in schools, particularly as a tool to enhance religious freedom. The publication aims to ensure that the teaching of different religions takes place in a balanced manner providing guidance in preparing curricula and standards for assuring fairness in the curricula.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

Sri Lanka is a multi religious society in which certain districts and areas have specific majorities from each religion. Recent reports have indicated a few incidents of disputes and conflicts based on religion. The Government of Sri Lanka has reaffirmed its constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. In reaffirming its Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, the government should adopt guidelines that promote the fair and balanced teaching of religion in schools. Recognizing the need to promote religious tolerance and understanding at the grassroots level and establish a schedule of annual meetings of diverse members of the community to discuss issues and address potential problems pertaining to religion and/or religious groups in the community. Citizens of Sri Lanka may practice the tenets of any faith of their choosing without fear of persecution. Thus the government should establish and maintain communication with individuals and communities in matters of religion at both the domestic and international levels.

Minority Rights

Minorities often receive minimal protections under state laws. International human rights norms provide guidance for the protection of minority rights. In order to increase broad-based support for negotiations, states may create additional mechanisms or protections that bring minority groups into the peace process. Some states provide support for non-discrimination provisions. Other states create consultation mechanisms during negotiations.

For example in 2006, the Government of Serbia emphasized the significance of adequately training police to enforce the protection of minority rights. After determining that the police needed to improve their ties to the communities in which they were serving, the government provided various trainings on policing diverse communities. The Serbian Ministry of the Interior, in conjunction with the OSCE, created a project on diversity and minorities which included roundtables and trainings additionally, the government took steps to implement ODIHR’s Law Enforcement Officer Programme on Combating Hate Crime. Following the adoption of new criminal codes meant to increase protection for human rights in Kosovo, the Kosovar Government established local crime prevention councils. The councils hold meetings once a month to bring together religious leaders; representatives of each community in the specified municipality; board of education representatives; and representatives from the NATO Kosovo Force, the Kosovo Police Service, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At the meetings the various representatives identify security problems facing communities and discuss potential solutions. The councils seek to build confidence between the communities through continuous dialogue, while also providing the Government with information regarding security issues.

In 1999, the Government of Hungary approved the Medium-Term Package of Measures for improving the situation of Roma to address problems facing Hungary’s minority Roma population. The package focused on reducing inequalities in the areas of education, culture, employment, healthcare, and housing, as well as counteracting ongoing discrimination. The Inter- Ministerial Committee for Roma Affairs coordinates the implementation of the Package and reviews reports made by the various ministries charged with implementing the Package. Macedonia’s Ohrid Framework Agreement provides that police services in the state will reflect .the composition and distribution of the population of Macedonia. To this end, the government hired police officers from minority groups throughout Macedonia and established a program whereby the minority officers would be deployed to regions predominantly inhabited by their respective minority group.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

The government has recognized the need for an all inclusive policy in the peace process, especially on legal, political and economic rights. Therefore the government should reaffirm its commitment to providing all citizens equal protection under the law without regard to gender, race, religion or caste. In order to promote equal access for minorities to social services provided by the government, the government should establish programs to reduce existing inequalities in the areas of education, employment, healthcare, and housing, as well as to counteract ongoing prejudice. To promote the security of minorities in Sri Lanka, the government should provide local police forces with targeted trainings on combating hate crimes and policing diverse communities whilst the language skills in the official languages is mandatory.

Additionally, the government will make efforts to recruit minorities into the police (for example a batch of 175 graduated on the 16th February 2008 form the Kallady Police Training School in the Eastern Province who were recruited within the Province) force and deploy such minorities to regions predominantly inhabited by their ethnic and/or religious community. Recognizing the need to promote tolerance and integration of minorities into society at the grassroots level, the government should establish a schedule of annual meetings of diverse members of the community to discuss issues and address potential problems minority groups face in the community.

Conflict and post-conflict states often face the issue of resettling Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees. IDPs and refugees suffer from instability caused by loss of their homes and also perpetuate an atmosphere of instability in parts of the country that are not directly involved in the conflict. Therefore, the safe and dignified return of IDPs and refugees is crucial for the affected individuals, as well as for the promotion of stability throughout the state.

For example in negotiations between the Georgian and Abkhaz representatives, the conflicting parties agreed to establish mechanisms for the safe return of Georgian refugees and IDPs to parts of Abkhazia. The parties established a Coordinating Council to assist in the return of refugees and IDPs and a reporting mechanism to keep the Coordinating Council informed of implementation efforts. In Guatemala, a Technical Commission (CTEAR) prepared a strategy for implementing the Agreement on Resettlement of the Population Groups Uprooted by the Armed Conflict. CTEAR was composed of six individuals: two representatives from the Guatemalan government, two representatives from local grassroots groups representing displaced persons, and two members of the international community (serving as non-voting participants only).

Under the United Nations Development Programme, CTEAR agreed to establish a trust fund, which by 1998 garnered eight million dollars from international donors for projects in health, agriculture, infrastructure, documentation and land acquisition. The Government of the Philippines, in conjunction with the European Commission and the United Nations Development Programme, established the GOP-UNDP Programme on Rehabilitating Internally Displaced Persons and Communities in Southern Philippines. The GOP-UNDP Programme provides assistance to IDPs affected by the ongoing conflict in Mindanao and has three components: (1) Relief Assistance and Confidence Building, (2) Rehabilitation, and (3) Culture of Peace and Access to Justice. The Relief Assistance and Confidence Building component focuses on facilitating the return and resettlement of displaced families.

Through this component, the Programme provides IDPs with food packages, non-food essentials, and health services. Prior to the return of the displaced families, the Programme also conducts local discussions on the rights of IDPs and consults with the local government, the military, rebel groups and others in the community regarding the creation of an appropriate strategy for resettlement.

Through the inclusion of the local community in the resettlement process, the Programme aids in building trust amongst various groups, which helps ensure the safe return of IDPs. The Rehabilitation component focuses on providing the IDPs with structures and services necessary to support their long term reintegration into the community. Such structures and services include the establishment of various workers associations and cooperatives, as well as the construction of water and sanitation facilities, health clinics, and day care centers.

The final component of the Programme focuses on promoting a culture of peace and access to justice. To this end, the Programme assists in facilitating dialogue between former combatants, government institutions, and various ethnic and religious groups. Additionally, the programme works toward improving the local court systems through capacity building for judges and legal practitioners in the areas of IDPs and human rights.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

The government has adopted the policy of having a steadfast commitment to the continuous resettlement of refugees and IDPs and the protection of their rights as citizens. The newly created Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services (under H.E. the President Mahinda Rajapaksa regime) is mandated with policy and implementation in this regards. The government thus coordinates with both the local and international community to establish the necessary mechanisms to support the process of resettlement. Through this Ministry, the government continues to provide the necessary humanitarian relief to those resettled refugees and IDPs and will establish structures and services to promote their long term reintegration into the community together with international organisations such as UNHCR, WFP and other Ministries such Ministry of Nation Building and Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights. Such structures and services shall include education, health care, irrigation and sanitation systems, and access to courts.

Humanitarian Reconstruction Programs

Conflict and post-conflict states inevitably encounter the need for reconstruction and stabilization efforts in war-affected regions. States may begin reconstruction programs as soon as they are able in order to increase confidence in the peace process. Such programs may include the reconstruction of infrastructure, resumption of service delivery, and rebuilding of institutional capacity. Additionally, states may adopt economic policies to assist the conflict-affected region in moving away from a conflict-based economy.

For example at the time of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, the province of Aceh was under military control and closed off to humanitarian assistance. The increased need for reconstruction assistance presented an opportunity for the conflicting parties to resume peace talks. The Indonesian government immediately reopened Aceh to humanitarian assistance. In 2005, peace talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel group resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, providing for the disarmament of GAM, the demilitarization of Aceh, and the establishment of limited self-government in Aceh with Aceh receiving seventy percent of the revenues from its natural resources.

In support of the peace process with the Mindanao Islamic Liberation Front, the Government of the Philippines and the World Bank established the Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development Program (MTF-RDP). The MTF-RDP is an international multi-donor fund created to assist in infrastructure and capacity-building projects throughout the conflict-affected region of Mindanao. In Abkhazia, an autonomous region located in Georgia, the United Nations Development Programme sought to promote confidence-building between the state and the region via the rehabilitation of telecommunications infrastructure.

This rehabilitation included the installation of telephone lines in IDP settlements, the restoration of a damaged telephone cable system and the improvement of TV transmission. Also in Abkhazia, the European Commission established a program for the rehabilitation of the Inguri Hydropower Plant. The plants rehabilitation was an important confidence-building measure as it is located between the parties (the Arch Dam in Georgia and the Station in Abkhazia) and its rehabilitation required mutual cooperation.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

Recognizing the importance of humanitarian reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected areas, the government has been committed to establishing mechanisms to pursue urgent humanitarian reconstruction activities. In the future these mechanisms may include the creation of a redevelopment trust fund and/or the establishment of a task force consisting of the affected parties to identify and implement humanitarian reconstruction activities. The government should work with the local and/or international community to establish projects that adequately address the reconstruction of basic infrastructure in conflict-affected areas. Such basic infrastructure includes, but is not limited to, hospitals and medical facilities, schools, telecommunications, water and sanitation facilities, and the rebuilding of roads that are damaged.

De-mining Programs

States emerging from conflict often undertake programs to remove landmines. Landmines can undermine reconstruction and the development of sustainable livelihoods by inhibiting access to natural resources, such as arable land and infrastructure. Additionally, landmines also make it difficult for IDPs and refugees to safely resettle.

For example in 2007, the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel group agreed to allow Swiss de-mining experts to recover unexploded landmines in the Southern region of the state. Both parties concluded that the unexploded mines posed a serious threat to the safety of civilians in the affected areas. In 2002, the Government of Cyprus began a de-mining program of its National Guard minefields located in the buffer zone between Greek and Turkish Cypriot controlled areas. The Cypriot Government established the program as a goodwill gesture and without the guarantee of reciprocation on the part of Turkish Cypriots.

Policy Initiatives and Recommendations

The government adopted a policy to reinforce the humanitarian mine action. The government through a combined committee on de-mining under the Ministry of Nation Building supported by the Ministry of Defence has established programs for the safe removal of landmines in the affected areas throughout the state. The government is in partnership with the independent organisations in these efforts and receives a UNDP certificate before re-settling people in mine cleared areas. The government utilizes the expertise of the international community in establishing the above mentioned programs for the safe removal of landmines in the affected areas throughout the state.

Conclusion

The government has taken significantly effective policy decisions and measures thus far. Therefore the government must maintain its commitment towards implementing the policy decisions and monitoring the progress of implementation. The establishment of the CBSM Steering committee and the appointment of the Coordinators is a timely decision and it will prove to be extremely beneficial in building confidence at grass root level across the country. Confidence building measures being adopted across all ethnic communities will prove to have a positive impact upon the eradication of terrorism and establishing a sustainable peace in the post-conflict Sri Lanka.

(The Author would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Public International Law and Policy Group for the research on comparative studies)

- Asian Tribune -

Share this


.