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ICG: Development Assistance and Conflict in Sri Lanka: Lessons from the Eastern Province

April 16, 2009

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This International Crisis Group report examines factors that undermine development in Sri Lanka's Eastern Province and recommends new policies to help areas of Sri Lanka affected by the war.

Violence, political instability and the government's reluctance to devolve power or resources to the fledgling provincial council are undermining ambitious plans for developing Sri Lanka's Eastern Province. The east continues to face obstacles to economic and political progress and offers lessons for development agencies and foreign donors considering expanding their work into newly won areas in the Northern Province. While there is still potential for progress in the east, it remains far from being the model of democratisation and post-conflict reconstruction that the government claims. Donors should adopt a more coordinated set of policies for the war-damaged areas of Sri Lanka, emphasising civilian protection, increased monitoring of the effects of aid on conflict dynamics and collective advocacy with the government at the highest levels.

International attention is currently and rightfully focused on the need to protect upwards of 100,000 civilians at risk from fighting in the northern Vanni region, but at the same time, there are still important challenges in the so-called "liberated" area of the Eastern Province. Even now, the Eastern Province is still not the "post-conflict" situation that development agencies had hoped it would be when they started work there in late 2007 and early 2008. Despite the presence of tens of thousands of soldiers and police in the east, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have proven able to launch attacks on government forces and on their rivals in the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP). There have also been violent conflicts between different factions of the pro-government TMVP, and impunity for killings and disappearances, many of them apparently committed by government security forces and/or their allies in the TMVP. Extortion and criminality linked to the TMVP also remain problems. Insecurity and fear are undermining the ability of agencies and contractors to implement projects.

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