At its meeting held 16 August, Cabinet adopted a “National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict-Affected Displacement” for persons displaced as a result of the conflict. The policy was drafted by the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, at the request of President Maithripala Sirisena.
Seven years after the conclusion of the war, there are over 12,000 internally displaced families of whom over 900 families remain in welfare centres in the Jaffna district, and more than 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees reside in India and elsewhere. Furthermore, there are many other communities who have been officially resettled under the previous government but they continue to struggle to find durable solutions and are in a vulnerable situation.
The policy sets out the rights and entitlements of the displaced and seeks to ensure that all those affected – both internally displaced persons and refugee returnees - can secure durable solutions. It covers a number of areas including assistance for resettlement but also draws attention to particularly vulnerable persons among the displaced, including the differently abled, female headed-households and elderly, protection and psycho-social needs, and transitional justice processes. While addressing key aspects of displacement and durable solutions, the policy will better ensure resettlement is integrated into reconciliation and development policies. The policy is rooted in a rights and community based approach and underscores the Government’s determination to finding durable solutions for conflict- affected displaced populations, irrespective of region, gender, ethnicity, age, language, political belief, caste or creed, or year of displacement.
The policy also identifies immediate steps that need to be taken to address key obstacles to achieving durable solutions, including but not limited to occupation of land by State actors, landlessness, land disputes, and lack of assistance. At this critical juncture when the issue of conflict affected displacement can be addressed and resolved, the national policy provides the framework to do so and emphasises the collective role of all ministries and state agencies, development partners and civil society to actively collaborate and partner in development programming and implementation towards achieving this end.
The policy was based on earlier policy initiatives and other efforts to address displacement including the LLRC report and integrates key international standards including the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the IASC Framework on Durable Solutions. A series of extensive consultations with displacement-affected communities, community based organisations, line ministries, provincial-, district- and divisional-level officials (including the Governors and Chief Ministers of the Northern and Eastern Provinces), UN agencies, civil society, and academia were conducted during the development of the policy following which the policy was endorsed by a National Steering Committee chaired by Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs D.M. Swaminathan, on 21 March 2016.
In parallel to the development of the policy the Ministry of Resettlement and the Government have undertaken a number of actions and projects to address resettlement including the release of lands held by the security forces, resettlement assistance packages and housing assistance. The commitment of the Government to end displacement has been signalled by the release of over 3,000 acres of land by the security forces during 2015, a further release of 177 acres of land in Sampur, Trincomalee and over 700 acres of land in Jaffna in 2016.
The implementation of the policy will take a participative and consultative approach and will be monitored by a committee within the Ministry which will report regularly to an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Resettlement and the National Policy Committee chaired by the President. The policy also sets out grievance mechanisms including through the Human Rights Commission.