Westminster Foundation for Democracy unveils Forum for Economic Inclusion & Policy Advocacy in Sri Lanka

Monday, 23 October 2023 00:55 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

 From left: Daily FT Editor Nisthar Cassim, moderator Parliament of Sri Lanka Media Officer Madhavi Perera, University of Jaffna Dept. of 

Law Head Kosalai Mathan, Transparency International Sri Lanka Executive Director Nadishani Perera, and TNA MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam Audience


  • Event coincides with launch of pioneering research publications on health and transportation


Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), a renowned international organisation committed to promoting democracy, last week took a significant step towards fostering economic inclusion and social justice in Sri Lanka.

WFD launched two groundbreaking research publications authored by the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA), highlighting the critical need for inclusive policy-making in the face of the country’s ongoing economic challenges.

The economic and political crisis that gripped Sri Lanka in 2022 had far-reaching effects, disproportionately affecting women, young people, individuals living in poverty, those with disabilities, and marginalised communities from religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities. This inequality was exacerbated by the lack of adequate political representation, particularly in the Sri Lankan Parliament. Recognising the urgency of this situation, WFD initiated an inclusive approach to policy making, aimed at supporting the Parliament of Sri Lanka in addressing the crisis.

Under this initiative, WFD entrusted CEPA with the task of conducting policy and budgetary analyses to identify inclusion gaps and shortcomings in national budgeting, with a specific focus on the health and transport sectors. Employing an intersectionality-based policy analysis framework, the research encompassed two distinct phases: analysing selected policy documents and scrutinising budgetary allocations available in the public domain. The second phase delved into identifying solutions to bridge these gaps, combining qualitative and quantitative methods.

The event commenced with an opening address by WFD Country Director Sanje Vignaraja, who introduced the two pivotal research reports. These reports were then presented to the Chief Guest, British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Andrew Patrick. Subsequently, an engaging Q&A session ensued, followed by a compelling speech by MP and Committee on Public Finance Chairman Dr. Harsha de Silva.

He emphasised the necessity of inclusivity in economic policymaking, advocating for a balanced approach that addresses both the horizontal and vertical dimensions of inclusion, aiming to provide comprehensive coverage while addressing specific challenges and disparities.

A significant moment of the event was the launch of the Forum for Economic Inclusion and Policy Advocacy (FEIPA), spearheaded by the Economic Inclusion Working Group (EIWG), a diverse assembly of individuals brought together by WFD Country Director Vignaraja.

Comprising cross-party politicians, civil society representatives, members of the media, private sector stakeholders, youth party members, and NGOs, the EIWG sought to drive change and create an independent entity dedicated to advocating for economic inclusion. Recognizing the need for long-term sustainability, the EIWG’s efforts culminated in the establishment of the Forum for Economic Inclusion & Policy Advocacy. With the current IMF program mandating significant reforms for economic recovery, which could disproportionately impact the vulnerable, this independent entity is poised to play a pivotal role in safeguarding their interests.

The event also featured a panel discussion introducing the Forum for Economic Inclusion & Policy Advocacy. Distinguished speakers included TNA MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam,

Transparency International Sri Lanka Executive Director Nadishani Perera, University of Jaffna Head of the Department of Law Kosalai Mathan and Daily FT Editor Nisthar Cassim. They underscored the vital role of this entity in building trust and engaging with the people while emphasising the urgency of its mission.

The event reached its culmination with a special address and closing remarks from Centre for Policy Alternatives Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu. He emphasised the prevailing crisis of governance in Sri Lanka and the opportunity to forge a new social contract, emphasising that ‘institutions should not humiliate people, and people should not humiliate people’.

The launch of these research publications and the Forum for Economic Inclusion & Policy Advocacy mark a significant milestone in Sri Lanka’s journey towards inclusive policymaking and social justice. WFD remains committed to supporting these initiatives and calls upon the international community to encourage bipartisan and cross-party efforts aimed at progressing this essential cause.

The event witnessed the gracious presence of esteemed dignitaries, including Members of Parliament Chandima Weerakkody, Eran Wickramaratne, Angajan Ramanathan, Premnath Dolawatte, and Mayantha Dissanayake, who demonstrated their unwavering commitment to the cause of economic inclusion and social justice. The gathering also had the privilege of hosting New Zealand Ambassador to Sri Lanka Michael Appleton, and a gathering of other diplomatic representatives, showcasing international support for this vital initiative. The event was further enriched by the presence of prominent figures from civil society, the media, and various other sectors, emphasising the collective determination to champion inclusive policymaking and forge a path towards a more equitable Sri Lanka.