Sevalanka Northern Program
Sevalanka Foundation started its development work in 1992. The organization has continuously worked in the north from its inception. Even during the most difficult periods of Eelam War 2, 3 and 4, we never left the people who were affected and displaced. Throughout, we also managed to maintain working relationships and coordinate with all of the relevant parties. Doing so, earned us the reputation among the key stakeholders of being an independent and professional non-government developmental organization.
There were times when the situation became so complicated and complex that we were criticized by some parties with no understanding or experience of our work. These criticisms were never based on substantiated facts or evident. All activities in the north were implemented only after receiving proper clearance and approval from the authorities. All assets and resources were transported into the conflict areas with the proper documentation and in a very transparent manner. Internal and external auditors relatively carried out the necessary assessments to ensure that that the highest standards of financial accountability were maintained.
Our policy has always been to recruit staff from the geographical areas where we work with only a few rare exceptions if we cannot find people with the necessary qualifications and experience. Every staff member was trained and advised on how to maintain the independent status of our organization and how to implement activities efficiently, effectively and transparently. With the exception of a few individuals, all of our staff members maintained their discipline, independence and honesty towards the organization.
When media reports began to emerge that were highly critical of NGOs in the north, we fully supported the inquiries done by the authorities and were grateful for their intervention. All of our documentation and work was clearly compared and everything was transparent. Evidence was given that all proper authorizations were maintained. During this complex and difficult period, we continued our work without any interruption and in full coordination with all stakeholders.
Even in the future, Sevalanka staff will need to be conscious of this history and continue to learn from this approach, but they should also be aware that some social elements may try to harm our good name due to reasons known only to them. With the exception of clear defamation cases that require legal action, we will always answer by continuing our good work with proper accountability and transparency. Let our work and the communities whom we work with speak for us.
Now that the war has come to an end and the entire Northern Province is under government control, we, as a development organization, look forward to expanding the long-term sustainable development programs that we have been doing in other parts of Sri Lanka to the northern region.
North Program Policies
Commitment to Long-Term Sustainable Development
Sevalanka’s policy for the north is based on our overall principles and objectives. As an organization, we focus on building the capacity of community organizations to take collective decisions and develop and implement their own programs for self-reliance. With that in mind, we have two main priorities in the north:
- Working with the government to see that proper resettlement of all displaced people is completed as soon as possible.
- Using the resettlement process as an entry point for long-term development programs with active community participation. This includes strengthening organizational capacity, providing support services, and linking ‘graduated’ communities with external partners and other service providers.
Other service providers might leave a community as soon as the resettlement project funding is finished. As a national organization, Sevalanka has a long-term commitment to the communities it works with. We continue to provide services that help communities reach their goals and contribute to self-reliance and sustainability beyond any short-term project period.
It is important to learn from other post-emergency experiences, particularly the tsunami response. The influx of grant aid and NGO-fatigue can reduce initiative and cause individuals to develop a welfare mentality (also known as “dependency mentality”). It is very difficult to move from this situation to the development phase. Our team in the north needs to consider this important lesson and encourage dialog with other agencies to ensure that lessons and best practices are learned from past experiences.
Although the resettlement process presents many opportunities for the affected people there are still many internal hurdles to overcome. Our team has been working in an emergency environment for many years. Higher level skills are needed to shift to a sustainable development program. There are some key issues we have to address:
- Do our management and field-level staff understand the core issues and principles?
- Have they received the necessary training and exposure for this approach?
- How do they need to change their way of working as they shift from project implementers to development workers and service providers?
- What are our internal systems for analyzing social complexities and finding solutions?
We will be looking at these key issues with our development partners and will request their participation and support to learn together and make this necessary transition.
Government policies have been announced and all government agencies have been given a time frame for fast-track resettlement. The Presidential Task Force (PTF) has full responsibility for the resettlement process so any activity at the district or divisional level requires their prior approved. The PTF has also established clear monitoring mechanisms.
Even though the war is finished, the government is still concerned about security threats and will not take any risks. All staff members must be aware of these security concerns and coordinate with the security forces. At the same time, as a civil society organization, we will encourage the government to strengthen the civil administration and ensure their full participation in the resettlement process.
As a development organization, we must work according to our mandate and responsibility. We will avoid involvement in politically sensitive activities such as making a public statement or protest. In the event of any kind of injustice, we will critically engage with the government and continue the dialog.
Sevalanka will coordinate and work closely with technical resource people affiliated with the government and universities. In addition, we will partner with organizations that have a shared mandate, particularly those involved in environment and disaster risk reduction.
We will support:
- Low-input sustainable agriculture as an entry point and encourage the transition to organic farming
- Homegarden development for household food security
- Small-scale animal husbandry for supplementary food and income generation
- Post-harvest loss reduction and resource management strategies for coastal fishing
- Locally appropriate aquaculture techniques
- Income generating activities for women
- Producer group (e.g. FCS) capacity to effectively collect, process and market their products
- Ecosystem restoration with a focus on reforestation
- Environmental conservation with a focus on vulnerable wetlands
Our sister organizations, Seva Finance and SEDCO will provide complementary services and develop their presence in the region step by step. They will partner with private sector actors to promote investment and market linkages.
Sevalanka believes that reconstruction of war-torn areas cannot be done through hardware activities and infrastructure development alone. The social aspect is critical. Sevalanka programs will promote reconciliation and reintegration. We will continue our work in peace and reconciliation through:
- Inter-religious and multi-ethnic dialog and exposure programs
- Youth leadership program exchanges through Islander Center and the farm
- Art, music and cultural programs
Sevalanka will work in partnership with any individual or organization, locally or internationally, that is committed to common principles and is contributing to the development of an active and democratic civil society in the region.