Reconstruction for peace project

Wednesday 11 May 2011

While war in the North and East of Sri Lanka has ended, peace, especially sustainable peace, is not so easily forthcoming.

Post-conflict reconstruction supports the transition from conflict to peace through the rebuilding of the socio-economic framework of the society.

However, there is a need to pay special attention to conflict dynamics that may arise through development work. Interest in helping to support a lasting resolution to the Sri Lanka conflict has led some to focus efforts on strengthening incentives for peace and reconciliation, including encouraging conflict sensitive approaches and supporting post conflict recovery and reconstruction.

Physical infrastructure - broadly defined to include services that are essential ingredients to quality of life and economic activity - has the potential to connect or divide communities. Reconstructing physical infrastructure after a war can help in the peace building process through restoring dignity, providing much needed employment opportunity and promoting conflict sensitive approaches.

Any physical reconstruction needs to be tailored to the needs of the affected people, including diverse ethnic groups. Precautions need to be taken to avoid repeating mistakes that occurred during post tsunami reconstruction efforts - lack of consideration of ethnic co-existence.

Conflict also tends to deepen gender discrimination and disadvantages faced by women. Similarly, youth, who have been born into and often participated in the war, must overcome persisting inequalities and differential access to opportunities, while the elderly face challenging economic constraints and often require special care.

There is growing recognition that reconstruction requires interdisciplinary solutions; those professions traditionally involved in reconstruction of infrastructure - the construction industry - must understand the sensitive environment in which they will be operating. Understanding the needs of those living in the region will be vital if reconstruction is to help prevent future conflict.

Reconstruction for Peace is a one-year programme of research and capacity building that seeks to explore the interaction between youth and infrastructure reconstruction programmes in the North and East of Sri Lanka as a means to prevent future conflict in the region.

The team are from:

  • University of Salford, UK (Dr Richard Haigh, Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga & Professor Martin Hall),
  • University of Colombo, Sri Lanka (Professor Siri Hettige),
  • University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka
  • Eastern University, Sri Lanka.

The project is advised by the Chamber of Construction Industry Sri Lanka and funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The team will specifically examine:

  1. How reconstruction programmes engage, employ, connect and divide youth in the region;
  2. The extent to which inequality in access to infrastructure affects social cohesion among youth;
  3. The factors of infrastructure reconstruction programmes that are most sensitive to impacting conflict prevention.

The study will be used to inform policy development and build the capacities of: Universities in the North and East of Sri Lanka; and the Sri Lankan construction industry (including SMEs) and local government engaged in reconstruction projects within the region.