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Reconstruction for Peace

Duration: 12 months, starting May 2011
Lead partner: Centre for Disaster Resilience, University of Salford, UK
Partnership: 4 Sri Lankan institutions 
Salford Team: Professor Richard Haigh, Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga and Professor Martin Hall
Funded by: UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (this is the first University of Salford based project funded by this source)

This project is a major study to understand how infrastructure reconstruction programmes have impacted on women and vulnerable groups and affected social cohesion among local communities in conflict-affected areas of Sri Lanka - ‘Conflict Prevention through Youth Engagement in Infrastructure Reconstruction,’ funded by British High Commission, Sri Lanka. Investigators: R Haigh, D Amaratunga

While war in the North and the 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 was a one-year programme of research and capacity building that sought 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 specifically examined:

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

The study was 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. It is impact that this project will help us to demonstrate our research - by making a real impact towards the society that has suffered by the 30 year long civil war. In our view, this impact cannot be measured in financial terms.