A model for reconciliation through local economic empowerment and sustainable employment generation

The Ministry of Labour & Trade Union Relations in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) hosted a National Forum on lessons learnt from the ILO implemented Local Empowerment for Economic Development(LEED) project funded by the Government of Australia on 30th August 2016 in Colombo.

Press release | 30 August 2016
Honourable W D J Seneviratne, Minister of Labour & Trade Union Relations addressing the gathering
ILO Colombo News: The LEED project through its’ innovative work on creating and fostering partnerships at different levels has played a pioneering role in harnessing a positive impact in terms of economic growth, jobs, incomes and cross community dialogue. The focus of the project has and continues to be on contributing to a more inclusive and equitable post conflict recovery and development. It is an ILO response to the need to reduce fragility in the post conflict setting in Sri Lanka by creating decent work opportunities to support inclusive growth and reconciliation.

This Forum contributed to further the development discourse on the lessons learnt from the LEED project and how its’ approach can be applied in rural development in post conflict settings to enable economic empowerment, reinforce social cohesion, and contribute to peace and reconciliation. The LEED project has been recognized by a broad spectrum of stakeholders as an approach that has the potential to contribute to the development of rural economies and peace building processes in post conflict and non-conflict affected environments in Sri Lanka. The Forum provided an opportunity for the international participants who are from conflict affected countries to share their experiences and also to learn from the broader Sri Lanka experience and the challenges and best practices to promote decent work and provide durable employment opportunities for conflict affected people.

In his welcome speech Mr Gotabhaya Jayaratne, Secretary Ministry of Labour & Trade Union Relations stated that “reconciliation and peace building cannot be achieved without addressing economic vulnerabilities” and noted that the project has been successful in providing sustainable livelihoods for the people in the northern province affected by a prolonged conflict.

Speaking at the occasion Mr Donglin Li, the ILO Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, stated the LEED project through its’ innovative work on creating and fostering North – South business partnerships has played a pioneering role in harnessing a positive impact in terms of economic growth, jobs, incomes and cross community dialogue. He emphasized the importance of the employment dimension of peace building, which is integral to durable peace and highlighted that through the interventions ILO has demonstrated the efficacy of the “tripartite / partnership” approach and raised awareness at local and national levels of the importance of inclusive growth, decent work, incomes and social justice to reconciliation and long term peace.

The Chief Guest at the Symposium Hon. W.D.J. Seneviratne, Minister of Labour and Trade Union Relations. Speaking at the event stated that Local Economic Development has been seen as a very creative an innovative and productive a productive approach to develop the rural economies in the post conflict areas. The project promoted community based services and public private partnerships in economically vulnerable groups in conflict affected communities in Northern Province in Sri Lanka. The minister also appreciated the concept of reconciliation and peace building, which cannot be addressed without addressing economic vulnerability and thanked the ILO and its’ team on the initiative.

The Guest of Honour, H.E. Bryce Hutchesson, Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka & Maldives stated that “Providing livelihood opportunities has been a key feature of Australia’s support to help get communities back on their feet post-conflict. We have supported many different approaches to achieve this, but our partnership with the ILO on the Local Empowerment through Economic Development program or ‘LEED’ has been particularly successful.” He also highlighted the contribution that the project has made in facilitating linkages between southern businesses and northern cooperatives to form profitable ventures and the Project’s work with the Sri Lankan diaspora to form social enterprises to support economic growth in the Northern Province. He stated that these relationships have contributed towards reconciliation and to a broader sense of national unity.”

Ms Una McCauley, United Nations Resident Coordinator highlighted that the LEED project and the results it has achieved has demonstrated that it has the potential for scaling up and its’ replicability in the other areas with the support from UN and other agencies.

Mr. V. Sivagnanasothy, Secretary to the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs stated that, it is a notable achievement that the LEED project, the lessons and the knowledge generated can be integrated into future programmes in a successful manner.

Mr. Kanishka Weerasinghe, Director General, Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) and Mr. K. Marimuttu, Senior Vice President, Ceylon Workers Congress also addressed the gathering.

About 100 representatives from Ministries, development partners, employers’ organizations, Trade Unions, academia, UN agencies and some international experts were also present at the event.