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

The Ministry of Labour & Trade Union Relations of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) will host a National Forum in Colombo on 30th August 2016. The forum will further the development discourse on the lessons learnt from the ILO implemented Local Empowerment for Economic Development(LEED) project and how it’ approach can be applied in rural development in post conflict and in non-conflict settings .


The ILO has been working on Local Economic Development (LED) approaches for countries in crisis situations since the early 90’s. The first significant UN field experiences using these approaches was in the promotion of Local Economic Development Agencies( LEDAS) in war-torn Central America between 1991 to 1996 through the “PRODERE programme , This involved the promoting and establishment of 12 LEDAs in 5 countries. A similar approach was applied by the ILO in Cambodia in 1992, constituting the “Association of Cambodian Local Economic Agencies-ACLEDA”, today the ACLEDA Bank . Both of these cases were where presented in 1995 during the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen and recommended as a model to respond to the needs of countries in special situation . Since then the ILO has at the request of governments and development partners applied this approach in post conflict Mozambique, Angola, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tajikistan, Somalia, during the period of transitions post-apartheid South Africa , during the massive return of Tartar populations in Crimea (the Ukraine) .

As a result of these experiences, active research and increasing institutional capacity and understanding the ILO has been promoting the mainstreaming of LED approaches as a global tool to fight poverty, to initiate and improve dialogue between separated communities, to empower local organizations, to improve their capacities to optimize their resources and to beneficially engage with meso, national and international markets .
The ILO was also responsible for developing the approach of Local Economic Recovery . This is a time bound process that maximises the creation of employment opportunities on the basis of recovery, reconstruction and peace building investments, providing effective and immediate peace dividends, creating better opportunities to reintegrate conflict affected groups, reinforcing social cohesion and contributing to peace consolidation and reconciliation. This approach has been embedded on the UN-wide policy on post conflict employment creation, income generation and reintegration ; a remarkable framework to coordinate international community efforts to support peace building through employment creation (sic. Track 2). Among the latest application of LER in this context we could include Burundi, Sierra Leona, Nepal, Iraq, and South Sudan. Its’ most recent application is in relation to the economic turmoil due to the “Arab Spring” in the Maghreb and Egypt and the Syrian crisis and the support to Lebanon and Jordan in absorbing the vast influx of refugees due to the Syrian crisis.
Building on these experiences ILO in Sri Lanka has been implementing the Local Empowerment through Economic Development (LEED) Project which is one of seven (7) that were funded by the Department of Foreign affairs and Trade (DFAT ) of the Government of Australia under its 5 year (2010-2015) year Australian Community Rehabilitation Programme. Phase 3. (ACRP3). The other six projects were implemented by a variety of NGOs and UN agencies. 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 and support inclusive growth and reconciliation.

The Project commenced operations in Northern Province in January 2011 in the Districts of Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi, which were the most recent and heavily conflict affected areas of Northern Province. This was a period of high levels of government investment and intense activity by Government, UN agencies and NGOs in addressing the challenges facing a devastated post conflict Northern Province. Poverty was evident and widespread. Communities were disempowered and traumatized and the private sector was reluctant to invest in rebuilding businesses. At a national and more strategic level the northern economy and its agriculture market system was destroyed and the re-building process had not yet begun. The rapid improvement in infrastructure and communications was opening up the North to the more developed agro business sector in the South which had the potential to make a very positive impact, but if not managed properly had also the potential to perpetuate the perceptions of inequality between North and South. There were still what could be considered as a wide range of “humanitarian needs” to be addressed. There were also a multiplicity of actors, agencies, NGOs, local organizations involved in some way or another in supporting the resettlement process and fulfilling those needs. However an examination of the situation revealed that all manufactured goods, processed food, even rice that was being delivered, all building materials for housing were sourced from outside of the province.

In addition agricultural producers were selling crops at less than the cost of production because of lack of “fair markets”. This was resulting in a net loss of revenues and lost opportunities to create employment opportunities or support local enterprises in the province. On a more positive note there was also an overwhelming desire for peace and hardworking determined local population whose overwhelming desire was to rebuild their lives.

There were strong government institutions that had continued to function throughout the conflict. Although government buildings, transport systems and facilities had been destroyed in the later stages of the war, there were well trained, capable and committed civil servants and functional systems in place. However, they were very busy supporting the resettlement exercise and many of their staff were themselves also being resettled. Their workload was further exacerbated by the demands of agencies and NGOS to attend to various coordination meetings, selection of beneficiaries etc. It was complex situation that required a different approach to the humanitarian assistance, livelihood aid delivery “paradigm that prevailed at that time so as more strategic issues of long term equitable development and peace building could be supported.


The approach evolved almost organically over the first six months of project operations as our experience on the ground grew and our understanding deepened. It was pragmatic, conflict sensitive, and was ultimately aimed at empowering local communities, producers and their organizations so as they would be in a position to participate with some degree of equality in the post conflict economy and markets that were emerging.
It is important to understand that while this general strategy and project philosophy remained constant during the five years of operations the ways in which it was pursued, the methodologies tools and tactics used were adapted to address the changing environment, new challenges and the progress made by the project in achieving its’ objectives. The key features included; Local Ownership and Accountability and engagement with the Government. The project took the decision to proactively engage with government at national, district and divisional levels so as to develop a dialogue of mutual respect and understanding and avoid the atmosphere of suspicion that prevailed at that time between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the UN and NGOs. At a local and technical level this involved providing support to a number of departments who were under resourced to provide technical and advisory services. This also provided the space for them to assume a more executive role in the implementation of the future project activities and increased their capacity to coordinate the activities of others in their area of concern.

2.1 Active Partnership between Community and Project

At the community level a type of “community contracting” or “delegated procurement” contracting approach to project implementation was adopted. This methodology involved the contracting of beneficiaries for the procurement of infrastructure, equipment and services by transferring the necessary funds to them to manage. This was a radical change in the way external agencies had engaged with local communities up until then. It changed the prevailing paradigm of passive beneficiaries and paternalistic implementing agency to one of active partnership.

2.2 Focusing on Sustainability

The project adopted a position that sustainable improvement in the lives of the poor and vulnerable groups can only be achieved by ensuring their beneficial inclusion and integration in an expanding and growing economy. Initiatives to improve the economic wellbeing and lives of vulnerable groups need to be creative, innovative even positively discriminatory but they must ultimately be designed and implemented with the same degree of critical economic analysis and consideration as a commercial intervention so as to ensure sustainability.

2.3 Engagement with the Private Sector

Drawing on experience from other post conflict environments the project was aware of the critical importance of the private sector and also cognisant of the risk to long term peace if the capacity gaps and power relations between the well-developed Southern private sector and under developed primary producers was not factored into any efforts to create new markets. The tripartite nature of the ILO and the relationship with the Employers Federation of Ceylon, the tripartite constituents provided entry points and useful contacts. Although this engagement with the private sector commenced at an informal level it developed into national level collaboration with the EFC, and The National Chamber of Exporters, that has now translated into numerous partnerships that were and continues to be instrumental in creating jobs and decent incomes for thousands of families in Northern Province. Whilst addressing the immediate needs of decent work and livelihoods at the grassroots level it has also addressed the less tangible but more strategic goal of the North, South development gap and the perception of inequality between the two main communities that was often at the heart of the 30 year conflict.

2.4 Headline Achievements

The project is considered to have been successful on a number of levels. At a national level it has built awareness of the north south development gap and created examples and avenues through which responsible investment partnerships can be created between the private sector and primary producer communities.

Primarily the project extended its technical support to revitalize the cooperative societies by reorganizing its membership and its core functions. As a next step the members were linked with various crops growing, schemes, production, processing and then with a regular supply in place sustainable market linkages were established first with local buyers and was subsequently elevated to a number of exporters. A great deal training and capacity building took place throughout the process to empower the communities.

As a result of project interventions the project has been able to support more than 100,000 families with various income generation and employments related opportunities. Overall the project has been able to support more than 35,000 individuals gaining direct employment and self-employments activities. As a result of concerted efforts to include more Female Headed Households, the project has been able to support more than 10,000 FHH to access to direct and improved income generating opportunities. The Paddy sector alone, the income for the cooperatives and individual members have exceeded 1.5 MN USD. The income generated while exporting of crops by the individuals who have been linked with various fruit and vegetable value chains have already exceeded 2 MN USD. Income from the fisheries for individuals also have exceeded 1.5 MN USD. Income from other interventions such as MSMEs and Other field crops also has recorded 0.5 MN USD. As a result of these interventions, the individuals who had no access to such income generating opportunities prior to the project, are now in a better position to invest in improving housing, give their children a better education, access to better health facilities and improved life styles.

2.5 How and what are the achievements

The project through its’ innovative work on Public/Private, North/South and Cooperative/Private sector partnerships it has played a pioneering role in harnessing the positive impact in terms of economic growth, jobs, incomes and cross community dialogue. Through these interventions ILO has demonstrated the efficacy of the “tripartite / partnership” approach, 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.

In the absence of a developed private sector and fragmented producer organizations in the North, cooperatives have been supported to organise and gain the necessary infrastructure, knowledge, and skills to engage on a more equitable basis with the well-established and developed private sector from the South and with multinational companies.

New business models such as joint ventures between cooperatives and large agro based companies , fruit and vegetable , fish exporters have restructured value chains, created decent jobs , increased and improved the reliability of incomes , addressed issues of power and disempowerment and totally transformed the lives of conflict affected communities. This is particularly evident for the large number of widows who face many cultural barriers to them earning a decent income. It has also empowered them so as they themselves can now address the exploitation that many of them had previously experienced.


From a Sri Lankan perspective 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 in Post Conflict and non-conflict affected environments in Sri Lanka. There is also a desire and adequate justification to institutionalize the approach to support future such development and resettlement programming at national level. This workshop will bring together national stakeholders to hopefully strengthen the institutionalisation of the process.

At an international level the conference will provide an opportunity for the Ministry of Labour & Trade Union Relations (ML&TUR), EFC and the ILO to share their experiences in implementing this project. It will also provide an opportunity for the participants many of whom are drawn from or have experiences of conflict affected countries to share their experiences and also learn from the broader Sri Lanka post conflict experience. From an ILO perspective the forum will provide the opportunity to discuss the challenges of issues of implementation, the role of specialized agencies that will inform ILO policy and planning and practices in post conflict environments.
The thought process and debate lessons learned will also contribute to the broader discourse of the revised recommendation 71 of the ILO on “Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience” (before Employment for Peace, 1945), to be discussed on first round of ILC 2016 and on the second and final round on 2017 ILC.


4.1. An agenda has been annexed to this concept paper. The suggested format for the conference
will have a moderator guiding the discussions over the course of the agenda. Speakers will
present on different projects implemented in similar circumstances and followed by an expert
panel discussions which will then be opened to the wider audience. Speakers are expected
to provide analytical notes in advance, drawn from their own expertise and respective
mandate of the session.

In preparation for the discussions, speakers are requested to consider some guiding
questions drawing from implementation modalities used to implement such similar
projects elsewhere.

• Changes of the way that donors fund development projects: trends and need to change the current implementation modalities
• Need to adapt different rural economic development models as the political, economic and social context are fast changing
• Need to focus on longer term economic development planning and deviating from popular aid based, welfare orient supply driven humanitarian types of development modalities
• Changes, lessons learnt and best practises of the approaches that are implemented based on the solutions derived from market
• Extremes of development models : pure humanitarian to pure market based : what is the best balance
• What is the role of the government and how to garner their support to implement an approach like LEED in developing the rural economies in post conflict Sri Lanka


The outcomes of the conference, analytical papers, presentations and rapporteur summary will be hosted on the ILO web platform for follow-up conference.

The discussions emerging from the conference will inform the work of ILO in Post conflict contexts and will be used as inputs in future consultations and discussion forums.


Secretaries of national ministries of, Agriculture, Cooperatives and Fisheries, Resettlement and private sector partners. Provincial ministries of Agriculture, Cooperative, Fisheries, Rural development, district secretaries and divisional secretaries.. National department heads such as department of agriculture, animal production and health, industrial development, women affairs and social development, enterprise promotion and IDB, NEDA, IDB.

Representatives of the Government of Columbia and Lebanon.

Private sector
EFC, NCE, NSFEA, FCCISL, COCSL, SLFPA, women busies chambers etc
ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives
ILO Headquarters: Rural and Local Employment/DEVINVEST
ILO DWT for North Africa and Country Office for Egypt and Eritrea

Other Agencies
Centre for Poverty Alleviation (CEPA), institute of Policy studies (IPS), Science Foundation, Heads of
Universities (main departments). UN agencies, Heads of Diplomatic Missions and Donor Agencies

Community levels

Selected members from the cooperatives, business associations etc.


The participants from other countries will be provided the opportunity to visit the North of Sri Lanka to visit to Vavuniya & Killinochchi, where the projects are being implemented.


9.00 a.m. – 10.00 a.m. - Opening Session

10.00 a.m. – 10.20 a.m. - Tea Break

10.20 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. - Presentation of LEED Model & Key highlights from the Impact study
Q & A

12.00 p.m. – 13.30 p.m. - Presentation – Global perspective on post crisis employment, Q&A

13.30 p.m. – 14.30 p.m. - Lunch

14.30 p.m. – 15.30 p.m. - Sharing other country experiences

15.30 p.m. – 15.50 p.m. - Tea Break

15.50 p.m. – 17.00 p.m. - Panel Discussion

17.00 p.m. – 17.30 p.m. - Closing Session

18.00 p.m. - Cocktails – hosted by ILO Director