Strategic Conflict Assessment Report Provides Detailed Analysis of Structures and Dynamics of Conflict and Peace in Sri Lanka

The report, conducted for the British government’s Department for International Development, examines international involvement in this process, and identifies ways for donors to strengthen peacebuilding efforts. The time covered by the report can be divided into four phases: the military stalemate in the run-up to the 2002 ceasefire; the ceasefire and peace talks; the breakdown of the talks and political instability; and the post-tsunami dynamics.

Among the report’s conclusions:

  • The underlying constellation of factors that contributed to the outbreak of the conflict and have sustained it remain largely unaffected by the peace effort. Rather than introducing conflict-transformative dynamics, the impediments to peace have been frozen in place.
  • The situation of “no war, no peace” since 2002 has meant an end to large-scale military violence, but has brought high levels of political violence.
  • Reconstruction funding was limited in the Tamil north-east of the country, and macroeconomic reforms in the Sinhala south brought hardships for the poor and undermined any “peace dividend” that the ceasefire might have brought.
  • Peace negotiations focused narrowly on the Sinhala-Tamil divide, but ignored divisions within these communities, marginalized other communities such as the Muslims, and encouraged those excluded to act as spoilers against the peace effort. Conflict management was given priority over human rights concerns.
  • The tsunami accentuated rather than ameliorated the conflict dynamics. Protracted negotiations over institutional arrangements for the delivery of international tsunami aid ended up deepening political fault lines.
  • International donors mistakenly assumed that economic incentives could override political imperatives of the conflict parties. Before the tsunami, peace conditionalities imposed by donors did not have the desired outcome. In the wake of enormous humanitarian aid flowing into Sri Lanka after the disaster, there is no longer any leverage to impose such conditionalities.

Related Links:

Jonathan Goodhand and Bart Klem, with Dilrukshi Fonseka, S.I. Keethaponcalan, and Shonali Sardesai, “Aid, Conflict and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka, 2000 – 2005, August 2005.