Peacebuilding and Aid in Sri Lanka. Consequences of International Intervention in a (Post)Conflict Setting

Scientific Essay, 2013

21 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of content

List of abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 International involvement in a (post) conflict setting
2.1 “Internationalization” of Peacebuilding
2.2 International Stakeholders in the Peace Process
2.3 Tracks
2.4 Conflict Tree
2.5 Tsunami and international aid response
2.5.1 Volunteers
2.5.2 Language barriers & lack of cultural sensitivity
2.5.3 Unbalanced distribution
2.5.4 Media & representation
2.5.5 Politicized and ethnicized context
2.5.6 Competitive situation
2.5.7 Corruption and misappropriation offunds
2.6 Organizational tactics to cope with the situation

3 Conclusion

List of abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1 Introduction

Sri Lanka's population experienced 25 years of civil war, lasting from 1983 to 2009. The main conflict parties were the government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with the latter fighting for a separation of the northern region for an independent Tamil state. Additional to the conflict, Sri Lankan people had to cope with a massive destruction of coastal areas after the Tsunami in December 2004. The post-war context of social inequality and exclusion is therefore combined with a longsome reconstruction of the destroyed regions.

The main problems faced by the population in conflict affected areas today are a lack of knowledge and understanding of other groups within their own country, as well as a general lack ofsolidarity and unity among communities. Minorities as well as marginalized groups like women or youth groups often have limited opportunities to engage in the local political sphere. The conflict was not only about ethnicity and nationality, but also about power issues, property, access to land, health and education as well as about social, cultural and political rights. All of those issues still influence the daily lives of Sri Lankan people.

There have been many international attempts to facilitate peace and recovery among them, but international engagement was not very welcome since the 1990s. The research question of this essay is therefore concerned with circumstances which lead to a critical stance of the Sri Lankan society towards peace efforts of international actors.

A broad overview of the “internationalization” of peacebuilding is given in the beginning. An analysis of relevant actors and stakeholders is necessary to facilitate understanding of the international involvement while the Conflict Tree tool is used to visualize roots and effects of the difficult situation. Also the relevance of Track I and II approaches during the peacebuilding process and its effects on the conflict dynamics are discussed. Failures made by organizations during and after the Tsunami can be seen as the last straw to a non-reversible critical stance towards international engagement in Sri Lanka. Some of the main flaws will be discussed in detail, as well as organizational tactics to cope with the difficult situation caused by the flawed Tsunami aid response. As a conclusion, there will be a short needs analysis for changes in organizational practices.

2 International involvement in a (post) conflict setting

2.1 “Internationalization" ofPeacebuilding

In 2001, the conflict reached a “hurting stalemate” and both of the main parties recognized that their political goals could not be reached through military means (cf. Goodhand/Klem 2005: 8). International actors were responsible for the facilitation of peace negotiations and were also involved in reconstruction assistance, but their strategy failed to deliver a lasting settlement (cf. ibid.). The ceasefire agreement (CFA) froze rather than transformed the conflict. At this point, both parties continued to re-arm and strengthen their military capabilities and there was a high level of political violence and insecurity (cf. ibid.). The Norwegian mediation was used instrumentally as a “peace alibi” while parties silently continued the conflict (cf. ibid.: 72).

There was no proper communication strategy about the peace process or the reform agenda. This created anxieties among external as well as internal stakeholders, though after the CFA there was a significant international “peace rush” (ibid.: 71). Domestic actors had the feeling of not having control over the process anymore and “that the peace process changed from being internationally supported to being internationally driven, shaped by the priorities and timeframes of external rather than domestic actors.” (ibid.: 10).

Donors adjusted their policies and programs according to conflict and peace dynamics. At this time, there were three areas of engagement of international organizations according to Goodhand and Klem: “Applying peace conditionalities to reconstruction and development aid”, meaning funds are tied to progress in the peace negotiations (ibid.: 11). This conditionality of money seems critical, as it is a measure to enforce progress without internal forces. Eitherway it did not have the desired outcome as there were no mechanisms for ensuring compliance (ibid.).

Another approach was “dealing with the consequences of conflict”, implying increased humanitarian and development assistance to war-affected areas (cf. ibid.). Unfortunately, much of the provided assistance was caught up in the politics of the peace process and had the effect of undermining confidence and eroding trust between the two sides (ibid.). It was perceived that the distribution of aid was unequal, e.g. after the Tsunami (cf. Stirrat 2006: 14).

NGOs were accused by the GOSL of providing resources to the LTTE and interfering in the conflict dynamics (cf. Walton/Saravanamuttu 2011: 183-200). The government was therefore concerned about NGOs operating in conflict areas because of the alleged assistance to their enemies, but also because of the NGOs potential to highlight governmental Human Rights abuses (cf. ibid.). Recently, governmental institutions (army and police) have been accused of ethnically motivated torture and rape of Tamil prisoners (cf. Suddeutsche Zeitung 02/2013). The last approach is focused on addressing the underlying causes of conflict. Before 1990, many organizations tended to work “around” conflict and tried to avoid political concerns as those were beyond their mandate (cf. Goodhand/Klem 2005: 75). But during the 1990s, donors shifted their priorities and organizations often strayed too far away from their core areas of competence (cf. ibid.: 11). Consequently, they focused on short-term conflict management rather than addressing structural issues such as poverty or governance.

Even a modest re-orientation of the aid program was seen as political action in a sensitive and politicized environment - peace and human rights were perceived as “taboo subjects” for international actors (cf. ibid.: 75). Interference in internal issues caused resistance against international organizations promoting aid programs. The GOSL and the LTTE shared the view that international organizations' attempts were not welcome.

Altogether, there was continued instability and violence as well as de-stabilizing tactics of spoilers while the emergence of new unanticipated tensions tended to be the norm (ibid.). The peace process generated “micro cycles” of conflict rather than solving the root causes. Goodhand and Klem conclude that there should have been a focus on conflict transformation rather than conflict management. They also explicitly mention a need for long-term engagement and political commitment as well as the importance of including concerns of Asian actors into strategies and analysis (“de-Westernizing” international peacebuilding) (cf. ibid.: 12-13).

The “internationalization” of the peace process resulted in a nationalist concern about interference in Sri Lankan affairs by external actors who overstepped the perceived boundaries of legitimate political action (cf. Walton/Saravanamuttu 2011: 183-200). The following chapter will give a broad overview of the countries involved in the peace process and their respective interests.


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Peacebuilding and Aid in Sri Lanka. Consequences of International Intervention in a (Post)Conflict Setting
Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences Berlin AS  (Intercultural Conflict Management)
Conflict Management
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Conflict Management, Sri Lanka, Peacebuilding, NGOs
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B.A. Michaela Harfst (Author), 2013, Peacebuilding and Aid in Sri Lanka. Consequences of International Intervention in a (Post)Conflict Setting, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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