Developing a Practical Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka: moving from a pioneering to a consolidated phase of network building

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Developing a Practical Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka

In response to a request from an international NGO working closely with the Sri Lankan stakeholders on issues of conflict transformation, the objective was to review the completion of a pilot phase for a resource network and to identify, with the local stakeholders, next steps.

The project had begun while there was still open violence along the different conflict lines but, through the initiation of top-level negotiations between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, new opportunities had to be considered. The pilot phase of the project was characterised by a pioneering spirit. For example: high dependence upon the director, many questions concerning purpose, external relations and objective, implicit decision making, and different expectations of roles and responsibilities. The project itself clearly had a significant and constructive impact on the local peace and conflict dynamics.

Developing a Practical Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka

The work focused on increasing the understanding of the ethnopolitical crisis as well as linking this directly to the practical resources of the organisation. The analysis revealed that the disconnection between the different programmes within the projects was the primary cause of not realising the full potential of the network.

Without a broader, practical strategic framework for the project, the activities were being managed on a day-to-day basis with implicit decision making rather than being strategic and based on explicit assumptions of change. Implementation had also become fragmented, with the project’s programmes being conducted next to one another rather than with one another.

The implicit decision making, vague roles and responsibilities lead to the very real danger of missing opportunities, such as the climate for Track 1.5 dialogue processes between the key stakeholders, a lack of clarity about the how security is linked to governance issues and uncertainty on how to engage marginalised groups.

The main task at hand was to explore how to move into the next phase and to consolidate the efforts. Our work aimed to increase commitment and unity, ensure that the team was more strategically aware in their planning, develop self-structuring and regulating teams as well as to ensure that the project remained co-adaptive to the changing dynamics in the peace and conflict processes.

Developing a Practical Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka

From the analysis, together we identified five intersecting themes that we saw as crucial driving factors in developing and consolidating the project:

  • raising the awareness of strategic planning and the conflict
  • strengthening the joint vision
  • identifying a practical framework for aligning the different programmes
  • developing a new central, hub programme to assist with the overall steerage of the project and ensure that it remained co-adaptive to the changes in the peace and conflict dynamics
  • builing the capacity of the staff and partners

We worked closely with the project staff, partners and key stakeholders and, together, we developed a process that identified key actors in the ethnopolitical conflict, stumbling blocks, fears and concerns within the team. This encouraged the strengthening of the joint vision, increased the understanding of how the programmes were interlinked and enhanced accountability and attentiveness to the activities. The process also included a deeper understanding of change processes both within the project and the conflict itself.

All project areas and staff were chosen for the process, which spanned  three months. The programme managers developed their own strategy within the joint vision and the director promoted cross-linkages between the programmes. The staff were coached, supported and facilitated throughout the process.

Developing a Practical Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka

Following the introduction of the strategic framework, there was a significant improvement in cooperation between the programmes and a clearer focus on the key drivers to the peace and conflict dynamics. This increased flexibility to adapt to the changes in the conflict. The strategy building process had also been an important learning opportunity on the complexity of the conflict and peacebuilding on the Track 1.5 level.

The work resulted in a more unified network with precise planning and clear decision making by the team as a whole, based on a deeper understanding of the opportunities and risks. The core development was the establishment of a new cross-cutting programme to link, guide, set and steer the other programmes.

The project was successful in realising further funding for the subsequent five years, supporting key decision-makers to the peace process and acting as a source for generating reliable options together with all stakeholders.