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Toward increased local influence in coastal areas of Sri Lanka

Various forms of collaborative coalitions involving state, civic, and private players have become a more and more common form of political work, both to achieve political results and to increase the democratic element in political processes.

In her dissertation, Ingegerd Landström has studied efforts on the part of the Sri Lankan government to bring about such collaboration regarding the use of land and natural resources in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka, which were hit by the tsunami in 2004.

Since the early 1990s the Sri Lankan state has striven to increase the cooperation between state and local civic players in regard to planning and implementing the national coast management program. The introduction of so-called SAM projects (Special Area Management) in areas with particularly intractable environmental problems is designed to create collaborative coalitions­partnerships­among a series of players at different levels. Above all, these projects aim to provide local players with more influence over the use of local natural resources. These, in turn, are expected to be able to contribute to ecologically and economically sustainable development in villages and cities situated along the coast.

The SAM projects carried out in the 1990s achieved only limited success, both as regards the number of local players taking part in the collaboration and in terms of the influence they exerted. In her dissertation, Ingegerd Landström analyzes various factors that might have contributed to this. Two factors that are highlighted are the lack of formal local organizations that are able to participate in collaborative projects and the lack of experience among local players in regard to participation in political processes. The dissertation also shows the conflicts that exist between players that are expected to cooperate in SAM projects, as well as the skeptical attitude toward increased local influence that characterizes certain players.

-These factors as such need not exclude successful partnerships, but they must be fully taken into consideration, which is not the case at present in SAM projects, she says.

The importance of finding work forms that can contribute to democratic local influence over the use of land and natural resources in Sri Lanka´s coastal areas is especially crucial in the light of the ongoing reconstruction work following the tsunami of December 2004. The tsunami has entailed enormous consequences for the coastal inhabitants, but through enhanced political influence they can affect their own situation to a greater extent and thereby also take charge of the reconstruction of their lives and livelihoods.

Anneli Waara | alfa
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