In-depth


A mobile documentation clinic in progress

Increasing access to justice

Through its close partnership with the Government, UNDP has been able to support Sri Lanka achieve important results in several key and complex governance areas. To increase access to justice, UNDP has focused on providing legal aid, documentation support and awareness programmes to remote and conflict-affected communities.

Since 2009, over 100,000 people have applied for vital legal documentation through mobile clinics held in the North, East and the plantation sectors. The documentation clinics act as a ‘one-stop shop’ allowing people to meet relevant governance officials from Colombo, receive support to complete application forms, secure endorsement of their personal details from their Grama Niladhari officer (village leader), register missing documents and have their identity card photographs taken.

UNDP has provided prisoners with legal aid. For example, over 2,500 prisoners in 23 prisons received legal aid, for example, such as support in drafting and filing bail applications. UNDP has also supported policy research through the publication, ‘Pre-trial Detention in Sri Lanka: Reforming the System of Bail and Upholding the Right to Speedy Trial’. The report recommends ways of improving prison conditions and the efficiency of the criminal justice system, emphasizing on the need for greater flexibility and transparency.

In the area of justice, UNDP will adopt a more island-wide approach and continue its work in legal aid, the provision of legal assistance to prisoners, community legal awareness and capacity development of judicial and non-judicial officers. UNDP will re-orient its support to the national level – offering policy-level assistance and improving the effectiveness of the justice system for vulnerable groups, especially women.

Empowerment of women

Working with local theatre groups, UNDP has used interactive dramas to highlight issues related to sexual and gender-based violence, reaching nearly 15,000 beneficiaries and linking them to legal service providers. Around 100 community workshops where beneficiaries, including street theatre actors, police, lawyers and government officers have been trained on sexual and gender-based violence and the legal framework for marriage, divorce and maintenance. This has helped women seek justice and has created a pool of resource persons knowledgeable on sexual and gender-based violence and on measures for local response.

Supporting responsive governance

Working under the Local Governance Project UNDP brokered an agreement between government and development partners to institutionalize a fund disbursement mechanism to local authorities. UNDP used this mechanism to disburse small grants to 21 local authorities, who completed development projects in consultation with their constituents.

UNDP supported the Government to finalize and display the Citizen’s Charter, which explains to the public the service delivery which they can expect from their public sector. In 2007, in order to make public administration more accountable and citizen friendly, the Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs introduced the Citizen’s Charter. In 2009, with UNDP support, the system was re-engineered to incorporate tools such as feedback forms and suggestion boxes. Today, the Citizen’s Charter is displayed in 14,022 Grama Niladaris (village clusters) island wide and in 108 Divisions and 8 Districts. Plans are underway to introduce the Citizen’s Charter in eight more districts across North Central, North Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces. 

The Local Governance Project helped the Ministry of Public Administration to develop 20 Work Manuals that detail the functions of public officers in various sectors, including Samurdhi (welfare), human resources and institutional management, planning and development and financial management.

UNDP will continue to support responsive governance. A key priority will be to expand the local governance programme in the Northern Province by supporting elected authorities for the first time, in addition to continuing its work with local authorities in the Eastern Province, to strengthen the capacity of local government in the former conflict affected areas to efficiently handle their role and establish regular mechanisms to improve public consultation and community engagement.

In addition, UNDP will support local Government officials to develop technical and institutional capacities for identifying, coordinating and developing the District Development Plans, support the establishment of a unit for Organization and Process Development for Performance Improvement and set-up district-level information services systems. UNDP will also scale up and roll-out its model of MDG-based planning and monitoring for rural development programmes from its successful experience with a pilot in Uva Province.

Policy support

UNDP supported the Government to meet its commitment to the UN Human Rights Council Universal Peer Review) mechanism by providing support for the formulation of the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (2011-2016). This was approved by the Cabinet in 2011.

We also supported the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption to complete the self-assessment required under the UN Convention Against Corruption. The data collected through the assessment can also serve as a basis for legislative and policy reform.

In the future, UNDP aims to re-engage with the Parliament, with which it has had a long-standing partnership. Initial priorities are likely to include technical support for committee strengthening and public outreach. UNDP will also look to support the 13 Members of Parliament who make up the Women’s Caucus, helping them realize their goals which include the promotion of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, linked to Security Council Resolution 1325.