Civil Society and UNDP in Sri Lanka: Partnerships in Crisis Situation

01 Jan 2007

Document Summary

Civil Society and UNDP in Sri Lanka: Partnerships in Crisis Situation (2007) documents the ways in which civil society actors, especially at the community level, emerged as significant partners in crisis response and recovery following the Ceasefire Agreement and the tsunami in Sri Lanka.

The civil society tradition in Sri Lanka is vibrant and intricately woven in the fabric of the nation. In light of the country’s protracted ethno-political conflict and recovery from the 2004 tsunami, civil society has resettled displaced communities, restored livelihoods, coordinated interventions, collaborated with decision makers, and worked toward peaceful resolutions. Civil society actors have faced many challenges; most carry out activities in unstable conditions and insecurity. Smaller and newly-formed civil society organizations (CSOs) are limited by operational factors such as financial and technical capacity – two internal environmental dynamics that impact programme results and sustainability.


UNDP in Sri Lanka has sought ways to develop, promote and nurture its engagement with CSOs in a manner that is mutually beneficial. This report highlights two important achievements in this regard. The first is the concerted effort by UNDP to strengthen the institutional capacities of its CSO partners. The second is UNDP’s endeavor to change its relationships with CSOs from mere contracts to genuine partnerships founded on mutual respect. This experience has presented opportunities for UNDP to share, learn and apply many lessons.


Chapter 1 overviews UNDP’s engagement with CSOs and discusses the challenges and opportunities in partnership building. Chapter 2 examines the topic vis-à-vis crisis prevention and peace initiatives. Chapter 3 discusses approaches adopted for institutional capacity development and strengthening of CSOs.  Chapter 4 reviews the engagement of CSOs in the delivery of socioeconomic recovery for conflict- and tsunami-affected communities. Empowerment of communities cuts across all UNDP projects and is more closely examined in Chapter 5. Finally, Chapter 6 presents a composite list of lessons that UNDP in Sri Lanka has learned in its collaboration with CSOs in crisis situations.


This report documents the growing importance of civil society actors in delivering support in complex emergencies. This publication is also relevant to advancing UNDP’s global agenda of working closely with local communities and seeks to capture innovations that can be replicated and scaled up in areas with similar contexts.

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