Cynthia Cohen visits the Sewa Lanka foundation, a Center partner in Sri Lanka
In January 2003, Dr. Cynthia Cohen (Slifka Program in Intercommunal Coexistence at Brandeis University) and Dr. Hizkias Assefa (African Network for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation) traveled to Sri Lanka to consult with our partner, the Sewa Lanka Foundation, about potential roles it might play in supporting sustainable peace in Sri Lanka. Assefa and Cohen conducted an assessment of the peace process, largely through conversations with members of the Sewa Lanka Foundation's central office in Colombo; district offices in Anuradapura, Vavuniya, and Jaffna; village leaders; directors of other non-governmental and international organizations; officials of the government and the LTTE; and members of the clergy. This consultancy followed on two prior visits to Sri Lanka, undertaken in December of 2001 and February of 2002, just prior to the beginning of the peace talks. During their two prior visits, they conducted training and awareness programs, primarily on the theme of reconciliation - with Sewa Lanka staff, leaders of community-based organizations and members of the clergy.
The 2003 visit allowed the consultants to learn about changes on the ground as a result of the peace process, to engage in follow-up conversations with people who attended their previous sessions, and to assess gaps that exist in the peace process in terms of its ability to deliver to war-weary Sri Lankan citizens a permanent, secure and sustainable peace. They concluded that Sewa Lanka Foundation - with its extensive network of trusting relationships within virtually every sector of Sri Lankan society, at all levels - is uniquely well-suited to play critical roles in strengthening the peace process, but that the work should be undertaken in ways that are consistent with the primary mission of the organization, sustainable development in the rural war-affected regions of the country.
Sewa Lanka Foundation is now considering recommendations for contributions that the organization might make at different levels of society, including at the grassroots, and among professional groups and with leaders of NGOs.