The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Sri Lanka to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Sri Lanka's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
U.S. Government efforts to promote human rights and democracy focus on the resolution of the ethnic conflict and the protection of human rights, human rights defenders, and civil society organizations. The United States' major priorities are to persuade the government to pursue national and ethnic reconciliation following the end of the 26-year separatist war against the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE); encourage it to engage in a meaningful political dialogue with Tamils and Muslims; stabilize and develop former conflict regions; assist recovery; and promote conditions by strengthening the rule of law, under which reconciliation can take place, individuals can be held accountable, and justice may be carried out. The U.S. Government also presses the government to explore scenarios for power sharing and aims to strengthen governance to ensure accountability and transparency. Finally, the United States works to defend freedom of speech and the rights of those vulnerable to abuses, especially internally displaced persons (IDPs), minorities, workers, women, and children.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
U.S. programs to advance democracy and help resolve ethnic conflict include providing technical assistance and training for national and subnational initiatives to promote political participation, especially for minority groups. This includes support for minority-led civil society initiatives that engage marginalized communities in a process of reconciliation and those that expand citizen human rights monitoring and other related programs. The United States also provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils to enhance its capacity to support national reconciliation by providing Sinhala and Tamil language training for local government officials in the Eastern province. In 2010, 456 officials will be trained in Sinhala or Tamil. Thirty-eight municipality governments in the Eastern Province are receiving technical assistance and training to promote transparent and accountable government through increased citizen-community partnerships efforts such as participatory planning and budgeting. In 2010 the U.S. Government will support the training of district-based government officials in procurement policy and regulations. The U.S. Government is also rehabilitating a police training college to assist the National Police to diversify and professionalize its ranks.
U.S. officials engage civil society actors to support the protection of human rights, citizen participation to promote reconciliation, and improved citizen oversight of government. Some specific initiatives in 2010 include International Visitor Leadership programs on interreligious cooperation and conflict resolution; a "Leaders of Influence Program" to introduce civil society religious leaders to modern practices of development and democracy and promote tolerance; several youth-oriented programs focused on celebrating diversity; and a visit from a moderate U.S. imam to speak on social issues and Shari'a. The U.S. Government also provided funding and some short-term technical assistance for the January presidential election and the April parliamentary election. Support primarily focused on domestic election monitoring, monitoring of election-related violence, and voter outreach, especially to IDPs.
U.S. efforts to promote freedom of speech and the media include diplomacy and technical assistance programs. U.S. officials regularly meet influential media personalities from a wide range of outlets to hear their views about pressure on the media, and they raise with the government their concerns about particular cases. In interviews with the media and in public speeches, U.S. officials speak about the need for the government to improve observance of human rights, support free media, and put forward a plan for national reconciliation that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all local citizens. The United States continues to fund a regional media program that provides training and production support to journalists and community organization staff members. A U.S.-funded implementing partner broadcasts current affairs programs in both vernacular languages on three regional radio stations in the Southern, Eastern, and Central provinces.
U.S. officials consistently urge the government to halt all human rights abuses; establish effective human rights monitoring mechanisms; hold perpetrators accountable, including for any violations of international human rights or humanitarian law committed during the war; and provide access and due process to the persons detained on counterterrorism grounds. The United States will continue to provide financial support for civil society organizations to document human rights violations and to improve case sharing and coordination among human rights advocates and providers of legal aid and other services. The U.S. Government is supporting a national database to track human rights violations. The U.S. Government also provides security training to staff such organizations to help protect human rights defenders. The U.S. Government works to prevent trafficking in persons, assist IDPs and women, promote religious freedom, and defend the rights of workers, including migrant laborers.
In cooperation with the government, the United States aims to improve efforts against human trafficking, and it reminds the government to maintain vigilance against revival of the child soldier problem. Through support to UN agencies and NGOs, the U.S. Government assists IDPs (the LTTE expelled approximately 300,000 from their homes at the end of the war) by providing transitional shelter, humanitarian demining, livelihood restoration, emergency food assistance, and access to clean water and sanitation. A representative women's rights project supports and assists female community leaders to advocate for community development and promote the role of women in the political process.
The U.S. Government regularly expresses concern to the government about attacks against religious minorities and the negative impact that an anticonversion law could have on religious freedom. U.S. officials also reach out to clerics of all faiths, encouraging tolerance and reconciliation.
The United States currently is funding a project to promote fundamental labor principles and rights in export processing zone workplaces, and a survey to provide timely information on child labor in the country. Finally, the U.S. Government provides training to the military to improve respect for human rights, rule of law, and civil-military relations; however, most military assistance is suspended as a result of human rights concerns.