Conflict, tension and reconciliation through networking by regional business

Sri Lanka is multi ethnic, religious & cultural. It's the same in the Kegalle district. Majority of the population is Sinhalese 78%, Tamil 12.5% and Muslim 7.2%.In the district all different ethnic communities living in the geographical pockets separately and its majority will be Tamil or Muslim. There are no communication and cultural exchange among them so observe ethnic pocket areas became tense with violence, destruction of property, killing and trigger to escalation and its spread. Escalating conflict and violence due to external dividing party involvements. Due to conflicts majority of local business negatively affected after the conflict or violation due to stealing, burning business places, killing and evacuation. It continued to happen with no sustainable solution. I got involved with the Kegalle District Chamber of Commerce & Industry and analyzed all 7 conflicts participatory with communities civil society leaders.

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES

1. To educate local business and other multi ethnic communities to tolerance of diverse cultures, norms and environments.
2. To create among the business community sense of ownership in addressing own marginalized community issues, reduce & transform multi ethnic tension, conflict & violence.
3. To form and strengthen local civil society networks addressing their issues and influence with decision makers.

HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED

1. 433 MSME's, SME's owner, 245 youth & women leaders, 78 religions (Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity), 130 Police, army officers, 320 other multi ethnic civil leaders trained on conflict sensitivity, value of multi religious and conflict management.
2. 7 conflict tension pockets analyzed.
3. 7 regional reconciliation forums formed by business leaders and participation of other civil society leaders.
4. 7 regional reconciliation leaders formed and districts reconciliation forum formed with participation of their representations. Government District agent and Chamber accepted through participation of meeting.
5. Day to day event and regular forum services conduct as scheduled by regional forums and district forum.
6. Organized multi cultural and multi religious event on their coexistence by leaders.
7. 48 multi ethnic secondary/ youth leaders selected and trained.
8. Regional and district own fund established and support for communities.

CAMPAIGN INNOVATIONS

1. Business owners support their time, money and energy for community (CSR create).
2. Sense of ownership among the business communities and acceptance by local multi ethnic communities.
3. During the training lot of new interactive team building tools and modules developed and practiced.
4. Reduce ethnically created unnecessary business competition.
5. Minimized negative third party and political corruption parties involvement.
6. Local livelihoods, MSME's and SME's coordination.
7. Create quality value chine for local producers and multi ethnic local producers
8. Equal power in all business, political, government, community and NGO's within district forum.

CAMPAIGN IMPACT

1. Conflict and violence gradually reduced in pocket areas and ‘0’ conflict last year.
2. Sri Lanka multi party politician get to gather accepted and conduct TV show in “Hemmatagama” forum and also 4 national news papers.
3. Regional level multi ethnic trade association converted to united associations.
4. Regional and district level reconciliation forum become a strong lobby platform for local issues and national level higher government officers has direct links with local leaders.
5. Regional business leaders represent other civil society’s forums in the divisional level.
6. District development coordination committee (all ministers, political representatives and government higher officers represent decision making forum) has membership for forum president and directly discuss local issues and solution for the issues. (4 issues addressed)
7. Replicate the experiences by BPA within other multi ethnic; 4 districts in Sri Lanka this used this as model.
http://www.bpa-srilanka.com/

CHALLENGES FACED

1. During the Sri Lankan war and post war contest difficult to address the issues openly fear to armed forces.
2. Mistrust among ethnicity and long term cultural & religious norms and attitudes.
3. External inflectional parties involvement during and after the program.
4. Allocate the time for the businessmen for this event at the beginning (they were not interested).
5. There were no models for such a program and shared experiences among others.
6. Muslim women participation to common event, team building events and express their idea openly.
7. Voluntary commitment with my economic situation and family works.

LESSONS LEARNT

1. Multi religious, cultural and ethnic conflict could be reduced through better communication, understanding of values, cultures.
2. More participatory interactive training tools could be used effective understanding others religious, norms, values and grievances.
3. Negatively conflict affected small business communities have a leadership/ voice to minimize & transformed the violence but they fear of do so.
4. Different conflicts/ violations analyze separately to understand.
5. External dividing parties involve escalation of conflict/violation in local level.
6. Local multi ethnic strong leaderships freeze the external dividers involvements.
7. Recognition to the civil society forums mean rural communities build trust on forums.
8. Conflict transform and other benefit program more effective at local level.
9. Secondary leadership from the beginning gives sustainability to the program.
10. Strong neutral facilitator role more critical from the beginning build trust to all.

COUNTRY

Sri Lanka

CITY

Kegalle

WEBSITE

http://www.fccisl.lk/

FACEBOOK PAGE

https://www.facebook.com/bandula.weerasinghe.735

TWITTER PAGE

https://www.twitter.com/bandula63