Sri Lanka

National reconciliation and reconstruction are important key words for Norway’s work in Sri Lanka.

Facts about Sri Lanka

The flag for Sri Lanka
Life expectancy
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GNI pr capita
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Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
The flag for Sri Lanka
The flag for Sri Lanka

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

The army’s victory over the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in Sri Lanka in 2009 marked the end of 30 years of war. In the final phase of the war, Norway worked to limit the suffering of civilians and to persuade the parties to abide by international law.

The history of development aid between Norway and Sri Lanka goes back to 1967 when Norway first began to support development projects there. Norway’s previous role as a facilitator of the peace process between the government and the Tamil Tigers has made Norway well acquainted with Sri Lanka but has also meant that it is still a target for criticism from the most extremist forces on both sides.

At the end of 2014, the president announced that there would be a presidential election in January 2015. Few people expected the president to lose; however, the gathering of support by the opposition around a common opposition candidate from the president’s own party resulted in a surprising election victory for Maithripala Sirisena.

Sisisena campaigned on an ambitious 100-day programme which focused on reducing the power of the presidency, strengthening the independence of key democratic institutions, reducing the cost of living and fighting corruption.

The election victory has created a new dynamic in Sri Lanka’s relationship with the West, from a situation of non-dialogue to positive engagement and cooperation with the UN on the establishment of a full, credible national inquiry into what happened in the final stage of the war.

Despite the challenges following the years of war, the middle-income country of Sri Lanka will probably manage to achieve the great majority of the UN Millennium Development Goals. 

Norwegian development cooperation with Sri Lanka

Norwegian development assistance to Sri Lanka has been rolled back in recent years. In 2009, Norway provided NOK 221 million, compared to NOK 64,5 million in 2014.

After almost 30 years of violent conflict, the relationship between the different population groups in Sri Lanka is still characterized by deep mistrust. In 2014, the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo continued to support organizations that promote better understanding between the population groups strengthen protection of the rights of minorities, and contribute to peaceful development in local communities through information, awareness-raising and mobilization.

Norway also provided support in 2014 for reconstruction, development and reconciliation in the previous areas of conflict in the north and east, and to ensure that returnees received assistance in returning to normality in their daily lives. 

Good governance

The Sarvodaya organization has worked to increase popular awareness, involvement and participation in local politics to promote good governance and reconciliation. Altogether 8348 local community leaders have increased their knowledge about citizens’ rights, and 1253 persons have received legal assistance in connection with access to public documents.  Four local action plans for good governance and reconciliation have been implemented with the participation of the local community.

Media education and independent media

Through its support to journalists, Norway has contributed to greater professionalization of the media industry and improved professional ethics. Norway and Denmark have provided support to the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) which runs foundation and further education courses for journalists. Altogether 14 students completed the final examination for the journalist training programme in 2014. The Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka handled a total of 291 complaints in 2014, while an increase was observed in the number of apologies published in newspapers on the basis of complaints sent directly to the editors. This is an indicator of greater professionalism in the media industry and an improvement in professional ethics.

Norway and Denmark also support the Media Resources and Training Centre which provides journalist training under the auspices of the University of Jaffna. A total of 25 students completed the training and 23 of them found jobs in the media industry on completion of their course.

Climate, environment and sustainable resource management

The Sevalanka organization trained 208 local leaders and 83 youth in sustainable development in 2014. All these are now working in local organizations around the country. The Islander project supported 17 district teams in developing annual strategic plans and services to 1432 organic market gardens in 114 local communities, as well as 32 seed banks and 65 horticultural schools.

Two hundred and forty organic farms received support, and increased production by 38 per cent. Sevalanka supported 25 village initiatives to contribute to sustainable agriculture, and this is expected to have a direct effect on approximately 6848 families.

Economic development

Five years after the war ended, it was important for normalization and a political solution to improve the opportunity for previously internally displaced persons to obtain a livelihood in the former conflict areas. The support for economic development was increased in 2014 and amounted to NOK 10,2 million.

Improved access to credit schemes and competence building was central to Norway’s support to chambers of commerce and banks, in cooperation with International Finance Corporation, IFC (part of the World Bank Group). The project concluded in 2014, and since it began in 2010 it has reached 680.000 small- and medium-sized businesses and provided them with increased access to financial services and USD 1,9 billion in loans.

A total of 80.000 small- and medium-sized enterprises have improved their competence with regard to management and finance. Altogether 120.000 women and 173.000 people from the former conflict areas benefited from the intervention. The increase in revenue for the enterprises was more than USD seven million, and the project has also significantly helped to reduce CO2 emissions through energy efficiency and clean growth measures.

Norway supports economic development in the north of the country through the United Nations Development Programme. The manufacturing organizations that were supported in 2014 measured increased productivity and sales, based on higher production and improvement in manufacturing techniques. Average increase in income was 57 per cent. Altogether 19 new products were developed and 434 persons have initiated income-generating activities, 203 of whom are women.

Sevalanka helped to strengthen the capacity of women’s organizations to manage development projects in the north. Ten district development associations for women have increased their membership by 150 per cent as a result of the programme, and 583 women have gained access to loans through these organizations. The average monthly income per household has increased by 1100 per cent since 2010.

A total of 1100 farmers have increased their income from farming cooperatives, and 250 fishermen with around 1250 family members have received an average growth in monthly income of LKR 7000 following measures to boost inland fisheries by placing fish fry into 15 aquaculture tanks.

The Norwegian Embassy has supported the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) measures to improve quality and increase profits and value creation from peanut production by reinforcing the value chain.  The project has supported 6616 families and seven small businesses. Altogether 1280 persons and nine farmers’ organizations received training and support in peanut production, sustainable agriculture, water resources management, seed certification, storage and treatment after harvesting, processing, and establishing links with buyers.

Business cooperation

A major part of the business cooperation between Norway and Sri Lanka is facilitated through a Match-Making Programme. The programme was concluded in 2014 after 20 years of activity, but will continue in a different form. Of a total of 441 Norwegian clients, 175 have signed cooperation agreements or trade agreements with a Sri Lankan counterpart.

Peace, reconciliation and democracy interventions

The Norwegian Embassy supports several organizations that work for peace-building, democracy, human rights and good governance. An important result is the PAFFREL organization’s project on preparing criteria for candidates nominated for election by the political parties that voters can demand. The criteria include matters such as corruption, criminality, abuse of political power and greater representation for women and youth.

In March 2015 the criteria were launched nationally and were accepted and signed by leaders of the political parties in the presence of the elections commissioner and the national media. The result is particularly significant in that civil society succeeded in getting leading politicians to accept and sign up to criteria that were drawn up after numerous meetings between academics, civil society, faith groups, political parties, the elections commission, and others. The project was supported in cooperation with the Swedish development organization Diakonia.  

The Norwegian Embassy supported the National Peace Council which works for reconciliation and a political solution through its newsletter “Path to Peace” and the book project “Write to reconcile” which was published in 4770 copies.

Other cooperation



In 2014, the Norwegian Embassy continued its work to promote peace and reconciliation between population groups in Sri Lanka through cultural projects. The embassy spent around NOK two million used for cultural purposes in 2014.

The music cooperation under the auspices of Concerts Norway received significant public support in 2014 and focuses on arenas for reconciliation and on enabling the various ethnic groups to learn about each other’s forms of musical expression and thereby gain a greater understanding of each other’s culture. Altogether 14.000 people attended concerts through this cooperation.

Norway supports the Abhina Academy which works with the performing arts as a way of processing trauma. A total of 50 persons from different ethnic groups and geographic regions received training as instructors, and work to support traumatized persons in their villages. Six former female combatants who underwent the programme now work as instructors for the Abhina Academy.

The Sunera Foundation’s programme to strengthen the rights of children with physical and mental disabilities from five tea plantations ended in 2014. Altogether 200 training sessions were conducted with physical activity, various exercises, dance, singing and theatre for 160 children and youth. Seven of the children who had been unable to keep up with mainstream schooling were able to start at normal schools again after the training.

Anti-corruption work

Through its support to anti-corruption measures, in 2014 Norway contributed to awareness-raising and knowledge of anti-corruption and principles of good governance among public employees, civil society and the general population.   

The Norwegian Embassy supported Transparency International (TI) which helped to establish a network of parliamentarians against corruption with 35 parliamentarians from a number of different political parties. The network is a member of GOPAC (Global Organization of Parliamentarians against Corruption).

TI has expanded its youth programme with the theme “I love integrity-Next generation of fighting corruption”. A total of 375 young people from eleven districts participated in the UN’s International Anti-Corruption Day. TI has also been active in the ‘right to information’ work that will come before parliament in 2015.

Technical cooperation

The Norwegian Embassy supports a technical cooperation via the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) on prevention of natural disasters connected with climate change. In 2014, Sri Lanka’s institution for geotechnical analyses – the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) ‒ was given enhanced competence and technology that will contribute to improved analyses and information on ground conditions which are important for disaster prevention. 

A map was prepared of areas in Matale district where the ground may subside, and two early-warning systems were installed in critical areas of landslide in the district. The system measures precipitation and sends a warning if the precipitation levels exceed critical threshold values that may result in landslides.

Women and gender equality

The Norwegian Embassy supported women’s rights through voluntary women’s organizations.

Women in Need works with legal counselling for women, provides practical assistance, and trains judges, the police and the health services in how to prevent violence against women. In 2014, it helped to provide legal advice to 11.796 women, and legal assistance in 748 new cases and 8171 ongoing court cases. A total of 57.392 women who were exposed to violence received counselling through the project and 7 428 women were supported via crisis telephone.

Women’s Action Network works to bring together women activists and women’s organizations from regions affected by the conflict in the north and east. This has helped to boost the group’s ability to take on cases connected to women’s rights. They dealt with ten cases of violence against women and gave legal advice in 67 cases and counselling in 14 cases. The organization conducts a campaign for the families of those missing after the war.

The Norwegian Embassy supports the Mannar Women’s Development Federation which works with violence against women and awareness-raising with regard to sexual harassment. It provided training to 2013 women on how to report violence against women and how to persuade the authorities to work more effectively on violence against women. Altogether 45 cases of violence were taken up by the organization in 2014, and 90 auto-rickshaw drivers were given training in laws on sexual harassment and how public transport and auto-rickshaws are used for different forms of violence against women. Male and female youth leaders were given training on teenage pregnancy and how they can communicate and raise awareness among their peers on this issue.

Norway supported EQUAL GROUND which has worked with rights for LGBT persons and awareness through activism, film festivals, art and photographic exhibitions, and panel discussions. The support has raised awareness that the rights of sexual minorities are equal to human rights.

Women and Media Collective aims to enable women in employee organizations to participate in political work and to be nominated to party election lists. In 2014, two of the trade unions adopted a resolution that at least one-third of their representatives should be women, and another two trade unions started a women’s branch. Trade Union Women United was established as a group to advocate and lobby for the political parties to reserve 30 per cent of the seats in local elections for women. Altogether 25 per cent of women representatives in local elections are part of the 100-day programme of the new president and the interim government.

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Norad contributed NOK 27 million to Norwegian NGOs for the support of projects in Sri Lanka in 2014. CARE Norway, Caritas, Fokus, Forut, the Development Fund, the Norwegian Copyright Development Association (Norcode), YWCA-YMCA Guides and Scouts of Norway, the Union of Education Norway and Strømme Foundation support local partners whose work includes environment, business development, and peace and reconciliation.  Strømme Foundation has helped to establish local community-based self-help organizations, resulting in economic growth through savings programmes and a fall in the number of poor families. Many villages have had electricity installed and many hundreds of families have gained access to clean drinking water.

Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 02.10.2015