Citizen Watcher for Promoting Human Rights and Democracy
During the 7-month project course, AFRIEL conducted 41 Trainings for Citizen Watcher, Election Monitoring and Advocacy for Grassroots Youth, developed and distributed handouts on Law for Protecting Citizen Rights, and successfully established 142 Citizen Watchers (208.82% above the target), including 54.22% are female, in 97 villages (142.68% above the target). To further improve Citizen Watchers’ capacity in documenting human rights issues, AFRIEL additionally conducted a Human Rights Documentation Workshop in cooperation with INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre (INFORM) for the selected 43 Citizen Watchers from 18 villages.
AFRIEL held a nomination ceremony jointly with the Election Commission of Sri Lanka (ECSL) and awarded name boards for the Citizen Watchers after the trainings, officially introducing the Citizen Watchers to the ECSL, Human Rights Commission (HRC), and several community-based organizations and national level organizations such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and INFORM.
After the nomination, AFRIEL connected Citizen Watchers and the grassroots people through their engagement in and facilitation of problem-solving processes through legal advice clinics. In this project, 7,000 leaflets introducing Citizen Watchers and the AFRIEL Legal Advice Unit were distributed and 22 GS divisional level awareness raising programmes and legal advice clinics covering 36 villages in the Northern Province have been conducted.
This process provided substantial assistance to 1,765 clients which greatly helped to make people be aware about the Citizen Watchers’ endeavors. The cooperation with the HRC in the establishment period of the AFRIEL Legal Advice Unit also built people’s confidence to seek for assistance from the AFRIEL team. All the 1,765 complaints received during the project course (420.24% above the target) had been registered in an online complaint system. Besides, AFRIEL also developed a mobile application which enables the staff and a law student team in coordination with Citizen Watchers to track legal service progress easily. With the support of IT solutions, collaboration and team productivity on legal service was greatly improved and AFRIEL have referred 1,563 cases, 88.56% of the complaints received, to the related government authorities for further actions.
In addition to grassroots intervention in facilitating grievance redress, the Citizen Watchers also actively engage in advocacy work on voter rights and reconciliation. To raise the public awareness and call for their support for requesting that action be pursued to ensure voter rights for 18 years old citizens under the ECSL #YouthVoteSL Campaign, AFRIEL Citizen Watchers voluntarily organized the awareness-raising and petition campaign in 55 villages in the Northern Province and in Anuradhapura, Matale, and Kandy districts and collected 1,635 signatures. Beside discussion on youth voter rights and political participation, the campaign also helped to dialogue with grassroots people about the importance to elect clean and corruption-free politicians. In collaboration with the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), the Citizen Watchers distributed 1,500 leaflets to promote clean politics. The Citizen Watchers’ activism successfully won the award for “Most Effective Campaign” in the #YouthVoteSL Programme from the Election Commission.
In sum, the project allowed the Citizen Watchers to take up important roles in mobilizing the war-affected victim groups and empowered the war-affected youth through volunteerism and personally engaging in problem-solving processes of post-war issues. AFRIEL believes the productive results of this project will further create a civil society movement for demanding solutions and justice.
Promoting Political Participation and National Reconciliation
The Promoting Political Participation and National Reconciliation Project was a one-year initiative, implemented in Sri Lanka, in particular the Northern Province, between July 2015 and June 2016. The project was funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
The overall goal of the project was to increase youth participation in the political process and involvement in national reconciliation. The project was divided into 2 components. The first component was to provide certificate courses on political training and capacity training for targeted youth volunteers and to facilitate the trainees involving in various practical activities, including citizen watcher, discussions with politicians and Northern Provincial Council (NPC) interviews. The purpose of this approach was to strengthen youth leaders’ political knowledge to intervene in community issues and to promote youth political participation. The second component was to promote public opinion towards national reconciliation and political solutions through workshop, nationwide youth parade and youth gathering.
Please find quarterly reports for more details.
Youth CSO Networking on Reconciliation across the Country
The unawareness and misunderstanding of southern communities about the post-war situation in the war-affected region has become one of the main obstacles to initiate a constructive discussion about national reconciliation and political solutions for the minorities.
To address this issue, AFRIEL implemented youth parade which passed through the major cities in south, upcountry and east and return to Jaffna town in one-month period, aiming at building understanding between ethnic groups through youth leaders visiting victims and areas in the south with similar issues and seeking for collective actions for national reconciliation. This parade, containing street drama, awareness-raising campaign and media campaign, was supported by SPICE/USAID under the Promoting Political Participation and National Reconciliation Project.
Promote Youth participation in the political process and involvement in national reconciliation
35 street drama shows and 35 social forums, covering 27 GN divisions in 14 districts in 7 Provinces, completed by the parade team. The parade reached 3,764 people, with more than 50 percent female. One street drama and social forum in Badulla conducted at the Uva Provincial Council with the participation of the Governor and Provincial Council members.
The story line and performance style won strong praise from the audience. Many of them agreed that all the facts highlighted in the drama are true and real and faithfully poured out the plights of all the communities and regions with witty and understandable performance. They indicated the drama pointed out that the lack of a reliable representation to resolve the demands of people, which awoke the audience, especially to whom from the upcountry where has no influential leaders fighting for the well-being of the people as the north and east, to play a more active role in the national reconciliation and political solution processes and to voice for their rights and issues.
10,000 advocacy leaflets, designed by the AFRIEL volunteers, distributed by youth volunteers during the youth parade. We posed 5 issues on this leaflet, trying to let the readers to ask themselves whether they shut their eyes and ears to those problems. To the readers as the victims of these issues, we tried to ask them have they ever cared about other groups who also suffer from the same problems. These 5 issues included Internally Displaced Persons and High Security Zones, land acquisition and development projects, disappearance, estate Tamils, as well as political action and ethnic differentiation. Finally, we encouraged readers to participate in the youth gathering in December and jointly build a consensus for reconciliation.
Strengthen civil society network for promoting a political solution and reconciliation
46 civil society groups connected during the youth parade joined in the Representatives of All Island Communities Political Solution Conference (PSCRAIC) and formed a Civil Society’s Coalition for Protecting Minority’s Rights after the conference, aiming at expanding political solution and reconciliation dialogues with grassroots people in their respective regions to understand their expectations and thoughts on how to solve their own issues through a political solution.
Improve understanding between ethnic groups on the current challenges of each group in the post-war society
During the social forum discussions, we noticed the people’s expectations towards and key factors of national reconciliation and political solutions. These concerns and expectations identified were brought to the PSCRAIC discussions as an important reference for the civil society representatives to draft a political solution proposal.
Please find the project narrative report for more details.