Sunday, 24 January 2021

UN in your language

Norway in Sri Lanka – The peace initiative that went out the window

President of Sri Lanka Addresses General Assembly  2011In 2000, the Sri Lankan government headed by President Kumaratunga and together with the Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) invited Norway to take the role of facilitator in the forthcoming peace process. A ceasefire between the Tigers and the Government was successfully established in 2002 and led the way for a Nordic civil observational delegation called the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) with 20 officers from Norway and 10 from Iceland. The goal of the mission was that all ethnic groups would agree to a peaceful political solution to the violent conflict that the country had suffered for decades. This agreement was renewed in 2006 by incoming President Rajapakse, but in 2008 the Sri Lankan government terminated the deal and the SLMM delegation left the country.

Norway has, as a central player in the peace negotiations, received a lot of criticism from all those involved in the conflict. The Sri Lankan Government accused Norway of supporting the Tamil Tigers and their fight for a separate Tamil state, while Human Rights Watch accused Norway of thwarting a UN based observation mission because they wanted to play the role themselves. The Norwegian government has denied both charges and says they support a UN observation mission in Sri Lanka, which the Sri Lankan government strongly opposes. And although Norway’s role has been criticized the negotiators feel that their efforts in the ceasefire agreement prevented thousands of people being killed.

The Sri Lankan Government finally defeated the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Both parties have been accused of war crimes.

In early 2011, Norway offered to play a part in reconciling ethnic groups, especially Tamils living abroad, with the Sri Lankan Government, but was rebuffed.

Norway still supports the Sri Lankan government with money and the total bilateral aid for 2010 was almost 23 million Euros.




  • Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean, lying off the southern tip of India*

  • Population: 20.4 million (UN, 2010)*

  • Life expectancy at birth is 74.9 years **

  • There is a long-established (mainly Hindu) Tamil minority in the north and east, but the Buddhist Sinhalese community are the majority *

  • Major religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity

  • Major languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English*

  • The UN is in Sri Lanka by explicit agreement with the government***

  • Sri Lanka now leads South Asia in most developmental indicators** (It’s a medium ranked country in the UNDP 2011 Human Development Index) and has already made impressive progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals in key areas of human development such as education and health ***

  • However Sri Lanka’s impressive progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals continues to be undermined by the aftermath of 25 years of conflict.

  • The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) is an agreement between the UN and the Government of Sri Lanka for development activities from 2008-2012 ***

  • In this challenging environment the UN Country Team is still committed to delivering on the outputs agreed with the Government of Sri Lanka through the UNDAF:

        1. Interventions to improve socio-economic opportunities and services for conflict-affected communities, particularly IDPs;

        2. Interventions to increase the participation of civil society and people in the peace process; and

        3. Interventions to improve the capacity of public institutions to promote peace, human rights, and national consensus. ***


edward mortimer3 Questions to Edward Mortimer on Sri Lanka.


Edward Mortimer - interview for UNRIC "In Focus" on Sri Lanka