Sri Lanka: Enabling Disability Inclusive Local Services in the Eastern Province

November 6, 2013


Disability does not mean inability. People with disabilities like Mr Cyril Siriwardene, (Member National Council of Persons with disabilities) has proven that they are just as able as others. Its about time policy makers and society at large work together to create inclusive spaces for them to lead a life just like any other person.

  • Sri Lanka: North East Local Service Improvement Project (NELSIP), popularly known as Puraneguma–North East, contributes to the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of the government of Sri Lanka and expects to build stronger local government institutions in the Northern and Eastern Provinces that are responsive to the needs of the war affected citizens.
  • The World Bank supported a stakeholder consultation on policies to improve inclusive opportunities for people with disabilities in October 2013 in Colombo. This consultation was organized by the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development.
  • The event followed a series of studies supported by the Bank ensuring that all relevant Bank-funded projects are inclusive in design and implementation with clear policy language on disability mainstreaming.

North East Local Service Improvement Project (NELSIP) was approved in 2010 to improve the delivery of services by the local authorities in the northern and eastern provinces in a responsive and accountable manner. The project has passed the midterm life line. While results achieved to date are significant and appreciated by stakeholders, one of the grievances identified during the project implementation is the problem of addressing the needs of persons with disabilities.

The World Bank stakeholder consultation revisited existing policy documents related to disability together with key stakeholders to find ways of integrating and improving livelihoods of persons with disabilities living in the Eastern Province.

The Challenge

Current views of disability recognize that it is influenced by personal factors (such as age and gender), social factors (such as community perceptions), cultural factors (such as superstitions) and natural and built environmental factors (such as infrastructure).

The challenge of supporting and including this marginalized group of people in the country’s mainstream is a national priority according to Mahinda Chinthana. Many policy and public level initiatives are in progress–island-wide. NELSIP implemented by the Ministry of Economic Development is committed to creating an enabling environment to engage and empower the disabled people in the eastern province first as a demonstrative initiative that could be replicated in other parts of the country.

World Bank Studies

The first study was titled “Disability Programs and Local Government in Sri Lanka” and carried out in October 2012. This was followed by a policy review. Based on this, two specific areas of need were identified by the study and the review. One: Vocational Training and Skills Development and the other: Health and Rehabilitation. These reports also explored the role that local authorities could play in taking responsibility for disability work in anticipation of the legislative mandate and policy directive that local government will soon be given by the government of Sri Lanka to mainstream disability in their work. The eastern province will first take steps to put these policies into practice.

" If anyone doubts the capability of people with disabilities to undergo training in mainstream institutions I would like to invite them to, “Rehab Lanka” at Maligawatte where people with disabilities are manufacturing quality mobility aids such as wheelchairs, tricycles, etc. The demand for these is so high that we struggle to meet that. "

Cyril Siriwardene

Member National Council of Persons with disabilities

The Consultation

The Stakeholder Consultation brought together representatives from the two collaborating ministries. In addition, the Ministries of Youth Affairs and Skills Development, Health and Social Services were represented from all three tiers of government–Central, Provincial and Local, together with representatives of people with disabilities.

Policies discussed were those defined within Sri Lanka’s National Policy on Local Government (2009), proposed legislative amendments to Local Government Ordinances (2009), Sri Lanka’s National Policy on Disability (2003), and final draft National Action Plan on Disability (June 2013).

Expected Outcomes

Major outcomes of the Consultation are expected to be

  • Disability inclusive local government authorities and Vocational Training systems in the Eastern Province
  • Strengthened and accessible health and rehabilitation for people with disabilities.

Simultaneously the Studies and the Consultation seek to ensure the participation of people with disabilities in all matters which concern them and to promote the evolution of a sustainable multi-sectoral strategy to protect 07 selected disability rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

  1. The Right to Work and Employment
  2. The Right to Health
  3. The Right to Habilitation and Rehabilitation
  4. Accessibility
  5. Personal mobility
  6. Living independently and living in the community within the overriding
  7. Right to Equality and Non-discrimination