QUEENS, New York — Sri Lanka is an island country in South Asia located in the Indian Ocean. The island country has a population of more than 20 million people. For about 65 years now, the U.S. government has been providing aid to Sri Lanka. Today, the U.S. continues to do so through USAID by promoting growth across several dimensions of Sri Lankan society, such as governance and the economy. USAID programs in Sri Lanka provide humanitarian assistance to its vulnerable populations and aid in the development of the nation.
Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Programs
As a country with a history of ethnic conflict, one of the particularly important USAID programs in Sri Lanka is the Initiative for Sustained Peaceful Inter-Ethnic Relations Through Economic Development (INSPIRED). USAID partners with the Asia Foundation on this project, which began in 2018 and is set to end in December 2021. The INSPIRED program facilitates “inter-community engagement” in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province to encourage tolerance, inclusivity and cooperation among different ethnic groups in order to mitigate conflict. The program also boasts an economic dimension by working to “strengthen models of inter-ethnic collaboration in the business sector.”
USAID programs in Sri Lanka also focus on strengthening democracy. The Inclusive Political Processes (IPP) program began in 2020 and will conclude in 2024. IPP reinforces the ability of government institutions to address the democratic needs and wishes of the Sri Lankan people. The program also works to strengthen civil society so that underrepresented groups, such as young people and women, have the opportunity to make their political mark on society through leadership roles. Finally, the IPP provides the Election Commission with technical assistance in order to protect and ensure the democratic integrity of elections and preserve state legitimacy in the eyes of the population.
Economic Growth and Trade Programs
USAID’s economic programs in Sri Lanka seek to support Sri Lanka on its journey to becoming an advanced economy. The Youth Employment and Business Start-Up Project (YOULEAD) began in 2017 and will conclude in 2024. It supports youth employment by providing skills training to increase their job opportunities and develop the competencies that are in demand in the job market. In addition, the program partners with the private sector in order to increase youth access to employment opportunities outside of the public sector.
For its Private Sector Development (PSD) program, beginning in 2020 and finalizing in 2025, USAID partners with Palladium in Sri Lanka. Together, USAID and Palladium aim to raise “the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises” with the goal to “diversify Sri Lanka’s private sector and increase revenues” in industries that have proven to be conducive to economic growth, such as tourism and technology.
The program also emphasizes the role that women play in growing and strengthening the nation’s economy by deploying efforts to increase the participation of women in Sri Lanka’s workforce so that the nation can ultimately witness growth in women-owned enterprises. The program works to develop Sri Lanka’s private sector in these ways while also taking into consideration the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.
Humanitarian Assistance Programs
Thus far, USAID has “provided job skills to more than 50,000 vulnerable Sri Lankans” facing the adverse impacts of “conflict and natural disasters.” The agency also provides essential services to vulnerable groups in Sri Lanka’s population, such as “war widows, female-headed households, disabled persons and resettling families.”
The Safe, Disaster Resilient Drinking Water to Flood and Drought Prone Areas program began in 2016 and concluded recently in September 2021. The program, a partnership between USAID and the Lanka Rain Water Harvesting Forum, essentially worked to supply clean and safe drinking water to vulnerable communities amid flooding and droughts. In addition, the program aimed to improve the disaster resilience of communities facing regular climate-related disasters.
The Value of USAID programs in Sri Lanka
USAID programs in Sri Lanka work to improve the country’s governance, economy and humanitarian situation while also engaging regional partners in the process. Such developmental assistance is imperative in the fight against global poverty.
– Savannah Algu