Sri Lanka has been identified as a country at risk of conflict or escalation of violence in the International Crisis Group’s early-warning Watch List 2020.
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict identifies up to ten countries and regions at risk of conflict or escalation of violence.
In these situations, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could generate stronger prospects for peace, the ICG said.
Along with Sri Lanka, the Watch List 2020 includes Bolivia, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region, Ethiopia, the US-Iranian impasse, ISIS returnees, Libya, Tunisia and Ukraine.
Sri Lanka is the only country in Asia identified in the Watch List 2020.
The report on Sri Lanka titled “A Dangerous Sea Change in Sri Lanka” says President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have initiated fundamental changes to policies on ethnic relations, the legacy of a 26-year civil war, and the rule of law and the changes are a challenge to EU policy in Sri Lanka.
“The changes pose a deep challenge to EU policy in Sri Lanka, which has supported ethnic reconciliation, human rights and political stability rooted in inclusive governance – and which now finds itself at cross-purposes with the country’s leadership.”
“Against this backdrop, the EU and member states should continue to press Colombo to honour commitments made by the prior administration to strengthen rights respecting governance and the rule of law, while making clear that the EU will not support programs that encourage political repression or discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities,” the report recommends.
Accordingly, the ICG proposes a number of steps that the EU and Member States should take:
1.Reiterate support for the reconciliation and accountability agenda agreed to by Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Resolution 30/1 (2015) and work to build support on the council for continued UNHRC engagement beyond the resolution’s expiration in 2021.
2. Communicate clearly in upcoming high-level meetings with the new Sri Lankan Government that the EU has begun an informal review of the Generalized Scheme of Preferences trade and tariff concessions extended to Sri Lanka (known as “GSP+”) and that continued benefits are at risk if Colombo continues on its present course.
3.Review funding for UN-administered Counter-Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism programs, avoiding support for activities with a discriminatory focus on Muslims, and avoiding any engagement with planned “deradicalisation” or “rehabilitation” programs targeted at Muslims accused of involvement in militant activities without strict human rights protections in place.
4.Launch a full review of all policies and programs in Sri Lanka, including development cooperation and contributions to the UN-administered Priority Peacebuilding Plan, to ensure they support efforts consistent with European conflict prevention and human rights objectives.
The ICG suggests that the EU, together with Sri Lanka’s other international partners, should also work to ensure their funding or other support does not inadvertently help implement policies that further marginalise minorities and threaten their rights – and thereby increase tensions that exacerbate the risks of violent conflict.