Accompanying Sri Lanka’s Transition to Democracy-Re-igniting GSP+ human rights commitments through partnerships with CSOs and Business
Sri Lanka is at the crossroads. The government is committed to a wide array of reforms and is challenged to deliver on these commitments. Reconciliation, strengthening human rights by reforming laws and implementing reformed laws, moving away from a culture of impunity, fostering greater inclusion and consolidating these commitments through constitutional reforms are all integral to the government’s reform agenda and Sri Lanka’s transition to democracy.
Confidence in the Government’s undertakings moved the European Union to restore the GSP+ benefits to Sri Lanka. There have been positive accomplishments such as the passing of the Right to Information Act, establishing the Office of Missing Persons, and commencing a process of constitutional reforms. However, reports from various UN agencies, and national and international civil society committed to supporting reforms indicate that the reforms have not progressed as expected and desired. Some see GSP+ in purely instrumental terms, a tariff benefit to increase profits that may trickle down to workers and the broader society. Others see GSP+ and its link to improved human rights as an opportunity to improve human rights, human security and prospects for sustainable development.
DRI believes that there should be a greater and stronger partnership between government and civil society to support this transition. DRI also believes that the civil society actors who traditionally engage in supporting human rights should be expanded, to go beyond advocacy groups to include partnerships with the business community who have easier reach to government at high policy-making levels. The business community could have a strong impact on government policy and contribute to sustainable development. Their constructive engagement in promoting compliance with GSP+ commitments and taking on board human rights reforms as a means of ensuring sustainable development could lead to a paradigm shift. The business community has played such a role in South Africa, the USA among other countries.
On 22nd November 2017, we are privileged to have partners visiting from Mongolia and Kirgizstan who are engaging in similar processes in their countries. We thought we could have a fruitful dialogue with a few CSO’s and business leaders on strengthening human rights that is the core and basis for Sri Lanka receiving GSP+ status. The issues to be discussed include: advocacy, engagement with the government, strategies to engage with the Parliament and other institutions, including the use of RTI in this process.
The program is jointly organized with the European Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka (ECCSL) and DRI.
Globe International Center, (GIC) Mongolia
GIC’s mission is to sustain Mongolian democracy and civil society by spreading the power of information and knowledge. Our vision is to establish democratic culture and develop informed and empowered citizens. Core values of the organization as defined by our strategy, are independence, fairness, democracy, non-discrimination and corruption free. A specific set of activities for the Mongolian component will be available by the end of September. GIC’s view is that sustainable development is a human-centered development. Informed and knowledgeable citizens are powerful and thus able to participate in governmental affairs and contribute to the sustainable development, and social progress.
GIC believes information makes changes. Information is fundamental to knowledge. The public’s right to enjoy free expression and access to information is essential to consolidate and develop a democratic, civil, and healthy society, which respects human rights and truly serves the public. One of GIC’s strategic priorities is promotion and use of the UN mechanisms to safeguard human rights in Mongolia. Through the GSP+ Global project, GIC strengthens its efforts in advocacy and lobbying for a full implementation of the UPR Recommendations and ICCPR and UNESCO on free expression. GSP+ creates opportunities and opens new spaces to hold the government accountable for the implementation of the UN Conventions.
A strategic priority is to educate the public and civil society on the UN human rights mechanisms improving access to information. GIC is currently making efforts to lobby the legal reform and educate the public on their rights using more efficient information dissemination channels.
Coalition for Democracy and Human Rights, Kyrgyzstan
The coalition is an independent, neutral, non-profit and non-governmental organisation. The mission of the Coalition is to build civil society, strengthen the rule of law and protect human rights in the Kyrgyz Republic.
The main activities of the Coalition are:
- Support for the development of an honest, fair and transparent electoral system;
- Civic education (training on the protection of rights and interests - advocacy);
- Development of parliamentarism, increasing public recognition and respect for the role of representative authorities.
- active representation and protection of the interests of civil society at the national and international levels;
- strengthening the capacity of the members of the coalition.
They will collaborate with EUD to the prepare and implement a training programme for business companies outside the capital: the EUD will prepare and present the technical and economic component, while the Coalition / DRI would contribute presenting to the participants the HR component of the GSP+.