By Zahara Haris
Marking the Environment Day, the European Union (EU) took yet another development initiative by launching ‘European Union Support to District Development Programme’ (EU-SDDP) by presenting its EUR 60 million cooperation programme and launching the SDDP website at a media conference held in Colombo recently.
Under this initiative, the main targets will be North and East, which is Ampara, Batticaloa, Mannar and Vavuniya Districts and border villages situated in the three adjacent districts of Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Moneragala.
Initiatives taken under this programme will be covering and focusing on three areas which include support to poverty reduction and provision of basic infrastructure and services for vulnerable population, supporting local economic development and strengthening local governance.
The programme is implemented by five UN agencies - the UNDP, ILO, UNICEF, UNOPS and FAO as well as IFC and it is a five-year development programme that started in 2012.
Addressing the gathering, European Union Ambassador David Daly, said that Sri Lanka and the EU have had a strong relationship from a long time and now has moved from a traditional donor-recipient to that of friendship.
“This year we should celebrate the fact that 40 years ago the EU signed the first commercial corporation agreement with Sri Lanka in 1975. Since then we have come a long way together, I’m very proud to say that the EU and SL relationship has gone beyond that.”
“For the past 10 years, the EU has allocated over 760 million euros to this country - that is over Rs.10 billion. Here we will help to rebuild lives of communities affected by tsunami and the war, we will help to resettle the IDPs, help children to go back to school, farmers to manage their crops, people to train for better jobs, around millions of people got assistance from the EU over the years and around a quarter of a million from our housing programme, building 20,000 houses for IDPs, now we are currently working on another batch, another housing programme which will build around 3000 houses, which considerably will help around 15,000 displaced people.”
He noted that 2015 is designated as the European Union year of development.
“The EU together with its 28 bangled countries gives more than half of all development assistance that is given globally. This reflects how important this field is for us. Despite the economic crisis in Europe, in a recent survey, more than 80 percent of Europeans believe that development assistance is important and 60 percent believe we should give more aid and around two-thirds of Europeans think tackling poverty in developing countries should be one top priority of EU,” he said.
“In our new programming, which will be around Euro 30 million, will launch later on this year, we will focus on poor areas in the Central and Uva Provinces. Although Sri Lanka has performed well in the Millennium Development Goals there are still pockets of poverty which are multiples of the national averages. This is a part of our multi-annual indicative programme of Euro 210 million over the period 2014-2020,” he added.
Also Daly commended the Sri Lankans for showing commitment to a path of improving governance, rule of law and human rights, amongst other things under the governance of President Sirisena.
UN Resident Coordinator Subinay Nandy said, “The war resulted in destruction for life and property and community and economic infrastructure and affected institutions of governance and resulted in large-scale internal displacement and out migration. The districts in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and the adjacent districts were alienated from the overall development process of the country. There is a compelling need to bridge inter-district disparities and strengthen the economic, social and institutional foundations of impoverished and lagging districts to draw nearer to developmental objectives and targets articulated at national level.”
Speaking at the event, Policy Planning and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva said regarding the infrastructure facilities politicians should do what people need rather than doing what they (politicians) want.
Also he noted that technically this project will be under the Provincial Councils and Regional Development Ministry.
“We have decided to decentralise the project instead of having one centre of economic development. In this case, most of the coordination will happen via the Provincial Councils and Regional Development Ministry because the Cabinet paper for this project is under that ministry. However, we will certainly be with you (EU) in terms of creating some sort of mechanism that we would be able to call everybody to make sure things are progressing in the right order,” he said.