By the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration
In April 2010, the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration (MNLSI) was established in order to coordinate state and civil society efforts relating to National Languages, Social Integration and Ethnic Affairs. The MNLSI envisions a harmonious Sri Lankan nation intertwined with diversity.
The MNLSI works at National,Provincial and Local Governmental levels to eliminate marginalization on the grounds of language, ethnicity, disability and vulnerability. The MNLSI makes a pronounced effort in empowering rehabilitees, female-headed households, refugees and returnees from India, internally displaced persons, economically disadvantaged, physically-challenged and people with peripheral identities. In conducting its programmes, the ministry is engaged with many key partners including other ministries, national, provincial and local governing bodies, civil society, social institutions and most importantly individuals.
It has also been mandated to implement the National Languages Policy, and formulate a National Policy Framework on Social Integration and promote bilingual literacy and inter-cultural understanding as a prerequisite for a cohesive society.
MNLSI has under its purview the Department of Official Languages, Official Languages Commission and National Institute of Language Education Training.
The Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration works in collaboration with GTZ-FLICT, UNDP, and CIDA on some initiatives.
The National Policy Framework for Social Integration (NPFSI) is a roadmap for ensuring equality of participation, opportunity and freedom, facilitating accessibility and enabling extensive social interaction and social protection for disadvantaged or vulnerable groups.
While economic development is important to the country’s progress, promoting equality and social inclusion is also necessary to move towards a “society for all”. While the state shall guarantee that all state services are provided to citizens on an equal basis, it is our collective responsibility as duty bearers to ensure that cultural, religious and ethnic diversity is respected and valued in order to foster an inclusive space to enable those who are socially, economically or politically marginaized. Therefore the policy framework shall take a rights-based approach and a policy mix to encourage participation of all in the implementation process.
Social Integration Week:
In an effort to honour Sri Lankan solidarity in diversity, cultural pluralism, shared heritage and most significantly the concept of a ‘society for all’, the MNLSI is spearheading the celebration of a national Social Integration Week which will be held in July 2012. This occasion will be central to promoting a positive view on diversity and raising awareness on social integration issues at national, regional and local level through a series of institutional, educational, cultural, arts and sports events across the island. Most significantly, the National Policy Framework for Social Integration (NPFSI) will be launched alongside the Social Integration theme and logo which will carry forward the message of a society for all.
Initiatives Inter alia
The Language Unit gives due importance to language rights as essential to the process of social integration:
Working with institutions and at grassroots level to guarantee that the language policy is firmly established through the introduction of Bilingual Divisions at District Secretariats
Tamil and Sinhala language education, training translators, forming Language Societies and supporting the Presidential Secretariat with the Trilingual 10 Year Action Plan aiming at proficiency in Tamil, Sinhala and English.
The Social Integration Unit is dedicated to exploring and researching the concrete measures needed to be taken in ensuring equality of status to all communities. Thus the unit conducts:
Active engagement with local governing bodies on social integration as a pilot project in five selected districts
Empowerment of people with special needs
Bringing together diverse experience in an Expert Panel to guide the formulation and implementation process
Islandwide survey to identify social integration issues
Progressive dialogue at inter-ministerial level
Rights-awareness and multi-cultural programmes at District level
Promote the concept of social integration through the arts
The promotion of English language education for young people in order to open new opportunities and complete the democratization process