In the recent past, Sri Lanka has dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic and now an ongoing economic crisis. Sri Lanka has faced both the pandemic and economic crisis after the end of the country’s civil war (nearly three decade) in 2009. The economic losses that have occurred as a result of the pandemic and economic crisis has not been accounted for just yet. But politically, the ongoing economic crisis has contributed to ousting the previous President earlier this year—by its citizens, for the first time in the history of Sri Lankan politics. While some post-war issues are yet to be addressed, these two crises have worsened the nation’s human security. One of the main failures in addressing post-war issues, like the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing economic crisis, is the fact that the governance system of the country has failed to identify human security as a high priority. Further, disarmament and related programs have not been linked to the nation’s governance system.
Improving Sri Lanka’s human security will eventually benefit national security, human rights status, non-aligned foreign policy, as well as becoming a soft-power and neutral nation in the South Asian region. On many occasions in the past, Sri Lanka has been recognized as a “Champion of Disarmament.”
The Forum on Disarmament and Development (FDD) of Sri Lanka has been encouraging the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to improve the nation’s human security by carrying out certain activities that need political will, while maintaining low reliance on public funds. The FDD currently advocates for the accession, ratification or engagement with the below mentioned treaties, conventions and programmes, and encourages the government to implement supportive legislation. Carrying out the following activities will bring multiple benefits to the nation.
1. Sign and accede to the Treaty on the Total Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) –
Despite the Cabinet approval in December 2021, Sri Lanka is yet to become a party to the TPNW.
2. Ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) –
The FDD believes there is no objection to Sri Lanka’s ratification of the CTBT from relevant Government Institutions. Sri Lanka is signatory to the CTBT since 1996.
3. Ratification of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) –
Sri Lanka should ratify the CCW Protocol V on ERW before finalizing Sri Lanka’s National Mine Action Strategy in December 2022. This will help us in dealing with residual contamination of mines and ERW after the end of mine-clearance in 2027. The ratification of Protocol V on ERW will bring many opportunities to the country and it should be mentioned in the 2023-2027 National Mine Action Strategy. This will help formulate legislation that will enable coordination between relevant government agencies for the management of residual contamination of mines and ERW after completion of the National Mine Action Programme in 2027.
4. Accede to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) –
Sri Lanka should attend the Conference of the States Parties to the ATT in 2023 and work towards acceding to the Treaty for many reasons including improving the nation’s human and national security.
5. Re-engage with the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (UN PoA)-
With accession to the ATT and re-engagement with the UN PoA Sri Lanka should re-establish the National Commission Against Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms (NCAPISA) and review its previous report published in 2008 by the Ministry of Defence. Sri Lanka’s NCAPISA is the first Commission on illicit small arms set up in the Asian region in 2004, which was dismantled in 2009 for unforeseen reasons.
Currently, Sri Lanka is facing threats from illicit small arms, used by various groups in the country. Growing gun violence hinders the nation’s economic, social and political development and undermines national and human security.
6. Continued support from the GoSL on prohibition of autonomous weapons and their development.
Local regulation to implement the following two Conventions:
1. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) –
Sri Lanka ratified the CRPD in 2016 and is yet to create local regulation to implement the Convention in the country. Such local regulation should mention include a provision on domesticating the CRPD, Child Rights Convention (CRC) as well as International Humanitarian Law (IHL)—especially the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC).
2. The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) –
Sri Lanka became a State Party to the CCM in 2019 and is yet to create local regulation to implement the Convention in the country.
Since the war ended in 2009, successive governments and the present government have not prioritized the nation’s human security—which should mainly focus on improving the health, education, social services and public transport sector. This is evident in the amounts allocated for these four sectors (i.e., in Sri Lanka’s National Budget) since 2009. As regards public transport, the FDD is currently engaging with relevant government authorities and advocating for the resumption of the passenger rail service to the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake.
*The writer is the Coordinator for Forum on Disarmament and Development (FDD). He can be reached at email@example.com