The Colombo based Consortium for Relief and Rehabilitation celebrated its 10th Anniversary in 1994. The elections, held in August and November, 1994, placed a new Government in office, which was widely perceived as having been given a mandate for peace. Simultaneously, with the change in Government, the first seven-year (1987-1994) Emergency Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP) came to a close. The new Minister for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation made indications of a more energetic approach in dealing with the long-standing problem of displaced and resettled persons.
There was a degree of dissatisfaction, internally, with regard to the structure and content the Consortium’s monthly meetings. Important stakeholders and decision makers outside the NGO spectrum attended irregularly. However, the Consortium was recognised in previous years for its vital role in as a channel of information and a point of contact. At the same time, the Consortium also showed very obvious limitations in its form. It could neither mobilise the NGO community to interact creatively and collectively with the changing context, nor function as a focal point through which other stakeholders could interact with the NGO community as such. This led to a discussion paper titled, ‘The Colombo Consortium for Relief and Rehabilitation – An Invitation for Reflection’ (January 25, 1995). The Advisory Committee initiated a reflection on the capacity and functioning of the Consortium.
In February 1995, a quick survey was conducted among members to ensure that there was sufficient consensus and interest for an in-depth reflection about the Consortium. The responses received were, without exception, positive. The Advisory Committee, continuing the reflection, broadened itself by co-opting persons interested or experienced in organisational strengthening. Throughout March and April, a series of useful discussions were held, reaching the point where the group felt that work on specifics was a possibility. A Review Committee of seven persons was formed to formulate specific proposals for a stronger Consortium and started its work in June.
The Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies was formalised in 1997 with the establishment of a Secretariat, after operating as an informal network of NGO’s since 1984. Eleven years later the members and Secretariat felt that it is time to reflect on the CHA’s mandate, its roles, its functions, and challenges for the future. Early in 2002, they decided to undertake a Strategic Planning Process, which would result in a Strategic Plan by September, 2002.
At the same time, the working context of the humanitarian community in the North and East started changing rapidly. The change in Government in December, 2001, the introduction of a bilateral cease fire, the drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government and the LTTE, and preparation for peace talks resulted in an on-the-ground situation that demanded a revised approach to reconciliation, rehabilitation, and reconstruction initiatives.
During the Strategic Planning Process, members with the CHA Secretariat tried to envisage what the role of the CHA would be within this changing scenario in the coming years. During discussions with the membership, much attention was paid to an analysis of changes in the external environment during the time and those to be expected in future. Summary of the report is below.
CHA – SRI LANKA 2015 – A Concept Paper on CHA’s possible role in a Changing Environment in Changing Times (The Consultants working on this were Allison Aldred and Lionel Munaweera)
Various persons were consulted and the opinions of both local and foreign individuals and organizations taken into consideration. That said, it must be realized that the product of this endeavor is only a roadmap towards realizing desirable long-term outcomes, which only Sri Lankans will be accountable for, since they will be the ones around several years from now, to be answerable. As such, the product will be made in Sri Lanka, by Sri Lankans, for Sri Lankans. There can be no other agendas.
In developing its Strategic Vision, CHA will work with Sri Lankan governments – not against them – in striving to achieve internationally established and endorsed standards over a broad spectrum ranging from humanitarian issues to socioeconomic development. To be sure, there can be no separation between humanitarian issues and developmental issues. A full stomach is after all a basic human right. In terms of how CHA proposes to be involved, again there is a range of options that are not mutually exclusive. CHA will choose its options as outcomes that in reality can be successfully pursued.
These options for CHA range interchangeably between Advocating Change, Facilitating Change and Being The Change. Within these options are considerations that include: Political; Humanitarian; Democratic; Educational; Economic and Developmental; and, National Stability. An important element of CHA’s considerations will also include Membership Services and District Offices. At the ‘end-of-the-day’ what will result is a roadmap that has, amongst other things, assessed the risks involved in taking any particular course of action, remembering that how one distinguishes one organization strategically from another are the trade-offs that they are prepared to make in achieving their long-term outcomes. CHA has a strong “brand name” and presence in Sri Lanka. This must be leveraged to the maximum in order to benefit the poor and powerless through the eradication of poverty.
The war ended in 2009. Whilst humanitarian imperatives remained there was a shift of emphasise to the whole country accompanied by a reliance on development and less on rehabilitation. This saw a reduction of humanitarian agencies and funds with global attention drawing considerable resources elsewhere. CHA hence rebranded and repositioned itself by changing the name of CHA registered with the Registered of Companies to that Centre for Humanitarian Affairs with CHA being a subsidiary entity whilst the registration with the Registrar of NGOs was retained as the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies.