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Concept note on round table discussion

Written By Freedam to the nation resettlement of IDPs on Monday, June 1, 2015 | 3:51 AM

Round Table Discussion on the Tourism Research and Impact on Farming and Fishing Communities


NAFSO is concerned on tourism which is only one part of development for the communities. Although the GOSL had planned the tourism as the only industry for the development of the country, we are not ready to accept it as it is. Sri Lanka has been based on agriculture and fisheries as its main development strategy during the post-independence period rightfully. Thus, the fishing and farming industries should also be considered as main economic base and source of livelihood in the country.

Unfairly, after the post-war context, the lands of the farmers and fishermen were occupied by the military and investors in the name of National security and development. Legal procedures were not properly followed and disregarded. The war-affected people still now have been living in the welfare camps, their relatives’ houses, or abroad even though the war ended in 2009. The internally displaced farmers and fishermen [IDPs] have remained unable to return to their own villages.

Military tourism also was promoted during the former regime. Due to the tourism plan of the Rajapaksha Regime, fishing and farming communities lost their lands and livelihoods in most parts of the country. Hence, NAFSO has conducted a survey on land grabbing and its impact on Fisheries and agriculture communities. NAFSO coordinated with affected communities in Jaffna, Kalpitiya, Pasikudah, and Kuchchaveli where Rajapaksa regime implemented special tourism plans and collected information from them.  NAFSO was able to identify issues of these communities and highlighted these in many local and foreign forums through which justice to the IDPs and affected people due to development projects was advocated for. Specifically, the issues focused on were related to livelihoods, working conditions in few hotels studied, land and sea grabbing, participation or non-participation of local communities in the tourism industry, and to related on health, education and sanitary facilities of the local communities. Besides these, effects on the ecology were looked into. Some of the coral reefs such as Bar coral reef are under threat due to tourism infrastructure, unhealthy activities carried out by the tourists and operations and Mangroves have consequently been destroyed. There were many cases which reported the destruction of Mangrove forests in Kalpitiya area.

As a whole, NAFSO was able to highlight the violation of human rights in those areas and focused attention how to rectify the current situation while recognizing a national level dialogue among all parties involve in tourism and affected communities.

A wider civil-political-official-investor dialogue, based on social justice, human rights, environmental justice and gender justice, among the politicians, tourism and fisheries people, Coast Conservation Department and all other officials, investors, local communities, fisher people, representatives of LGU, NGOs, any other related parties involved in tourism industry would be ideal. The main idea would be to prepare a tourism plan in the context of sustainable development from a wider consultation of the Sri Lankan society, and not only among few bureaucrats and politicians involved and aiming to profit a few people. As tourism is a growing industry in the country, there should be focus on the future development of local communities and to protect their rights. At the same time, the concern on the environment and ecologically-sensitive areas and their sustenance is an essential component of the tourism development.

NAFSO is promoting sustainable development based on the Earth Summit and Environmental Declaration in 1992 and the Rio+20 Declaration “The Future We Want.” NAFSO, therefore, proposes a sustainable tourism development plan aimed at supporting and nurturing:
·         Economy/Livelihoods of the communities
·         Environment/ Ecology
·         Culture of the communities
The GOSL is also under the obligation to respect the principles of sustainable development.

Therefore, NAFSO proposes to conduct a roundtable discussion on tourism in Sri Lanka aiming to understand about the issues of the fisheries and farming communities. We will use the research findings of NAFSO and Society of Threatened People conducted in latter part of 2014.. The book, “Dark Clouds over the Sunshine Paradise” was published in February, 2015 in which highlight the issues related to human rights violations in the context of tourism development in Sri Lanka.

The overall goal is to begin the dialogue on drafting an overall sustainable tourism development plan for the country based on the discussion among all parties involved in it. We want to take off from the issues faced by the local communities on livelihoods, land, labour, and human rights violations and focus on regaining the land and livelihood rights of the affected communities specifically in Pasikkudah, Kuchchaveli, Kalpitiya islands, and Jaffna peninsula.  
NAFSO and the Praja Abilashi land network expect to have a better human rights environment in relation to tourism industry. With a main aim of the GOSL to bring tourists to the country to the extent of 2.5 million this year and 4 million in 2020, there should be a programmatic approach if the government is sincerely concerned of the rights of the communities and the workers engaged in or affected by tourism. What we want to do is to facilitate this dialogue and come up with a framework to ensure human rights of the people in communities interacting in and affected by tourism.

Objectives of the Round Table Discussion

1.     To make the politicians, officials, investors, and hoteliers aware about the real situation and impact of tourism in four tourism sites
2.     To build up a consensus on people’s participation in tourism development planning to ensure the land rights of the fishing and farming communities
3.      To come up with a draft human rights framework in the overall country tourism development plan and strategy
4.     To enable dialogue and direct interactions among the investors and affected community leaders, hoteliers and local communities and civil society, towards finding better solutions for affected communities.

Expected Outcomes

Ø  Participants/various actors acknowledge the research recommendations for respecting human rights and customary rights of the people in the affected areas
Ø  The Research Report on Tourism and the human rights of coastal communities is disseminated and made known to wider country national and local society.
Ø  The necessity to have a Framework for sustainable tourism industry is recognized.
Ø  Dialogues between civil society and the tourism authorities in relation to the issues of affected communities in the coastal areas are appreciated.
Ø  Media and wider civil society’s awareness of the issues related to tourism and fisheries in coastal areas is increased.

Proposed Program for the Round Table Discussion [RTD]
Venue: Olympic House, Independence Avenue, Torrington Place, Colombo

Subject Area
Responsible Person/s
2.30 - 2.45 pm
Introduction and Overview of the RTD
Leveling of Expectations
Objective setting
Francis Raajan
2.45 - 3.15 pm
Presentation of the Research Findings/Report
[Civil Society Perspectives]
Yves Bowie, Society of Threatened People and Herman Kumara, NAFSO
3.15 - 3.30 pm
Response to the Research Findings Overview of the Sri Lankan development strategies and the
Tourism Development Plan
[GOSL perspectives]
Minister of Tourism or Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority
3.30 - 4.10 pm
Response from the Investors and Hoteliers
[Investors/Business perspectives]
Malu Malu
Jungle Beach
Dutch Bay Holiday Resort

4.10 - 4.40 pm
Livelihoods, Land rights and Human Rights of the local communities.
[Local communities perspectives]

4.40 - 5.00 pm
Open Discussion
5.00 - 5.15 pm
Consensus and Synthesis of the Discussions
Herman Kumara
5.15 - 5.30pm
Conclusion and Next Steps

Proposed next steps after the Round Table Discussion[RTD]
·         Produce a consensus statement or Press briefing about the outcome of the RTD
·         Produce a campaign on sustainable tourism through social media with the help of internal and external social media groups,
·         Publish and disseminate any remedies agreed or proposed at the RTD for facilitate the livelihoods and well being of the people in those areas,
·         Dialogue with relevant authorities to get the land back and demand customary rights of the coastal communities,
Program drafted by: Herman Kumara, Convener, NAFSO and Francis Raajan, Coordinator, Praja Abhilasha network.
Thalsevana hotel in KKS 

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