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SOCIAL ASPECTS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN SRI LANKA

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POVERTY

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies

The Finance Ministry, National Planning Department, and the Ministry of Youth Affairs (the Samurdhi Authority), formulate policy to be approved by the Cabinet. 

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies, and Plans

Sri Lanka reaffirms the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 which emphasize the need to eradicate poverty and reduce disparities in living standards to achieve sustainable development. Appropriate domestic economic policies and special interventions are needed to combat poverty. A favourable international economic environment, particularly favourable terms of trade, debt relief, access to markets and enhanced international cooperation to provide technical assistance and financing, as well as environmentally sound technology, will strengthen the domestic effort and pave the way to sustainable development.

Sri Lanka has a three-pronged strategy for combatting poverty:

  1. Achieving economic growth and development to create employment and improve the standard of living;
  2. Achieving human development through the provision of improved health and education services, meeting basic needs, protecting vulnerable groups and ensuring human rights; and
  3. Direct interventions aimed at those who have not benefitted from growth-related policies [low- income groups].

Such interventions are to ensure employment and empower the poor through building up their assets by providing credit and training.
These strategies are fully integrated with the development plans and programmes at the national and provincial level; the last of the above points is implemented through the Samurdhi Programme. The programmes are implemented through the Janasaviya Trust Fund, the School Midday Meal Programme and the Samurdhi Naya Niyamake (Credit Scheme), started in June 1996, and the National Development Trust Fund (NDTF).

Decision-Making: Major Group Involvement

State banks and credit institutions decide on credit eligibility. Individual beneficiaries and NGO Groups are involved in taking investment decisions.

Programmes and Projects

The Samurdhi Naya Niyamake Scheme was introduced mainly with a view to assist small- and medium-scale businesses. The loans are provided at a low interest rate for income-generating activities. Funds are provided under the Samurdhi Economic Infrastructure development programmes for community infrastructure projects. Skills development programmes are carried out for the Samurdhi beneficiaries, and an insurance scheme has been introduced to encourage savings. The "Lottery Fund" has been introduced to generate funds for the Samurdhi Programmes.

These programmes are directed to create alternative employment and to avoid over-exploitation of resources. Self-employment and employment opportunities provided through community participation in infrastructure development will alleviate poverty, which is one of the main causes of deforestation, land degradation and over-exploitation of other natural resources in Sri Lanka.

In addition to direct intervention, a number of integrated rural development programmes, and rural and urban water supply and sanitation projects are being implemented. Human settlements or housing programmes are implemented with foreign assistance, especially for plantation labour.

Status

The Samurdhi Programme, which commenced in June 1995, was the major strategy of State intervention to combat poverty among the marginalized groups. The implementation is twofold: income supplement (programme), and social and economy infrastructure development, with increasing employment opportunities. The Programme covers 1.5 million families. One hundred eighty-two thousand families benefitted from the dry rations programme in the North and East. Nearly fifty of the population was covered under this Programme. Free health and education are provided to all.

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This information was provided by the Government of Sri Lanka to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: October 1997.

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DEMOGRAPHICS

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies

The National Health Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, is the highest policy-making body on the subject of population. The National Coordinating Council on Population (NCCP), chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine, coordinates and monitors the national population programme.

The National Health Bureau of the Health Ministry is responsible for the service delivery programme and uses non-governmental agencies in family planning activities. Training and awareness creation are carried out in a variety of ways.

Status

Sri Lanka is a small island in the Indian Ocean with a land area of 25,000 square miles and a population of 18.3 million. Topographically the island consists of a south central mountainous region which rises to an elevation of 2,502m and is surrounded by broad lowland plains at an elevation of 0-75 m above sea level. From the mountainous regions nine major rivers and 94 other rivers flow across the lowlands into the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka reached an advanced phase of demographic transition in a comparatively short period and at a relatively low per capita income level. The population grew at an annual rate of 1.3 percent during the period 1990-1995 and 1.1 percent in 1996. The mid-year population is estimated at 18.3 million for 1996. The fertility rate declined from 5.3 during 1952-1954 to 2.6 during 1985-1987. The pace of decline in the 1980s has been rapid due mainly to the use of contraceptives. Strong Government commitment and support from the Family Planning Program as well as donor support have also contributed to this success. The mortality rate remained steady at 6 per thousand during the 1980s. Infant mortality declined by 37 percent, due to increased health care and the success of the immunization programme. Life expectancy increased and was estimated to be 72.5 years in 1991. The maternal mortality rate declined to 5 out of every 10,000 live births.

It is estimated that, given the likely changes in fertility, mortality and migration, the population of Sri Lanka will increase to 19.3 million in the year 2001. Both he number of elderly and the number of reproductive females will increase. Therefore, greater programme efforts are needed, particularly in view of the high density of population per acre of land. The Government policy is to reach replacement level fertility, an average of two children per woman in the reproductive ages, by the year 2000.

Cooperation

To sustain the momentum that has been built up and to achieve the demographic goal of replacement level fertility by the end of this decade, Sri Lanka will need continued international support in specific areas such as contraceptive supplies, education, training, monitoring and supervision of the programme.

This information was provided by the Government of Sri Lanka to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: October 1997.

To access the United Nations Population Information Network, click here.

Click here for basic statistical data for countries in the ESCAP region, including statistics on demographics, education, employment, energy, national accounts, external trade, finance and production, land use, transport and international tourism.

Click here for the National POPIN (Population Information) Centres within ESCAP.

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HEALTH

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies

The National Health Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, is the policy-making body. The Secretary, Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine, is responsible for the implementation of programmes; directors of special programmes implement them under the supervision of the Secretary of Health.

Decision-Making: Major Group Involvement

NGOs are involved in health education and in the implementation of family planning programmes.

Status

Sri Lanka has followed a policy of investing in human capital for the last four decades. Due to the interrelationship between the different aspects of education, health, nutrition and other social services, investment in each generates benefits in the others. In Sri Lanka, a network of basic education and health services has covered the entire country. The maintenance of this network over a 50-year period has generated inter-generational benefits. Consequently, although Government expenditure declined from 9.9% of GDP in the 1960s, to 6.4% in the 1980s, many social indicators continued to improve; for example, life expectancy increased to 72 years, and infant mortality and maternal mortality declined. But morbidity levels are still high. In the context of existing resources, constraints in meeting the increasing demand for preventive health care and attractive health facilities are the major challenges faced in regard to the health sector.

New diseases such as HIV/AIDS have placed further stress on the meagre resources available for the health programs. The incidence of communicable diseases has expanded significantly. In view of the emerging need for strengthening preventive health care, the Government placed emphasis on the control of communicable diseases, improvement of maternal and child health care and nutritional levels as well as on the promotion of health education. Progress has also been made in the eradication of polio: 96% of the population was vaccinated in 1996. A second medium-term plan has been developed to control STD/HIV/AIDS. A national "danger" control programme and mosquito control programme have been launched. However, despite these measures, the incidence of malaria increased by 29% in 1996.

With the increase in demand for health service and the public sector resource constraints, there is a compelling need to promote private sector health care.

Capacity-Building, Education, Training, and Awareness-Raising

There is a need to improve pre-service training and provide refresher training after graduation, to improve the quality of service, and upgrading of skills in all categories of health service. A project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will provide training to indigenous medical practitioners.

Cooperation

International co-operation is vital bilaterally and between specialized agencies, for upgrading skills, services and in the exchange of information, as well as in the maintenance of standards.

This information was provided by the Government of Sri Lanka to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: October 1997.

Click here to go to the Health and health-related statistical information from the World Health Organization.

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EDUCATION

No information is available.

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HUMAN SETTLEMENTS

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies, and Plans

Sri Lanka has been in the vanguard for achieving shelter for all, particularly for the poor, and is committed to the implementation of the national plan of action as well as the global plan of action agreed to during Habitat II. The goal is to achieve healthy, safe and more equitable and sustainable human settlements. In this endeavour, the participatory efforts of the NGOs and enhanced technical and financial support from the international community are vital.

The policy of the Government towards the housing sector is to meet the demand for new housing, particularly in the urban centres, and to upgrade the sub-standard housing stock. The main thrust of the housing strategy is to promote self-help initiatives and mobilize the initiatives of the private sector.

Programmes and Projects

The public sector housing programme was directed towards extending assistance to low-income families to build new houses based on the enabling approach and introducing special housing projects to relocate slum and shanty dwellers.
The National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) implemented a number of public sector housing programmes such as the Jana Udana Programme, Sevana Housing Grant Programme, Urban & Rural Housing Programme, the Estate Housing Programme, Direct Construction Programmes, Disaster Housing Programmes, et. al.
The Government has clearly identified the urgency of improving the country's environmental sanitation as a means of improving the standard of living of the poorer segments of the population. The NHDA implements the Urban Basic Services Programme with the housing sector to improve the living conditions of slum and shanty dwellers. Under this programme, direct assistance is given to improve sanitation, waste disposal and surface drainage. However, the resource constraints limit the coverage of this programme.

Status

Sri Lanka, one of the original signatories to the Vancouver Action Plan 1976, introduced a number of approaches in its human settlements programme. The enabling approach, the "self-help" housing programmes, the "one million" housing programme, and the Sevena housing grant programme, are among such new approaches to promote human settlements. Sri Lanka initiated the UN resolution on "Shelter for All by the Year 2000" to focus international attention on human settlements.

The total number of housing units in the country was estimated at 3.9 million in 1996. The average annual demand for new housing units in the country in the same year was estimated at 70,000, with a higher rate of increase in the urban sector. In addition to these new constructions, the high proportion of semi-permanent and improvised houses in the housing stock is evidence of the importance of upgrading these houses, and relocating and upgrading the shanties, which are estimated at 150,000 in all urban centres, and which is another area requiring urgent attention.

Financing

In order to strengthen private sector housing development activities, the housing finance system was upgraded. In the context of limited availability of funds, it was necessary to promote private sector programmes by providing infrastructure and incentives. Initial action has been taken to elevate the Housing Development Finance Cooperation into a fulfledged financial institution with legal powers to deal in the capital market with a view to generating resources for the housing sector. Improved technical know-how and increased availability of housing material at reasonable cost were requirements to facilitate private sector housing. In addition to the loans provided by State agencies, the two State banks disbursed housing loans throughout the country.

The World Bank assisted the construction industry's training project and the Second Vocational Training Project helped in establishing the Institute of Construction Training and Development (ICTAD) which has helped in the provision of skills and focussed on the selection and use of cost- effective technologies. A Housing Finance Steering Committee was established consisting of Government and private sector representatives to coordinate housing finance policy at the national level.

This information was provided by the Government of Sri Lanka to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: October 1997.

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