As a part of the ongoing official visit to Sri Lanka marking 75 years of diplomatic ties between the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, together with Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, visited resettlement communities in Muhamalai, Kilinochchi today.
According to a United Nations (UNSL) statement, during her visit, the Royal Delegation was briefed on ongoing efforts by authorities and development partners in the Northern and Eastern Provinces with a particular focus on interventions supported by the UN Sri Lanka SDG Multi-Partner Trust Fund, notably the Expanded Support for Durable Resettlement and Reintegration in Sri Lanka which is jointly implemented on the ground by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Sri Lanka. The Fund, established in mid-July 2020, has to date supported around 30 programmes with 15 participating UN agencies, thanks to contributions from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Despite these efforts, the scope of the challenge remains substantial. While the successful return of 22,500 individuals has been facilitated through the support of the Fund, a further 7,500 returnees are currently being supported for a sustainable return, with around 1,000 acres of land released from High Security Zones. Recognizing the scale of these challenges, the Government of Sri Lanka has also allocated Rs. 2 billion for resettlement in the annual budget for 2024.
Over the years, resettled families have been supported with improved living conditions through livelihood support and economic infrastructure facilities, while ensuring greater food security and nutrition during the ongoing socio-economic crisis through the introduction of home gardening and climate-smart farming practices. Working together with local government, 1100 local officials have been capacitated to support durable resettlement and social integration of returnee populations, with 3,600 returnees already assisted with civil documents to facilitate access to rights and services, including humanitarian assistance.
The Princess Royal and official delegation visited a housing site with resettled families, who had the opportunity to share their experiences, the support received, and the ongoing challenges that remain within their communities.
The visit also highlighted challenges and opportunities that remain to be addressed including clearing of high-security zones and de-mining of fields, facilitation of sustainable return of IDPs and refugee returnees, and re-awakening of basic infrastructure and socio-economic facilities to support livelihoods. It also underscored the continued need for collaborative efforts that align the resettlement process with common goals around peacebuilding and sustainable development in the North and East of Sri Lanka.