November 17, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka
The Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. Tony Abbott MP, met with housing beneficiaries who have reconstructed their conflict damaged homes with Australian Government funding on Sunday 17th November at the Australian High Commission in Colombo. The Housing Recovery Programme is implemented by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in Sri Lanka's Northern and Eastern Provinces. The Australian Prime Minister was in Sri Lanka for the 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Colombo from 15th – 17th November.
At the event held at the Australian High Commission, The Australian Prime Minister met with three beneficiary families who had completed rebuilding their war damaged homes in the districts Killinochchi, Mannar and Vavuniya. H.E. Robyn Mudie, the Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Mr.S.B. Divaratne, Secretary of the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province and senior officials from UN-Habitat Sri Lanka and the Australian Government were also present at the event.
The Australian Prime Minister met with three beneficiary families belonging to Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala communities. Each family had been severely affected by the 30 year conflict, with multiple displacements, and their homes had been damaged beyond repair. As they lacked financial resources to rebuild on their own, the Housing Recovery Project implemented by UN-Habitat supported the families to reconstruct their homes using a "home owner driven" process of reconstruction, placing the families at the centre of their own recovery.
The Government of Australia has been funding the reconstruction and repair of conflict damaged homes in the North and East in partnership with UN-Habitat for the past 4 years. The first project was implemented from 2010–2011 supporting 3,785 families to reconstruct their damaged homes. This was the first donor funded, large-scale housing recovery project to be implemented following the end of the conflict in 2009. To-date, Australia has provided A$ 17.5 Million funding for reconstruction of post conflict housing and infrastructure in Sri Lanka.
Following the successful completion of this project, the Government of Australia joined the European Union (EU) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to provide funding for further projects, due for completion in 2015. These projects will assist a further 9,400 families to reconstruct and repair their homes by 2015. The Australian Prime Minister discussed the housing reconstruction process with the beneficiary families and expressed his appreciation for the commitment and dedication demonstrated by the families in rebuilding their homes and their efforts towards regaining their lives following years of displacement. "It really is exhilarating to see what the Australian Government and people have been able to do in this country. It's also particularly exhilarating that we haven't just been helping; we have been helping Sri Lankan people to help themselves", he stated.
Photographs copyright: Mr K P Pradeep for Australian High Commission, Colombo