24th March 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka. The International Conference on Post Emergency Shelter Reconstruction ‘Restoring Communities through Home-Owner-Driven Reconstruction: from post-Emergency to Development’ was ceremonially inaugurated this morning in Colombo. Organized by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), in partnership with the donor partners, the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka, the Government of Australia and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the conference brings together key national and international partners in reconstruction and post-emergency development.
Mr. Yoshinobu Fukasawa, Director of the UN-Habitat Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific welcomed the audience of over 200 national and international participants including donors, implementing partners, policy makers, development practitioners, academics and community members. Mr. Fukasawa stated that the conference is a forum to share experiences and lessons learned from different parts of the world and to find innovative solutions on post-crisis reconstruction that are both easily replicable and sustainable
The event is an outcome of the donor interventions to support the reconstruction of permanent housing for conflict affected families in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. Speaking at the event, Mr. Jean Gustave Fourez, Charge d'affaires of the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, highlighted the achievements of assistance to housing reconstruction as a symbol of successful international cooperation with Sri Lanka. “We anticipate the discussions at this event will help the European Union in formulating future housing actions in Sri Lanka”, he added.
H.E. Robyn Mudie, the High Commissioner of Australia said that the owner-driven housing model showed how conflict-affected communities, working in partnership with government and international agencies could achieve durable solutions. “A new home not only represents shelter and protection from the elements, it also represents a community that is able to re-establish itself and to rebuild trust and social structures.” she said. She hoped the conference would consider lessons learnt from housing reconstruction projects and that these could be incorporated into national standards and policies, so that future generations could benefit.
Thanking UN-Habitat for organising the conference, Mr. Jean Michel Jordan, Director of Cooperation of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Sri Lanka stated that the exchange of experiences and opinions generated from the conference would be a major asset towards improving the durable resettlement of the population of Northern Sri Lanka.
Mr. Dhammika Gunawardhana, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities, acknowledged the important contribution made by UN-Habitat and donor partners through their Housing Recovery Programme in the North and East where over 30,000 families are being supported to reconstruct their damaged and destroyed homes through a “homeowner” driven process.
The conference will address both technical aspects of reconstruction and the underlying principles of the “People's Process". Focus will be placed on the current wave of reconstruction efforts in Sri Lanka following the end of the thirty year conflict in 2009, while discussions will be geared towards identifying practical approaches in addressing the prevailing housing needs in post-crisis scenarios.