Encouraging dialogue on Sri Lanka

On 28th September, one of our partner organisations Voices for Reconciliation (VFR) took part in a workshop with young people from Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan diaspora community in the UK.

The workshop was organised by Dare2Lead, which empowers and develops young people as leaders in a variety of fields. VFR facilitated the dialogue section of the workshop as part of its wider programme to engage members of the second generation Sri Lankan diaspora with young people in Sri Lanka.

Dare2Lead started the event by outlining the nature of their exchange and giving the audience insights into their experiences. The delegation then broke out into facilitation groups. Strengthening links between the diaspora and Sri Lanka revolves around fostering a dialogue, finding ways of encouraging positive collaboration and dispelling misconceptions about each other. So this was an invaluable opportunity for young people from both communities to meet in an environment of mutual understanding.

Their discussions highlighted a variety of issues facing young people in Sri Lanka. In many cases, these issues also offered an insight into concerns for young people on a global scale. For example, youth unemployment, access to education and awareness of youth entrepreneurship programmes.

Perceptions of the diaspora in Sri Lanka, and the reasons why these perceptions exist, was another focus. The obvious disparity between the views held within diaspora communities and the views held in Sri Lanka quickly became apparent. This exposed the delegates to the fragile dynamics between communities in the diaspora and offered them an insight into why creating space for dialogue in the UK is so important.

Another focus of conversation was the role that the diaspora can play in aiding Sri Lanka. All delegates appreciated the financial help that the diaspora could offer but were also keen to exploit other avenues for collaboration, such as skills training and creating jobs in Sri Lanka.

One of the key messages young people took away from the event was the need to sustain the relationships built between the diaspora communities and communities in Sri Lanka. The young delegates felt that members of the diaspora need to know “what is happening on the ground” and saw themselves as facilitators in this process, highlighting the current disconnect between the two communities.

As well as highlighting the need for further events like this, the dialogue workshop therefore showed the continued need for peacebuilding within Sri Lanka, the diaspora and between the two actors.

The event was kindly hosted by the Royal Commonwealth Society and funded by International Alert.

To find out more about our work on Sri Lanka and the diaspora community in the UK, please read this article here.