IUCN in Sri Lanka has been conceptualized within the overall context of the Union's mission and the environmental concerns identified in the successive National Environmental Action Plans (NEAP) of the Government of Sri Lanka. In accordance with the Union's global mission, the Sri Lanka Programme facilitates conservation action by offering technical, institutional and policy support to government agencies and NGOs. It also provides opportunities for the practical application of methodologies developed through the Union's scientific network to support conservation initiatives of its members and partners in Sri Lanka . Since its establishment, IUCN Sri Lanka has demonstrated its ability to facilitate and work in partnership with its members to conserve natural resources and to achieve consensus among the various organizations involved.

The in-country operational relationship between the Union and the Government of Sri Lanka commenced in August 1988 with the establishment of the Country Office in Colombo. The presence of IUCN in Sri Lanka was based on a Memorandum of Agreement signed with the then Ministry of Land and Land Development. In 1993, IUCN and the Government of Sri Lanka signed an expanded Memorandum of Agreement, which consolidated its legal status in the country. Since then the activities of IUCN Sri Lanka have expanded and moved into new areas, in partnership with its Government and NGO members and partners. Active partnership arrangements have been maintained with agencies and organizations such as;

Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment
Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department
Department of Wildlife Conservation
Forest Department
National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency
National Institute of Education
Leading non-governmental organizations in the field
IUCN Sri Lanka has to date enlisted 12 members, consisting of one State, five Government and six NGO members. The position of IUCN Sri Lanka is further strengthened by the presence in the country of members representing IUCN's six Commissions.

Many bilateral donors in the country have a longstanding relationship with IUCNSL. They acknowledge the organization as capable and committed, and a valued partner in development co-operation within the environmental sector. In addition, IUCN continually plays an important and active role in formulating and providing inputs, information and advice to various donor-driven programmes and projects, including the Asian Development Bank supported natural resources management sector projects.