Improving Environmental Justice for the Rural Poor in Sri Lanka


To develop an integrated framework for sustainable natural resource management that improves well-being, equity and participation rooted in customary rights and people's ability to exercise them


Background and activities

Sri Lanka provides a good example of the challenges facing governance structures as a result of newly liberalised economies and devolution of power. The private sector, rather than the state, is now significantly responsible for the production and delivery of services and provinces are in charge of establishing tiers of government and introducing multi-level governance.

This sub-project works to improve accountability for service delivery at the local level and to promote sub-national government transparency and standardised application of policies across the country. It is based in four sites in Sri Lanka: Ratnapura Administrative District, the Nilgala Forest Reserve in the Monaragala Administrative District, near the Puttalam Lagoon on the Puttalam Administrative District and the Periyakalapu Lagooon in Tirukkovil in Ampara District.

It is developing a framework for an integrated assessment of relationships between poverty and livelihoods, sustainable natural resource stewardship and peoples’ ability to exercise statutory and customary rights.

Partners are developing provisions and strategies to promote natural resource rights for effective community management. They are providing information on these rights in local languages and are using various participatory methods, such as workshops and interviews, to raise awareness about environmental justice and governance issues. There is a specific focus on community rights in the context of ecosystem services.


This sub-project will increase stakeholder knowledge of the relationship between local communities and natural resource management. There will also be better understanding and engagement between actors on environmental justice and legal matters.

Thanks to the affirmation of resource rights and reduction of socio-economic inequities due to ethnicity and gender issues, there will be improved livelihoods options for poor resource-dependent rural people.

It is hoped that, through this work, public participation, accountability, transparency and justice in processes and institutions will be ensured for communities.


IUCN-Sri Lanka is responsible for monitoring and evaluation of the project but many other partners are involved:

The Public Interest Law Foundation and The Centre for Environmental Justice are responsible for implementation of this sub-project at the site-level.

Other partners include: Sabaragamuwa Janatha Padanama and Ratanapura, Nilgala Mithuro Sanvidhanaya, Bulupitiya, Nilgala and Bibila, Socio Environment Education Development Association (SEEDA) Thirukkovil, and other community-based and non-governmental organisations.