Enhancing inclusive Local Economic Development through provision of services by local authorities in the Official Languages

The Centre for Governance Innovations (CGI) promotes Language for Inclusive Local Economic Development (LIvLED)

Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSME’s) are the backbone of the National Economy, contributing to over 52% of the Sri Lanka’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 45% of its total employment. Over 75% of these MSMEs are located in the rural areas of our country. NLF partner Centre for Governance Innovations (CGI), a social-enterprise for strengthening governance through innovations, recognizes the critical role that Local Economic Development (LED) plays in achieving National Economic Development goals. Therefore, CGI has from its inception focused its singular knowledge, experience and resources to capacitate the National and Sub National Government Institutions that facilitate LED at the grassroot level. Recognizing Language as a critical enabler for citizens to access LED related services in especially bilingual rural areas, in partnership with NLF CGI has leveraged its experience in governance and innovations towards achieving two distinctive objectives. On one hand to strengthen the capacities of Government Authorities to deliver Local Economic Development services in the citizen’s language of choice. And to simultaneously build the capacities of the local Community Based Organisations to advocate language rights in accessing the LED related services. CGI’s project ‘Language for Inclusive Local Economic Development (LIvLED)’ is 20 month project spanning the Eastern, Uva and Northern Provinces. The NLEAP team along with Veena Verma (Project Director – Canada Based & Human Rights, Gender and Governance Advisor – Alinea International) and Hilaire Lemoine (Language Policy Advisor – NLEAP) recently visited the CGI office in Jaffna to assess  the progress of LIvLED.

‘Institutionalisation is key for sustainable change’ said Mr. A Subakaran (Executive Director – CGI), noting why LIvLed focused on strengthening existing Government mechanisms. In his presentation he shared the strategy to assess citizen satisfaction with availability of LED services in the Official Languages at the divisional level.  The first phase, a baseline survey with local entrepreneurs identified the local institutions key to promoting LED. The Grama Niladari Office, the Divisional Secretariat, the Pradeshiya Sabha, Ministry of Health, District Secretarial and Agrarian Services were identified as Local Authorities critical for LED. Thereafter a survey of 200 female entrepreneurs was conducted to assess the satisfaction of their experience in engaging with these key institutions in the language of their choice. Three functional domains were assessed –  general information dissemination, service related information, communication with citizen. The services revealed that 70% of respondents were satisfied with services they received, and 88% were able to obtain services in the language of their choice, however 43% of the respondents revealed that written instructions were not available in the language of their choice.

CGI,  also conducted over 20 hours of trainings for different community based organisations in the select provinces, on good governance and accountability, languages rights and right to information, advocacy and lobbying. Empowering the grass root communities to understand their language rights and to advocate accordingly is also critical to LED. CGI recognizes building up local community-based organisations to empower their communities as a step in this direction.

CGI’s ‘knowledge management portal’. An easily accessible tool to assess the implementation of the Official Languages Policy in the delivery of LED related services, this online portal will be a repository of Assessment Reports and Training Materials developed by CGI for the NLF Project. It is designed to be used as a dashboard by individual institutions for self assessment, analysis and reporting, by Supervisory Institutions to compare and monitor institutions under its purview, as well as a domain for public information sharing. The potential for this Knowledge Management Portal to serve as an accountability mechanism and a transparent monitoring tool that facilitates future planning and action for decision makers was highly lauded by the NLEAP Team. How this social monitoring tool portal could be best used to assess the Official Languages implementation by Public Institutions  was discussed further.