The Governments of Canada and Sri Lanka co-host the final NLEAP Project Steering Committee Meeting

The Governments of Canada and Sri Lanka co-host the final NLEAP Project Steering Committee Meeting

The NLEAP Project Steering Committee convened for the last time, bringing together all the stakeholders and policy influencers in the Languages Sector. The PSC meeting was co-chaired by Mr. Anuradha Wijekoon (Additional Secretary – National Languages Division, Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government) and Ms. Linda Erichs (Counsellor (Development) and Head of Development, High Commission of Canada in Sri Lanka), representing respectively the Governments of Sri Lanka and Canada. Also attending the meeting were heads and representatives of NLEAP Partner Institutions, the National Languages Division, the Official Languages Commission, The Department of Official Languages, the National Institute of Language Education and Training, The University Grants Commission and the University of Jaffna. Also joining in were representatives from the Department of Project Management and Monitoring Department of External Resources.

As Mr. Michael Emblem (Project Director – NLEAP) noted in his welcome address, the meeting created an opportunity to review Project successes and milestones achieved till end of 2022 and to ratify the work plan for the last seven months of the project. Mr. Emblem remarking on the strong working relationships forged amongst the partner institutions noted ‘The understanding amongst the partners have enabled this project to be successful and achieve a substantial amount of results’.

Mr. Wijekoon in his opening remarks, gave credence to Emblems remarks by elaborating on some of the significant results  the Language Sector had achieved with NLEAP support;

  • The agency result framework of the Official Languages Policy Implementation Strategy
  • The medium-term and long-term action plan for the National Languages Division (NLD)
  • The translation and interpretation management plan for the Department of Official Languages (DOL)
  • Management plan for the National Institute of Language Training and Education (NILET)
  • The establishment of the Advisory Committee for Translators and Interpreters (ACT)
  • Supporting four state universities in the capacity of awarding BA degree in translation
  • Reactivating and expanding the services of the 1956 Call Center as a ‘message hub and life-line’
  • Engaging with 76 government institutions at different administrative levels (divisional level, district, provincial level and national level) to strengthen the Language Planning Process.

Assuring the PSC members, the Ministry’s continuous practical support and guidance to promote and protect the Language Rights of all Sri Lankan Citizens, Mr. Wijekoon stressed the importance of inculcating an enhanced sense of ownership about language rights within the public sector. He voiced his deep appreciation of the ‘enormous support given by the Canadian Government through NLEAP for the effective implementation of Sri Lanka’s Official Languages Policy throughout the country’.

Ms. Erichs, warmly congratulated the Additional Secretary and PSC members for their combined efforts, despite insurmountable challenges created by the COVID and the economic and political crisis, to further the language rights of all Sri Lankan citizens.  She shared Canada’s firm conviction that the strengthened implementation of the Official Languages Policy would make a difference in the lives of women and men by ‘improving the delivery of public services, fostering greater inclusion, and indeed ultimately reducing poverty and providing opportunities’.

Endorsing NLEAP as one of the flagship projects in Canada’s Development programme in Sri Lanka, Ms. Erichs pointed to the opportunity it created to draw on Canada’s experience in protecting and promoting Language Rights. She was hopeful that the technical exchanges would stimulate further reflection and ideas on strengthening implementation of Sri Lanka’s OLP. She stated, ‘We are pleased to fund this project in this particular area which we consider an important contribution to continued strengthening of Canada Sri Lanka bi-lateral relations.’

She also highlighted the integration of Gender Equality as key to the project’s success. Also noted was the far-reaching impact of the National Languages Fund (NLF). Ms. Erichs commended the greater numbers being directly impacted and influenced in grass root communities through the activities of the Local Civil Society Organisations being partnered by NLF.

The opening remarks were followed by presentations by the NLEAP team that not only gave visibility to project milestones up to December 2022 but also key activities planned before the end of the project in July 2023. Presenting the activities of the National Languages Division and the Official Languages Commission was Mr. M Thirunavukarasu (Deputy Project Director). Mr. Niyas Raskin (Language Policy and Teaching Specialist) presented on the Department of Official Languages, the National Institute of Language Education and Training, and the Universities. Ms. Saama Rajakaruna (Local Gender Equality Specialist) shared milestones and plans related to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. The open forum following the presentations created opportunity for the PSC members to share their comments, experiences and ideas with each other.

As Ms. Erichs observed in her opening remarks, NLEAP at Project end envisions ‘increased access to bilingual services for men and women and way more awareness about Language Rights amongst Sri Lankan citizens’. To this end the PSC members will continue working together to ensure the effective implementation of the Official Languages Policy of Sri Lanka.

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