Sri plantation estates will remain a matter of

Sri Lanka is a lower middle income country (UNICEF
SITAN), with an estimated per-capita GDP of $3835 in 2016 (World Bank). The
country has made impressive progress on Human Development with a Human
Development Index value of 0.757 in 2014 from 0.679  in 2000 and was placed 73rd place
among 188 countries. Although income levels have increased in the recent years
and poverty levels have come down, income distribution and economic inequality
remain high. The gini-coefficient has improved by 0.03 points to 0.45 points
between 2012/13 and 2016 (the Economist Intelligence Unit November 2017).

While the country has been able to meet most of the
MDGs, challenges impacting wellbeing of children and women remain considerable.

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Key Issues & Challenges

With consistent economic growth, income poverty has
reduced from 22.7 to 6.7 between 202 and 2012-13 (UNICEF SITAN), inequality had
increased and living standards are low with a large population that still
remains vulnerable to poverty. Children being more vulnerable are at a higher
risk of falling into poverty especially in the Norther and eastern regions and
in urban areas.

A serious concern is the fall in government health and
education expenditures (from 2% to 1.4% in health and 2.7% to 1.8% in
education) between 2006 and 2013 and in social welfare from 4.2% to 2.2%.

Income disparity between urban and rural areas and
those in plantation estates will remain a matter of worry at SLRs 88,692, SLRs
587137 and SLRs 34,804 respectively (Household and Income Expenditure Survey
2016). Again, the geography of North and East provinces needs attention.

Even the economy has expanded, the female labour
participation rate in Sri Lanka has declined from 41% in 2010 to 36% in 2016
(World Bank: Unlocking Women’s Potential in Sri Lanka’s Labour Force,
highlighting that inspite of good progress in social sector indicators for
women, there are still challenges to be addressed.

As highlighted in the UNICEF SITAN, there are
challenges of Under-five mortality, malnutrition, access to early childhood and
high levels of violence that children and women face. Geographical areas and
vulnerable groups (Tamils, Muslims and migrants and the poor in urban areas)
will need targeted attention if social protection gains are to be consolidated
and extended to groups that don’t have them.

The population currently stands at 21.20 million and
is growing annually at 1.1% with life expectancy at 75 years. While adult
fertility is at 2.1% the adolescent fertility at 14% in 2016 (World Bank) is a
matter of grave concern

While the gender indicators are showing considerable
progress, women’s representation in the civil service and in Parliament is a
matter of concern. This and the need for social cohesion and  reconciliation need urgent attention. The
drafting of the new Constitution provides a unique opportunity to address some
of these issues

 

Looking
Ahead

I would address these challenges through the following
sets of interventions/actions:

§  The
first thing I would do is recognizing that the country has structures and
institutions in place which have a good track record of performance, undertake
a diagnostic of the reasons that constrain child sensitive social protection.
Perhaps the implementation of child related policies is the major policy issue
that needs to be addressed and make a case for reform of institutions and
procedures and processes

§  Continue
and expand existing social assistance programmes offered to persons most
vulnerable to risks and shocks posed by accidents, invalidity, disability,
employment and flooding. My recommendation will be for government to begin with
the most disadvantaged geographies.

§  There
is need for a multi sectoral intervention for adolescents given their large
numbers (4.4 million and nearly 23% of the population) and given that Sri Lanka
is an ageing society and the adolescents will have to shoulder the burdens of
nation building as they grow into adulthood

§  Capacity
development, especially institutional capacity development in different programmes
of social protection with a view to enabling a harmonization of the currently
scattered schemes and programmes of social protection. This will enable the
ministries to ‘effectively design, implement and monitor existing schemes to
cover all children'(SITAN)

§  Evidence
generation, policy dialogue and advocacy for child sensitive social protection so
that there is a steady availability of knowledge and what works and what does
not for children to enable course correction on an ongoing basis.

§  Undertake
data analysis to ensure that equity sensitive planning and budgeting is
possible

§  Build
partnerships with civil society, academia and the UN system so that high
quality policy advise is available to government and there are strong and
diverse voices for advocacy on social protection issues impacting wellbeing of
women and children

§  Contribute
to a robust M&E system across ministries and across levels to monitor and
hold duty bearers accountable