Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a country on the move, but remains scarred by the many consequences of the civil war that lasted until 2009. Despite a number of initiatives, conflict transformation and reconciliation efforts have garnered minimal interest. In the past, the focus was on ethnic disputes between Tamils and Sinhalese, but today religious conflicts play a greater role. This is also underpinned by unequal participation in development between urban and rural areas and between social classes. Helvetas promotes peaceful coexistence and tolerance, and special focus areas of our projects are youth and gender equality.
We work based on a multi-stakeholder approach with local partners both from civil society, government and private sector, based on mutual respect and with consideration for our partners’ autonomy. Our partnership collaboration includes joint planning and implementation, financial and technical assistance, institutional and human development support and jointly defined monitoring systems.
  • Capital
  • Area
    65,610 km²
  • Poverty rate*
    1% of the population live under the poverty line of $1.90 per day
    Rank: 73 out of 191
  • Population
  • People supported per year
  • Thematic focus
    Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion
    Learning & Innovation
* Source: UN Data


In the 1980s, our work focused on rural infrastructure, particularly rural drinking water supply and sanitation, sustainable management of natural resources, organic agriculture as well as education & culture. Projects were successfully implemented in collaboration with several local partner organisations such as Sarvodaya, PALM Foundation, WHED, Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), TRINCON-E, Peace Comunity Action (PCA), Lawyers for Human Rights and Development (LHRD). Over the years there was a shift from training and agricultural activities towards more technical projects.


The Development and Peace Sri Lanka (DPSL) Project funded by SDC focused on peacebuilding during 2000-2010 in the East of Sri Lanka, where inter-faith and inter-ethnic councils (Peace and co-existence Councils) were supported, which successfully counteracted the then ongoing ethnic engineering as well as ethnical segregation of communities.

HELVETAS also launched a long-term reconstruction program following the Tsunami catastrophe in 2004. We were engaged in providing many services such as distribution of water and relief items, psycho-social support, legal assistance, construction and repair of houses and community buildings, construction of new water supply systems and providing assistance to small local business owners to rebuild their livelihoods.

The gradual shift from traditional development approaches to peacebuilding, conflict-sensitive governance and human rights work in the emerging context of reconciliation and sustainable peace has been complemented with additional focus on youth and democratic institutions and gender and social equity. Since 2010, HELVETAS has also been engaged in labour migration to improve protection and wellbeing of especially low skilled labour migrants and their families, and thereby contributing to the decent work agenda.

Helvetas has been active in a wide range of rural development and rehabilitation projects in Sri Lanka since 1978. After the tsunami in December 2004, the organization was involved in emergency relief and reconstruction. Since 2009, Helvetas has worked mainly in the field of governance and peace.


Safe labour Migration Project (LMPSL) Although Sri Lanka has reached the status of a middle-income country, poverty is still widespread. For many women and men temporary labour migration is the only way out. Two million people of Sri Lankan origin are already living abroad – mainly in the Gulf countries and increasingly in the Far East. 250, 000 are leaving every year for overseas employment. Helvetas is implementing a Safe labour Migration Project funded by Swiss Development Corporation (SDC) since 2010 and currently the project is on to its third phase (2016-2020)  with training/capacitating  of Migration Development Officers and other Government officials working at district and divisional levels, organizing Civil Society at district level, Knowledge management on migration related issues with SDC partners and government officers and other stake holders and also advocacy at national and regional levels. During the previous two phases, Helvetas was working at community level raising awareness on safe labour migration, Psycho-social care services and legal aid. An important component of the project was financial literacy training. The Financial Literacy modules which were developed by HELVETAS under the 2nd phase is being introduced to the compulsory training conducted by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment to potential migrants.

The project follows a multi-stakeholder approach and works closely with relevant government authorities in order to enhance their services to migrants and their families. In addition, the project empowers civil society to support service provision and empowers the migrant community to access their rights. Partners are empowered to act sustainably beyond the project period.

The overall goal of the HELVETAS safe labour migration project is safe and informed migration contributing to enhanced benefits for Sri Lankan migrant workers.

''Equipping Sri Lanka Counter Trafficking in Persons''HELVETAS together with International Labour Organization (ILO) and The Asia Foundation, seek to address the issue of human trafficking using a multidimensional lens through the ‘Equipping Sri Lanka to Counter Trafficking in Persons (EQUIP)’ project. 

the EQUIP[1] project aims to combat human trafficking in Sri Lanka by adopting multidimensional 3Ps approach[2] which employ various strategies such as conducting research and awareness to inform regulations and practice while promoting fair and ethical business recruitment practices among stakeholders and  improving protection services for identified victims and prosecuting and investigating offenders.

EQUIP takes into account the above noted challenges and proposes a set of interventions comprising 3 overarching goals of Prevention, Protection and Prosecution, with a total of 4 core objectives. HELVETAS is working to achieve Objective 3 which focuses on improving protection services to ensure identified victims, including men and children, receive specialized and confidential care services.     The Outcome 3.1: Victims of trafficking provided counselling services to address Psychological issues; thereby strengthened to access the justice system for redress; Provide legal aid and other services.


“Voice beyond barriers” which was successfully implemented,  focused on key challenges a very broad range of activists were facing in the Northern province, including grass-roots activists, local civil society organisations and lawyers. Our training addressed practical issues such as general and financial management, leadership, and proposal-writing. Training also contributed to the technical knowledge base of recipients and increased their capacity to engage in human rights work, and to engage in issues beyond the rights issues foreseen by the Project, including general social and development work. The Project strengthened links between organisations, built on existing networks, and created coalitions that continue to date.


“Seeking Truth and Justice” is a project that built on the “Voices Beyond Barriers” project supported by HELVETAS’ own funding. The Project aimed at seeking justice for families of the disappeared through yet increased strengths and empowerment of human rights defenders under the Voices Beyond Barriers project and appropriate legal mechanisms. Cases collected during the project duration of “Voices Beyond Barriers” were analysed by a team of human rights activists and lawyers and were compiled for advocacy and litigation purposes. The compiled documentation demonstrates the impact on the families and communities as a whole.

“Crossing Boundaries” is a project that works with young people from Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities tackling reconciliation, exchange and coexistence. Youth being marginalized in society, in particular young boys and men, are also the most likely to be co-opted into violent expressions of ethnic and religious conflict. By facilitating youth leaders to understand conflict and promote their role as catalysts in transforming conflict, the project aims at empowering male and female youth to lead on issues of tolerant and active coexistence, peace building and reconciliation in their respective communities.

''Lankan Youth CAN'' : Since the end of the 26-year civil war, Sri Lanka has struggled to build a functioning democracy, whose success is repeatedly threatened by conflict. The clashes, based on radicalization and religious extremism, triggered hate speeches fuelled by the power of the rapid spread of social media and intensified mistrust between each other. 

Even though the government, supported by the international community, made first steps in democratization and in enhancing freedom of speech, but at the same time it was forced to take measures such as social media censorship for several days. In general, young people are not enough invited to participate in a political discussion and are therefore excluded from the democratization process.  It is therefore more important than ever to promote democratic principles; this project is a beginning to contribute to lasting peace and a functioning democracy. 

Support to civil society actors in promoting confidence-building and preventing violent extremism (PVE)  in South Asia :This project is a multi-country civil society initiative contributing to preventing violent extremism (PVE) in diverse contexts and forms of extremism. It aims to engage Bangladesh and Sri Lankan Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and their actors in PVE in their constituency. As an outcome of this Action, Civil Society actors are anticipated to get technically equipped to adapt and mainstream PVE to the specific community contexts based on the insights resulting from the cross-country learnings and institutional dialogue supported by this Action. The intervention focuses on CSOs as repositories of value-based approaches to PVE that emphasize the importance of pluralism in practice and rule of law through community level capacity building and dialogue to create counter-narratives to prevent radicalization and promote tolerance and social cohesion across various social, political and religious divides. Mobilization of multi-sectoral organic groups, particularly religious leaders and community youth as interlocutors of counter narratives is a key aspect of the response.

InSPIRE:“Through empowering a community of aspiring future media professionals and journalists by the development of Incubator Spaces at 3 selected Universities, through developing specialized modules to build capacity of the same professionals in order to produce creative media products thereby utilizing them as an amplifier for the gender sensitive and socially responsible use of new media in Sri Lanka.”


YOUTH AND GENDER:HELVETAS  considers it imperative to take note of the specific position of young people in the current SL society. the voices of young women and men are particularly important in current national processes and HELVETAS strongly believes that machanisms are needed for youth to be consulted and thieir perspectives to be integrated. in addition, it's necessary to address youth specific issues, particularly gender based violance and the lack of opportunities for young men and women  to play a role in the society, which is linked to the dange of renewed extremisms. it therefore egages with youth and women as two specific categories and mainstreams youth and women's concerns in policy discussions, advocacy work and project implimentation. Activities are for example the 'youth consulation for young peacebuilders, dedicatd to the  exchange of experiences progrommatic practices and formulation of recomendations under UN Resolution 2250, together with UNV and two other partners.

COMMUNITY RESILIENCE AND EMPOERMENT:Climate change induced natural disasters become increasingly prominent in various HELVETAS program countries. Responding to them is a moral obligation when project beneficiaries are directly affected. Following the recent flooding in Sri Lanka in May 2017, HELVETAS facilitated the return of displaced populations in the Ratnapura and Kalutara districts - two of the worst affected districts through rehabilitation of houses and community infrastructure, the provision of basic needs, safe drinking water and sanitary facilities as well unconditional cash grants to meet their basic needs. 



Visit the website of Helvetas Sri Lanka.

The country programme in Sri Lanka is co-funded by the SDC programme contribution.

© Helvetas / Ravindra Ranasinghe
© Helvetas / Ravindra Ranasinghe
© Helvetas
© Helvetas
© Helvetas
Vellakuddy Nageswary Brunnen well Water Wasser sanitation Hygie © Helvetas
© Helvetas
© Helvetas

Our Projects in Sri Lanka

 If you would like to know more about our work in Sri Lanka, click on each project for details.

Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

In many countries where we work, men and women are unable to claim their rights and participate actively in decision-making processes.

Learning & Innovation

Building the capacities of staff and partners to effectively share what they know, to learn together and create effective solutions is crucial to our success.

No. 19/8
High Level Road
Colombo 5
Sri Lanka

Phone:(+94 ) 11 250 45 61
Fax:(+94 ) 11 250 45 60