Report by, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement [NAFSO] 

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The National Physical Development Plan of GOSL for 2013-2025 period and the extended plans prepared by consecutive governments aimed to utilize all possible, available natural resources to facilitate the needs of the growth of the country’s economic development, irrespective of social, cultural, economic, environmental consequences to the communities those depending on them. The farmers, fishers, milk producers, adivasis and even landless communities depend on the same resources while providing food, employment, livelihood which provide sustainable living for them and caring for the mother earth. Those people care about nature, provide nutritious food to the nation, protect the cultures, continue the social relationships and practices of core values of the society. However, the current dominant model adopted by Neo Liberal Economic policies do not care about the peaceful coexistence of people and nature and the only aim is to increase the profit for the corporates and the powerful people in the society. The government policies cater to the needs of this model of development and do not care for the thousands if not millions of the dependents of those resources for their survival. In fact, those people are the food providers to the nation though they go hungry every day. Their children are malnourished and tend to drop out from the school education system. Education is the only way out for them to overcome this situation and they lose this also eventually. 

The Blue Economy model of development for the fisheries sector was adopted by FAO in 2009 and continued to expand all over the world. Sri Lanka is also one of the countries which adopted the Blue-Green Economy through the national development plans and opened the aquatic resources to corporate capture. Various so-called development projects were introduced in coastal areas, islands, in water bodies and forest lands, agricultural lands and all possible spaces in various names. This would be either tourism, infrastructure development, mining, aquaculture, regenerative energy or land grabbing and sea grabbing and more. However, the communities who depend on them were neglected, their basic rights were violated, the women and children in those families also became

further vulnerable and neglected. People agitated on their own and the struggles were isolated and crushed down easily using military, police powers, deregulating the land laws1, powers of the local politicians, and to the extent of using guns and goons. 

NAFSO has been working with the coastal communities, landless people and politically oppressed, war affected people and women headed households for more than 3 decades2 now. If human rights violations continue like this, it is inevitable there will be another people uprising against these injustices violently. So, we hope to bring the affected, vulnerable communities together to have collective actions forming with a strong social movement from grassroot level up to national, regional and international levels. 

The ESCR-Net gave us a good opportunity to strengthen our efforts through community lead research to educate, mobilize and take collective actions to build resistance, act for redistributive justice and to regain the sustenance of our lives and the resources, and sustainable future for the communities. For this matter, we need all possible actors to unite and the communities in the center of the struggles. This led to conduct Community Lead Research uniting with 7 global actors in the ESCR-Net to have collective actions based on Collective Charter prepared by the Social Movements of ESCR-Net. 

NAFSO has prepared this report and expects to mobilize the communities based on their issues, which were identified and analyzed with their participation. And, to break the isolation of the community groups fighting in 16 sites based on 5 main subject areas of so-called development around the country, we expect to unite them as a national land campaign facilitated 

1 Land Use Change Implication for the Use of Other State Forests (OSF) is a simple guiding document prepared based on the comprehensive study carried out by a team covering Mannar and Ampara Districts and identifying the existing situation of the land-use changes in relation to the proposed interventions that are expected with the release of OSF on the government decision of releasing such lands for commercial agriculture and entrepreneurship development by canceling the Circular No; 5/2001 enabling the transferring the ownership of these lands to the Divisional Secretary of respective DSDs from the Forest Department. 

Also, in late February 2023, the Cabinet has decided to release sensitive forest reserves situated in 11 districts in Sri Lanka under the forest and wildlife departments, which will further worsen the food crisis, water scarcity and droughts, agricultural crisis as well as increasing human- elephant coexistence issues in the country.2 NAFSO became an independent organization in 1997 though the origin of the organization has been rooted at SEDEC, Caritas SL since 1992 under CIDSE-APHD-SEDEC Program. 

by NAFSO and Praja Abilasha land rights network. NAFSO has planned to launch the campaign, “Land, Food and Climate Justice” in collaboration with Asian Peasant Coalition and with the support of “NO LAND NO LIFE” Campaign facilitated by PANAP. 

The CLR report will be used as the advocacy document and we expect to launch this in early March. We expect to collaborate with one million signature campaigns globally, one thousand people’s voices from the CLR research communities, and to collaborate with the global People’s caravan on Land, Food and Climate Justice campaign as the chapter in Sri Lanka highlighting the important points in the CLR report. 

So the important matter is that the communities should take the lead to advocate the rights of the people. For this matter, we expect to organize Legal Advocacy training and education programs to empower community members and leaders. So, the findings will be used to build community leadership and to build social movements which resist the current speed of devastation of the environment and the violation of human rights.

2. Background and Introduction of the Research: 

NAFSO is working with small-scale fisher communities primarily and also with small holder farmers, agricultural workers, plantation communities and women in all the sectors to ensure food sovereignty through land justice, gender justice, climate justice and overall human rights and social justice approaches. Over the decades of adopting Neo-Liberal Economic policies, since 1978, more than 45 years the small scale food producers, women and youth have experienced serious social, economic, environmental and political destruction and degradation of human rights violations. Once people came forward to prevent, resist and assert their rights, the ruler’s response was brutal and inhuman and to an unbearable level. Some of the main demands were to be free from domination, exploitation and also discrimination against humanity. However, these people’s uprising was brutally crushed through militarily and using war. Over this period our country experienced two major blood sheds, one in the south in 1987-1989 period killing or disappearing 60,000 people, youth in particular and there after 2005-2009 in the north too while killing or disappearing more than 100,000 people in the country. 

Immediately after the war ended, the Sri Lankan rulers came forward with a plan claiming we need to have a vision aiming at 2030 then this was extended until 2050. So, there was a specific department established which is called National Physical Planning Department and this was the main institution to plan and design the future of the country. The department came out with a new plan labeling it as the National Physical Development Plan which is known as NPP 2013-2030. Once we see the NPP it has not considered the country’s rural economies, the small holder farmers, fisher folk, the plantation communities, milk farmers, agricultural workers and women in all these sectors who are depending on the land, water, forests, coasts, lagoons, seas, and in general the people who depend on the natural resources. The majority are farmers, fishers and plantation communities affected by the NPP. People agitate in isolation and attempt to emancipate their situation alone. But, the issue is huge and needs collective efforts to overcome as a concerned group of people who are working on people’s human rights, right to food, right to land, water, education, health, housing and many more. In such a situation we were able to collaborate with the ESCR-Net global research work which is Community Lead Research and to bring this to national and global platforms to address them collectively. 

The ESCR-Net facilitated Community Lead Research Program

What is the ESCR Net? The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) brings together over 270 non-governmental organizations, social movements, and advocates across 76 countries working to build a movement for human rights and social justice. The Monitoring Working Group brings together 40 members of the Network who use data to advance human rights and address inequalities.

2.1 Why Community Lead Research is Important? 

In January 2019, 19 members,3from the ESCR-Net Monitoring Working Group met in Mexico to discuss the role of data in advancing economic, social, and cultural rights as well as gaps in existing data practices. As community based groups, our common experience was that of a lack of availability of official data on economic, social, and cultural rights and where data did exist it was often not of the requisite quality. As a working group comprised mainly of over 40 civil society organizations, particularly grassroots and community-based organizations that collect data, also discussed how the community data, and data produced by communities more generally, is quite often dismissed as inferior to official data, particularly quantitative data, but actually has a major role to play in advancing economic, social, and cultural rights because it reflects communities’ concerns and lived experiences. As a result, the team who gathered and discussed have agreed on the need to challenge dominant narratives around what kinds of data counts as legitimate and to propose a powerful vision for a human rights-based approach to data. 


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