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"The People's Forum – a Sri Lankan perspective"
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"The People's Forum – a Sri Lankan perspective"

salma yusufThe Commonwealth People’s Forum is designed to give civil society organisations a voice in meetings with Ministers gathered for CHOGM. This time around, writes Salma Yusuf, a Correspondent from Sri Lanka, the agenda will include addressing the experience of the host country. 

The Commonwealth People’s Forum, held in the wings of CHOGM, is the largest gathering of civil society organizations on the calendar of the Commonwealth. 

In practice, it means organizing civil society input in such a manner that it can be fed into a meeting with ministers. The Commonwealth People’s Forum provides an opportunity to connect Sri Lanka with the global conversation currently taking place on the future of development and ways by which it can be made more inclusive. 

The majority of delegates to the Commonwealth People’s Forum are envisaged as being from Sri Lanka and therefore the agenda will need to speak, in part at least, to the Sri Lankan experience.

Themes suggested by Sri Lankan civil society organizations include reconciliation, reconstruction, inclusive and participatory governance for development, and women’s empowerment and gender equality. This will mean bringing experiences from other Commonwealth countries and experiences to Sri Lanka so that Sri Lankan colleagues can exchange and learn as well as share their own experiences with counterparts. 

Important to mention is that the Commonwealth People’s Forum will also feature ‘learning journeys’ opportunities for civil society organizations outside Colombo to showcase their work at the event. For example, civil society organizations in the North can exhibit their work in relation to reconciliation and reconstruction and those in the South will showcase work in relation to women’s economic empowerment. 

In addition to connecting Sri Lanka with the international discourse on post-2015 development, the Commonwealth People’s Forum 2013 provides one of the first opportunities for civil societies across the Commonwealth to discuss the outcomes of the United Nations General Assembly meeting held in September 2013. Vijay Krishnarayan, Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, said CPF2013 is a significant opportunity for civil societies across the Commonwealth to determine their own contributions to the design, implementation and monitoring of those goals, and Sri Lanka will have the opportunity to facilitate the process.

Speaking on his impressions of civil society in Sri Lanka, particularly in light of the upcoming CPF2013, Krishnarayan said, “It is clear from our interaction with civil society in Sri Lanka that the CHOGM and associated gatherings are keenly anticipated. As the host country, Sri Lanka determines the theme of CHOGM. As a result of the several rounds of discussions with Sri Lankan partners, we have arrived at the subject of development and inclusion as the topic for the Commonwealth People’s Forum.

Undoubtedly, these are extremely topical for civil society organisations both in Sri Lanka and across the Commonwealth.”

 “The Commonwealth Foundation has taken soundings from civil society organisations in 18 Commonwealth countries including Sri Lanka to gauge their aspirations for the future of development,” Krishnarayan said.

“The aim is to bring the conclusion of that work to share with civil societies that will gather at the Commonwealth People’s Forum.”

A specific output has been envisaged for CPF2013.

“We have a planned output in mind, namely, the Commonwealth Civil Society Position on post-2015 Development Architecture. We hope that this document will act as a resource for civil society organisations across the Commonwealth as they organise to participate in their own countries, regions and internationally,” Krishnarayan said.

salmayusuf@gmail.com

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About me: I am a Human Rights Lawyer based in Sri Lanka, and a visiting lecturer in law at University of Northumbria – Regional Campus for Sri Lanka & Maldives, and previously at the University of Colombo.

I serve on both national and international programmes in the fields of law, governance, human rights and transitional justice. I hope to build on my work in policy development, research, advocacy and publishing going forward.  

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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