Situated in a geo-strategic location in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka and the U.S. maintain strong bilateral relations based on shared democratic values. In support of strengthening Sri Lanka’s democracy, since 2006, IRI has built the political leadership skills of women and youth, promoted citizens’ participation in the decisions that affect their communities, supported election observation efforts, strengthened political party communications and supported the development of responsive public policy.
For over two decades, IRI has supported election observation efforts, strengthened political party communications and equipped women with the skills needed to overcome electoral threats and run for office in Sri Lanka. Currently, IRI supports democratic development by bolstering the voice of youth, women and underrepresented communities within the political process and civil society. With an extensive network of local partners, IRI’s projects extend throughout Sri Lanka and range from nationwide programs to targeted local initiatives. IRI builds the political leadership skills of Sri Lankan women and youth, promotes citizens’ participation in the decisions that affect their communities and supports the development of responsive public policy.
IRI launched its Emerging Leaders Academy (ELA) in 2019 to build the skills and confidence of Sri Lanka’s next generation of democracy advocates. Through its ELA program, IRI convenes youth community leaders, ages 21 to 35, from different sectors across Sri Lanka to enable young leaders to identify citizen concerns and develop issue-based advocacy campaigns and policy proposals. Through intensive workshops and follow-on community projects, IRI connects ELA participants with a nationwide network of like-minded youth and local government officials to advocate their communities’ interests.
Following these workshops, participants form project teams to apply their new skills toward designing and implementing projects that will bring about positive change in their communities. In addition, IRI provides select ELA members with the opportunity to participate in an annual internship program to develop soft and technical skills while working in the offices of members of parliament or civic groups.
Women’s Political Leadership Programming
In March 2021, IRI launched its Women’s Campaign Academy (WCA) to support and equip grassroots-level women from across Sri Lanka from a diversity of political parties to successfully compete in elections. The Academy assists prospective women candidates develop their campaign messaging, voter outreach strategies, campaign planning and digital literacy and security skills. The WCA engages women political actors who plan to contest in the upcoming provincial council and local government elections. Outside of WCA training, IRI will support a multi-party network of women political actors to come together and discuss ways to break down barriers to women in political leadership.
Political Party Programming
Since 2019, IRI has also supported approximately 400 political party actors from six major political parties with communications trainings focused on developing inclusive, citizen-centered communications and voter outreach platforms ahead of national and local elections. IRI continues to support political parties in implementing more effective communications and campaign strategies to reach underrepresented communities and recruit young candidates. IRI includes young political actors from multiple political parties to promote a more inclusive political environment.
IRI supported a local partner to facilitate Multi-Party Youth Dialogues (MPYD) nationwide to facilitate discussions on the opportunities and barriers for youth participation in political process. By building on previous achievements IRI brought decision-makers and young people into discussions about ways to increase youth political participation. The MPYDs allowed young, locally elected members to connect, reflect on common challenges and generate new ideas for getting other young people involved in local issues in less politically charged environments.
While challenges exist, IRI remains committed to increasing the political leadership of youth, women, and other underrepresented groups, promoting transparent and fair election processes and supporting youth-led civic and political education and engagement across the island to support Sri Lanka on its democratic journey.
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