Centre for Policy Alternatives on 7 September, 2016

Call for crowdfunding: Strengthen & support CPA’s work in Sri Lanka

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7 September 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka: In 2016, CPA turns 20.

What does 20 years give us? Perspective – the experience few others have to see how things evolve, why things matter, and how to shape intended outcomes. Knowledge – we have worked at every level of civil society since, and at times with some governments, accumulating a wealth of knowledge around how governance works.Insight – we are able to spot trends, contextualise events, analyse processes and connect the dots more accurately, across a larger range of policies.

Over 20 years, our institutional output, research and advocacy has appealed to successive generations of civil society. Moreover, the values CPA is founded upon endure, and resonate with post-war Sri Lanka’s spirit of reform and redress. From youth groups to senior politicians, we work across Sri Lanka, in all three languages, engaging multiple levels of government, producing freely accessible, engaging and timely research driven policy advocacy.

But none of these make us unique in Sri Lanka. What does, is what drives us – what we believe in. CPA is engaged in many things and our output ranges from award winning civic media to public interest litigation. Whatever we do, and whoever leads it, we strongly believe that a vibrant democracy is vital to Sri Lanka. It is this belief that drives us to challenge those who undermine democracy, openly or covertly, no matter what the risk. It is not that we are blind to who you are – identity after all does play a major role in the political and social fabric of Sri Lanka. It is more important to us what you can be – your potential, which is the country’s potential. CPA believes in the inalienable right of everyone to dignity and basic human rights, not as some academic pursuit, but as the very driving force of our work and as the overarching objective we have dedicated our lives and our institution to. We do what we do not because it is the fashion of the day, or because there is a convenient call for funding. Our core set of beliefs, captured in our mission statement, is what drives our public interest litigation, our work in the field with forgotten communities and our work to protect the rights of all, even those who vehemently disagree with us.

CPA is a relatively small team of fewer than 50 staff, including those in administration, working across 4 key themes in 3 offices located in Colombo. We do a lot of work, from extensive research and advocacy on legal and constitutional reform, governance, transitional justice and election monitoring; from international award-winning civic media initiatives to grassroots capacity building across Sri Lanka, from social polling to field-based and applied research. CPA, more than any other civil society organisation and even beyond mainstream media in Sri Lanka, designs and leverages cutting-edge online and web tools to strengthen and promote its advocacy. Our public interest litigation encompasses cases on fundamental rights as well as pre-enactment judicial review, and has provided relief to thousands of plaintiffs over language rights, land issues, human rights violations, election malpractices, displacement, the freedom of movement and much more. CPA’s social polling provides unique and vast socio-economic datasets and analysis for the whole of Sri Lanka. Our research and advocacy on constitutional reform, power-sharing arrangements to resolve the ethnic conflict and on human rights protection, has been highly commended nationally and internationally and our work on transitional justice acknowledged as a key resource for research and advocacy in policy design, for international solidarity and public awareness.

Senior staff are regularly quoted in local and international mainstream media for their expertise and insights. Institutional output, in print and online in all three languages, is regularly flagged and used in debates on policy-making. Because of its profile, CPA is often the subject of hate-speech, with key staff regularly and publicly vilified. And yet, particularly in a country where at one time even post-war, peaceful dissent, critical thinking and alternate political perspectives were violently censored and clamped down upon, what CPA does, represents and provides a space for, is absolutely vital to Sri Lanka’s democratic future.  The current public policy agenda from the abolition of the executive presidency to the right to information, electoral reform to transitional justice, meaningful power-sharing and full enjoyment of language rights is one which CPA has championed and taken the lead in designing and defending even in the most inhospitable climate since its inception.  Consequently, after twenty years, CPA is particularly well positioned for constructive and critical engagement with the government for democratic peace and governance in Sri Lanka.

Prominent Sri Lankans who have endorsed CPA’s work include,

  • Chandra Jayaratne, Sri Lankan of the Year in 2001 and Former Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce who sees CPA as an organisation that ensures “strict benchmarks for assessment of the outcomes, delivery of promises and efficient, effective and professional management of resources optimizing quality and productivity” and,
  • Deshamanya Bradman Weerakoon, who was a founder director of the organization notes, “The work that the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has done over the years in shining a light on the many areas of State action that need to be corrected has thereby received the highest commendation… As a founding father of the institution and a long time Board Director I am intimately aware of its capacity and potential. What it needs most at this critical time in our country’s journey is funding and resources to accomplish its tasks. Of determination and courage to do so it has no shortage.”

See other testimonials here.

Two years ago, we first launched a crowdsourcing appeal to support our work at a time when prospects for democracy were bleak. As we celebrate 20 years, we are re-launching the appeal to provide critical funding to strengthen our output and impact.

Even with a renewed focus on Sri Lanka, especially because we deal with issues and communities no other NGO in Sri Lanka will embrace, the most pressing challenge for CPA today is donor fatigue and disengagement. With Sri Lanka as a middle-income country on paper and competing donor agendas in mediagenic contexts like Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar, Sri Lanka’s enduring need for civil society research and advocacy to be supported is in grave danger of being significantly deprioritised, even forgotten. This is not a temporary glitch. Institutional funding will, for a range of reasons, be increasingly scarce.

In order to expand its donor base, CPA is exploring the possibility of raising endowment funds from well-wishers, both locally and internationally. This crowd-sourced funding approach will help CPA to maintain its independence and support its entire portfolio of research and advocacy.

We have had many requests from those in Sri Lanka on how they can support our work. The perception is that we are only open to contributions in a foreign currency. This is emphatically not true. CPA is open to donations of any value, from individuals and institutions in Sri Lanka and abroad, supportive of our work. As guidance, CPA encourages donations around the following broad denominations,

  • US$ 2,000 (one-off donation)
  • US$ 500 (per annum)
  • US$ 25 (monthly)

Obviously, donations outside of these denominations are also welcome. Our bank details are,

Account Name: Centre For Policy Alternatives
Bank Account No: 006100022-248
Currency of Account: Sri Lankan Rupees
Bank Name: Nations Trust Bank PLC
Bank Address: No. 242, Union Place , Colombo 02 , Sri Lanka
Bank Code: 7162
Branch Code: 006

Contact CPA’s Executive Director, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu on [email protected] for more information. As a legally registered entity in Sri Lanka, CPA has undertaken, since inception, an independent annual audit which is published on its website.  CPA also publishes its Executive Director’s report every year, flagging institutional output and impact.

The success of this effort to support CPA’s on-going institutional expenses rests entirely on you. Please contribute generously and pass this appeal along to those who want to see CPA continue to champion and help to bring about a Sri Lanka where anyone, anywhere is able to live in dignity, and without fear.