Colombo, Sri Lanka: Participatory
Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, is the largest city
of the country, with 800,000 persons and an additional 400,000 floating
population. Colombo is among the few capital cities in the South Asian
region not growing at a rapid pace, but despite this the present civic
infrastructure is unable to service the needs of the residents and faces
problems of infrastructure deficiency, traffic congestion and slums. A
change in leadership in 1997 provided an opportunity for the Colombo Municipal
Council (CMC) to implement innovative approaches of good governance.
A series of stakeholder consultations organized by
the local partner institute, highlighted an urgent need for revival and
strengthening of participatory forms of local governance such as Community
Development Councils and other community-based organisations, which were
established in the 1980s. A UMP City Consultation initiated in 1998 focused
on building the capacity of the CMC in revenue mobilisation, financial
management, increased citizen participation and responsive urban governance.
It used a broad-based consultative process to engage a wide cross-section
of stakeholders in a “dialogue for development”.
• Widespread consensus on the need for civic engagement
in basic services delivery and other development programmes
• Establishment of District Community Management Forums
in two districts
• Engagement of Community Development Councils in rate
collection and community contracting for delivery of basic services has
been initiated on a pilot basis
• Increased involvement of elected councilors in development
• Steps initiated for strengthening of district offices
• Donor consensus and increased coordination, especially
for poverty-related interventions in Colombo
• The success of the city consultation process in Colombo
also led to its selection as one of the three pioneering cities for developing
a “City Development Strategy” under the UNCHS-World Bank Cities Alliance
initiative in 1999.
As a follow-up to UMP city consultations, the British
Department for International Development (DFID) has offered to support
development of a comprehensive poverty reduction programme, centred around
community empowerment, over the next three years. DFID funding will be
used to establish and strengthen District Community Management Forums in
all districts of the city, intensify institutional development activities
of CMC (especially its district offices for decentralised and responsive
service delivery) and build capacity of CDCs.