The Resource Network for Conflict Studies and Transformation (RNCST) was established by the Berghof Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs of the Government of Sri Lanka. It started in 2001, on invitation of the government to support the emerging peace process with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The key rationale entailed two components: One was to engage in a series of partnerships with civil society organisations, academic institutions and political parties and movements to support and reinforce domestic peacebuilding capacities. The other was to help create spaces for dialogue and a peaceful settlement of the ethnopolitical conflict which had burdened the country ever since independence. Until 2008, the RNCST funded over 200 programmes and contributed to building a network of organisations and individuals engaged in peace work and conflict transformation. The work was based on the principles of multi-partiality, domestic ownership, trust and confidence-building as well as on critical interaction with our partners. The vast majority of staff were Sri Lankan citizens from various ethnic backgrounds and disciplines.
While the project achieved significant impact and outreach during the first five years of its presence, the return to violent conflict in 2006 made its work increasingly difficult. It was therefore decided to terminate the project in 2008. Unfortunately, the fresh outbreak of violence ended in a humanitarian catastrophe in 2009, and the peace imposed by the victors was not translated into a settlement of the underlying political conflict. A key lesson we drew from this experience was to emphasise the systemic understanding of conflict and peace processes and to adopt a more long-term perspective when engaging in conflict transformation, including building long-term relationships with our partners beyond the traditional project cycle.
2001 – 2008
The project was supported by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ).