Project Profile

The goal of the project is to contribute toward a stable and pluralistic democracy by helping to strengthen democratically-based community and regional planning in Sri Lanka. To this end, the project involves:
  • establishing academic degree programs in community and regional planning in three Sri Lankan universities: University of Peradeniya (graduate level), University of Ruhuna (undergraduate level), and University of Jaffna (undergraduate level)
  • carrying out short-term training/colloquium programs for practicing Sri Lankan planners at the regional, provincial, city, district, divisional and local community levels
  • offering graduate fellowships to Sri Lankan faculty members to study community and regional planning at UBC
  • carrying out pilot project case studies on community and regional planning in Sri Lanka.

This project, which commenced on 10 June 1997, is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) under the Tier 2 program. The project is supported under the University Partnerships in Cooperation and Development Program of CIDA over five years. It is executed by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). The project partners are the University of British Columbia on the Canadian side, and the Sri Lankan partners are the University of Peradeniya, University of Ruhuna, and University of Jaffna.

Background | Outputs| Partners | Contacts


Sri Lanka, with a population of 18.3 million people, has been successful in achieving a good quality of life despite years of protracted armed conflict between Tamil and Sinhalese groups. In its efforts to forge a national consensus, the central government has started a process of devolution of powers to local governments. Pursuant to the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution (November 1987), a constitutional devolution "package" was introduced in August 1995 to transfer significant powers to nine regional governments. This transfer was to strengthen existing municipal governments and the new rural government levels of the Pradeshia Sabha. These bodies have been formed in the belief that participatory decision making at local government levels would help to create a plural society by "ensuring that all communities participate fully in the life of the nation...thereby encouraging the regions and the communities that inhabit them to become constructive partners in a stable and pluralistic democracy." (Document 1, Pravada, 1995).

A serious constraint in Sri Lanka is the lack of community and regional planning capabilities at local levels. Although Sri Lanka has a history of attempting to integrate community development with physical development, for example via the Million Houses Campaign, urban and regional planning generally focuses on physical infrastructure development. At present, town and country planners are mainly trained in technical fields, such as architecture and surveying, and have little professional background in comprehensive and strategic planning. There are no structures in place to incorporate the sociological, cultural, economic, environmental, and political aspects of developmental policy among local planners. As such, practicing planners usually lack the capacity to give policy advice to local elected officials on the strategic foundations of planning in a pluralistic democracy.

Despite its long history of parliamentary democracy, Sri Lanka has inherited a highly centralized form of government from the colonial period. The current Constitutional moves towards decentralization, therefore, are very important and the institutional base for this decentralization needs to be strengthened in order to encourage a stable political foundation.

Background | Outputs| Partners | Contacts

Project Outputs

By the end of this project in 2001, the following outputs will have been achieved:
(a) Thirty-two practicing community and regional planners from regional, city, and municipal planning bureaus in Sri Lanka, nine Sri Lankan faculty, and three Canadian graduate students will have benefited from training programs conducted jointly by UBC-SCARP-CHS and Sri Lankan partners on modern approaches to community and regional planning.

(b) At least three graduate students from the three Sri Lankan universities will have completed a graduate degree from UBC's School of Community and Regional Planning.

(c) Two Canadian professors, collaborating with at least six Sri Lankan professors, two Canadian graduate students, and twenty-eight Sri Lankan graduate students will have engaged in pilot projects focussed on practical projects in an effort to apply participatory planning techniques to specific problems.

(d) A full curriculum for a graduate degree in community and regional planning at the University of Peradeniya, and curricula for undergraduate degree programs at the Universities of Ruhuna and Jaffna will have been formulated by six Sri Lankan professors, two Canadian professors ,and professional planners.

(e) Equipment, supplies, and books will have been purchased and provided to the three Sri Lankan universities.

(f) Project reports, monographs, and other publications will have been produced and disseminated to policy makers and the general public as a result of project efforts.

(g) A policy dissemination workshop will have been held to involve policy makers, researchers, and educators in a dialogue on the continuations of a participatory and democratic planning modality in Sri Lanka.

Background | Outputs| Partners | Contacts


Partner Universities

Sri Lankan Universities

  • University of Jaffna
  • University of Peradeniya
  • University of Ruhuna

Canadian University

  • University of British Columbia

Funding Institutions

CIDA - Canadian International Development Agency - University Partnerships in Cooperation and Development Program

AUCC International - Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Background | Outputs| Partners | Contacts


For further information contact:

Penny Gurstein, Project Director
Centre for Human Settlements, University of British Columbia
1933 West Mall, 2nd floor, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2 Canada
Phone: (604) 822-5254   Fax: (604) 822-6164

Sisira Pinnawala, Sri Lankan Project Leader
University of Peradeniya
Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Phone: (94-8) 388301/5   Fax: (94-8) 232343

Michael Leaf, Canadian Project Leader
Centre for Human Settlements, University of British Columbia
1933 West Mall, 2nd floor, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2 Canada
Phone: (604) 822-5254   Fax: (604) 822-6164

Basil van Horen, Adjunct Professor

Background | Outputs| Partners | Contacts
Centre for Human Settlements
University of British Columbia
1933 West Mall, 2nd floor
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3 Canada
phone: (604) 822-5254; fax: (604) 822-6164
Website layout and maintenance: Christine Evans
Web database design and site layout: Katherine Morgan