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'Unpacking' the narrative of a national housing policy in Sri Lanka

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The article 'unpacks' the major policy narrative on housing in Sri Lanka, namely that there is One National Housing Policy (ONHP). Housing schemes have been part of poverty alleviation strategies designed to solve problems of internal displacement due to war, and more recently as part of the major recovery initiatives after the Indian Ocean tsunami event in 2004. The housing policy narrative is explored in a resettlement programme (1970s to date), in a case of war-induced internal displacement (1990s - early 2000), and in post-tsunami recovery (from 2005). The authors ask whether successful practices from the past have been incorporated into the post-tsunami recovery efforts. Although similar in structure and implementation processes - all highly centralised, technocratic, bureaucratic, and top-down - each scheme has its own policy narrative which is based on different local contexts and experiences. Housing plans are never neutral, but embedded in existing situations of tension and are highly politicised. New to the post-tsunami situation is that the housing policy has not sufficiently embedded the reconstruction practices in local realities and people's own preferences and contributions. Ignorance among international organisations about previous housing policies and power relations has led to a silent acceptance of the ONHP.
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Keywords: Sri Lanka; policy narratives; post-tsunami housing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2009

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