State, Politics and Power

Over the years ICES’ research has made a significant contribution to policy debates on state reform and power, both nationally as well as internationally. The publications “Sri Lanka: The Devolution Debate (1996)” which covered the period up to the enactment of the 13th Amendment and establishment of provincial councils in Sri Lanka and “Ideology and the Constitution” by Radhika Coomaraswamy are examples of ICES’ contribution to the national debate.

The collection of articles edited by Yash Ghai titled “Autonomy and Ethnicity” is an example of work undertaken at the international level. Apart from these publications, ICES has hosted numerous projects, conferences, training programmes, workshops, etc. exploring various dimensions of institutions both in Sri Lanka and the South Asian region dealing with minority rights.

ICES has also explored various aspects of public policies to achieve the same objective of redressing minority grievances. The prime example in this area has been the language policy. ICES research has contributed to the enactment of constitutional reforms, as well as establishment of an Official Languages Commission in order to promote bi-lingual policies.Until now the ICES’ approach to studying state reforms has been through a focus on institutions such as constitutions, laws and other mechanisms. Although there have been a few studies which departed from this focus, for example “Women and Governance in South Asia” Ed. Yasmin Tambiah ( 2002), “Can Democracy be Designed?” Ed. Sunil Bastian and Robin Luckham (2003), the primary focus has been on institutions.

In the next phase of its research ICES hopes to extend its interest on the state and state reforms beyond institutions. The programme of work will have the title “State, Power and Justice”, reflecting the broader framework within which this work will be undertaken. A central notion in this programme of research will be the differentiation between institutions and politics.

The notion of justice within the theme reflects the underlying values within which research will be conducted. The usage of the term justice allows the programme to go beyond the narrow confines of rights of one group or another. Such a perspective is essential if ICES is to extend its interest on the state beyond the narrow confines of institutions.

ICES intends to undertake research and policy interventions on a number of subjects within this broader framework of studying the state. Two projects already started –  “Politics of Interim Arrangements” and a study focusing on the actual experience of the provincial council system – hope to break new ground within this broader framework.

Furthermore, while several studies have interrogated the obstacles that women face in entering all levels of government, there are hardly any studies which have sought to understand in depth the success stories. Recently, a research titled Who are the Women in Local Government was conducted by ICES, which sought to fill this gap through a quantitative survey with all elected women in local authorities and an equivalent sample of men thereafter.

Programme Objectives:
* To promote an understanding of the state with a central focus on politics and power
* To contribute towards the development of a state that is more responsive to the needs of the community
Past and Future Directions
ICES research and policy interventions on the state have focused on institutional reforms in areas such as devolution of power, language reforms and minority rights. In the next phase the programme hopes to go beyond institutions, and to generate insights on how politics and power operate within state structures. The programme also hopes to contribute to national and international debates on state reforms on the basis of these insights.