The Arab Spring was a defining moment for change processes in the political sphere in recent times. The collective mobilisation which overthrew deeply entrenched dictatorships catalysed a surge in people’s agency across the region. Also in Sri Lanka, the triumphalism after the end of a long, bloody civil war against the Tamil Tigers was short-lived as the island spiraled into corruption and increasingly authoritarian rule. People were dejected, there seemed to be no hope of overthrowing the new thinly veiled dictatorship. Then, in early January, the democratic process brought down this seemingly unshakable regime. Has this democratic turn of events solved the social unrest or is it just ‘business as usual’? How did Sri Lanka escape the wide-spread violence and instability that became real in the Arab region?

imagesUdan Fernando is the Executive Director for the Center for Poverty Analysis (CEPA). CEPA is a Sri Lankan think tank that provides services to promote a better understanding of poverty related issues in Sri Lanka. Over the past 20 years, Fernando has held leadership positions in Sri Lankan development organizations, functioned as a freelance consultant in Sri Lanka and abroad and held a senior staff position in a research & consultancy organisation in the Netherlands with work experience in Europe, East & West Africa and South East Asia.

During his lecture ‘From Arab Spring to a Sri Lankan Monsoon – New Spaces for Civic Engagement in Politics’ Udan Fernando positioned the Sri Lankan experience against a broader canvass to discern contemporary patterns of change and civic innovations. He outlined how violence was internalized in Sri Lankan daily life for decades, because of the bloody war with the Tamil Tigers. ‘Everyone encountered violence’. According to Fernando the Monk became a powerful symbol to change the tide. Moreover, ‘the emergence of civil society that dealer and negotiated with the current institutions’ made that the democratic process in Sri Lanka evolved in a peaceful manner.

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Read the recap of Udan Fernando’s lecture ‘From Arab Spring to a Sri Lankan Monsoon – New Spaces for Civic Engagement in Politics’ here.