Founded in 2003, the One-Text Initiative (OTI) is an independent, multi-party political platform for facilitating structured dialogues at National, Provincial and District levels. Its key focus is to building consensus towards a democratic political solution to the ethno-political conflicting situation and the issues related to post-war reconciliation to ensure political and socio-economic stability in Sri Lanka. Initiative is owned and driven by Sri Lankan Political stakeholders themselves. The OTI has, over the years, created a sustained political space and time-tested processes for inclusive political dialogue. It has garnered highest level of trust of political stakeholders owing to the professional and responsible manner in which information is handled and disseminated. Moreover, around the OTI dialogue table all stakeholders are equal despite their constituency strengths or the posts they hold in the Parliament, Cabinet or any other body and are bounded by Chatham House Principles. Their engagement with each other in the OTI process is guided by ‘shared Values & Principles’ and is supported by qualified facilitators appointed with unanimous agreement of the parties themselves; technical inputs from subject experts; capacity development of political stakeholders and quality research, both empirical & action, which are hallmarks of the OTI Process.
For nearly a decade now, OTI has been the regular and established meeting place for cross-party political actors to find middle ground to their competing interests for developing consensual policy options (‘one-text’ documents) aimed at promoting a national policy framework for creating unity in diversity through state building, democratic governance, adherence to rule of law, human rights and sustained economic growth.
Inception of the Organization
The One-Text Initiative (OTI) was inaugurated following the breakdown of talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE in the backdrop of events that surrounded the Tokyo Donor Conference in mid-2003. The initial dialogue group consisted of members from the United National Party (UNP), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the People’s Alliance (PA). This group soon expanded to include the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the National Unity Alliance (NUA), the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), the Peace Secretariat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (PS – LTTE), the Peace Secretariat for Muslims (PSM) and key members from leading Civil Society groups, with access to all political groupings, such as the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Bandaranaike Center for International Studies (BCIS), Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies and Sarvodaya. These parties were keen to use the One-Text process concept and framework to facilitate dialogue among all stakeholders to the conflict and to initially develop a Track 1.5 level intervention that could sustain and support Track 1 negotiations and also to inform Track 3 processes.
During this phase, OTI was able to make significant contributions to the peace-building exercises in Sri Lanka in the context of a faltering national peace process. At the end of 2007, OTI invited a team of international experts to conduct an assessment of its processes/structures and to provide recommendations for improvements. Following this assessment, the institutional structure, membership and the management were re-organized placing political party stakeholders firmly in the driving seat of the institution and the membership limited exclusively to political stakeholders only. Since then, despite volatile conditions outside, including times of intense war, parties have used the OTI process to discuss, understand and agree on many political issues. Today, OTI remains the only platform where all main political formations of the country, including the ruling coalition UPFA, the main opposition UNP, TNA, SLMC and other parties sit together for political consensus building on issues related to the post-war ethno-political conflicting situation.
The ending of the three decade long civil war marked a significant change in Sri Lankan society. OTI observed that there was a victory-based ideology gaining dominance in Sri Lanka’s society and polity. At the same time, the removal of war as the bargaining factor of power and legitimacy had created new opportunities in the society. OTI works on the premise that the new space could be utilized for the creation of more inclusive structures and processes to usher a just and equitable solution.
Parallel to the unfolding events in the battle front, OTI held regular Scenario Building Sessions as an assumptions-based future strategy planning tool. These sessions helped diverse stakeholders from the governing party, opposition, numerically minority Tamil and Muslim parties and others to share information, understand the impact of unfolding events and discuss future issues and actions. As a result, though there were differing opinions amongst Sri Lanka’s main political stakeholders about the post-war developments, there was consensus amongst them that the root causes to the conflict still remain and that these issues could only be resolved through the establishment of just, equitable, democratically pluralist and socio-economically stable Sri Lanka.
Please refer to OTI Tool Box for current activities.
MSD Support Structure
The Chatham House Rule is a core principle that administers the confidentiality of the source of information received at a meeting. When a meeting, or part thereof, if held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant maybe revealed. This principle allows for the free expression of views without concern for organizational restraints, official duties and affiliations, resolving predicaments of boundary, guaranteeing anonymity and protecting freedom of interaction necessary for conversations to be carried out.