Leadership Training for Community Leaders in Sri Lanka’s Disaster-Prone Areas by UN-Habitat and the Disaster Management Centre

March 2014, Kithulgala, Sri Lanka: The United Nations Human Settlements Programme
(UN-Habitat), in collaboration with the Disaster Management Center (DMC), conducted two five-day outward bound leadership training programmes for representatives of the community level disaster management committees and local authority officials from Ratnapura, Balangoda, Kalmunai and Batticaloa.

The training programmes, held from 17th – 21st February and 3rd – 7th March, were held in Kithulgala, an area renowned for outward bound training. The objectives of the programme were to enhance the response capacity and improve the knowledge, confidence and leadership abilities of the community and local authority representatives. The programme also strengthened the participants’ confidence in their own abilities when facing challenging situations.

The DMC, the key national agency for capacity building in disaster management, provided vital technical support and facilitated the training programme. The training comprised a series of lectures on disaster management, team work, leadership and personal development. These were interspersed with practical exercises that were designed to test and develop participants’ teamwork, analytical, problem solving and leadership skills. Participants also engaged in adventure, trust and confidence building activities, designed to improve the participants’ skills in planning, communication, risk control, resource management, leadership and teamwork under numerous constraints.

The culmination of the training programme was the presentation of group work by the participants on how they would use the skills learned on disaster management when they return to their villages.

During the concluding session, Mr. Ajith, Administrative Officer of the Ratnapura Municipal Council stated: “I have participated in many workshops during my 15 year career, but this was by far the best. It enabled me to realize how to extend my own capacity and work to my strengths when facing a disaster situation”. Ms. Kavitha, from Batticaloa stated: “Now I know exactly what should be done in a disaster situation. I’ll share my knowledge with my community members so that we will be better prepared through improved leadership and teamwork.”

This training programme was organized by the Disaster Resilient City Development Strategies for Sri Lankan Cities project, funded by the Government of Australia and implemented by UN-Habitat. Phase II of the Project is currently being implemented in Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Akkaraipattu in collaboration with the Ministry of Disaster Management, Urban Development Authority, University of Moratuwa and the Local Authorities of the four cities.