Sri Lanka

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sri-lanka-admin-mapPopulation: 20,328,000

HDI ranking: 92/187

HDI score: 0.715

Sri Lanka has a well established legal system of local governments. However, years of civil war halted the decentralization process until 2009, and there continues to be political conflict and wasteful duplication in service delivery among local governments and de-concentrated government (secretariats at the district and town level which are agents of the central government) (The Asia Foundation, 2011).


Local governance at a glance

  • Sri Lanka is a unitary democratic republic country with three levels of government: central, provincial, and local. There are 335 local authorities, including 23 municipal councils, 41 urban councils, and 271 rural pradeshiya sabhas (CLGF, 2012).
  • Municipal councils are led by a full-time mayor. Urban councils and rural authorities (pradeshiya sabhas) are led by a full-time chairperson. The full-time mayor and chairperson are nominated by majority party or group for a four-year term of office (CLGF, 2012).
  • While local government is a subject fully devolved to the provincial council, the determination of the composition form and structure of local authorities is vested in the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils (UCLG, 2011).
  • There are no legislated gender quotas at the sub-national level (Quota Project, 2013).

Civil society actors include

  • Viluthu works with civil society and local governments to promote good governance by building capacity.
  • Rights Now Collective for Democracy facilitates discussion forums on reform issues related to good governance and human rights to strengthen the capacity of democratic citizens.
  • Home for Human Rights (HHR), one of Sri Lanka’s oldest human rights organizations, has designed a scorecard that measures governmental performance in service delivery.

Capacity building institutions

  • The Federation of Sri Lankan Local government Authorities (FSLGA) is an organization with membership open to each of the 335 local authorities.
  • There are three associations representing municipalities, urban councils, and pradeshiya sabhas: the Nationnal Chapter of Mayors, the United Urban Councils Association, and the Sri Lanka Pradeshiya Sabha Association (CLGF, 2012).
  • The Sri Lanka Institute of Local Governance conducts capacity building and supports with promoting effective local governance through research, training, consultancies, and dissemination of information.

Fiscal control

  • There are grants provided from provinces and central government. Central government covers salary bills in whole or in part (CLGF, 2012).
  • Local authorities are accountable to the auditor general for the funds transferred to them by central government through the provincial councils. (CLGF, 2012)
  • Local authorities are responsible for the collection of taxes and user fees as well as property rates, rents, and grants (CLGF, 2012).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • In 1987, Protection of Local Self-Government was enshrined in the 13th amendment of the Constitution of Sri Lanka (UCLG, 2011).
  • The Extraordinary Gazette number 1632/26 issued in 2009 declares that every council should promote social inclusivity, civil society participation and partnerships (CLGF, 2012).
  • In 2011, three rounds of local elections were undertaken and 322 of the 335 local administrations were renewed (UCLG, 2011).
  • The Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils is developing a computerized accounting system for local authorities, which will help citizens to access services provided by the local authorities (CLGF, 2012).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • Women’s representation in local government in 2011 was only 1.85%, the lowest in the South Asian region. Efforts to introduce a quote for women have met with strong resistance from the parliament (SDC, 2010).
  • Local authorities are faced with financial inadequacies. They are heavily dependent on aid from central government and provincial councils (SDC, 2010).
  • There is still tradition of centralism. The centrally appointed administrative institutions continue, in large degree, to function as agencies of the government (SDC, 2010).

Recent posts on this website about Sri Lanka:


List of sources (in order of citation):

The Asia Foundation, 2011: “Incentivizing Better Local Governance in Sri Lanka”
CLGF, 2012: “The Local Government System in Sri Lanka”
UCLG, 2011: “Sri Lanka”
Quota Project, 2013: “Sri Lanka”
Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), 2010: “Overview of Decentralization and Local Government in Sri Lanka”