The island country of Sri Lanka recently joined the group of 6 South Asian countries to implement the Strengthening Institutionalization of the Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response in South Asia. Known as the 5th Phase of PEER, the program boasts of a two decade long legacy of training and capacity building in the region. The U.S. Agency for International Development, Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (USAID BHA), has been supporting the program since 1998, along with ADPC. PEER has been instrumental in building national and regional capacities in disaster risk reduction and management through disaster preparedness training.

With decades of experience in developing a cadre of trained and professional instructors, PEER Phase-5 pushes for the institutionalization of its courses into the country strategies and organizational programs. The Disaster Management Center (DMC) in Sri Lanka is the nodal agency leading the process of PEER institutionalization in the country. On 30 July 2020, the DMC convened the ‘National Program Launch and Stakeholders’ Meeting’ to introduce the program in the country. Forty-five officials from abroad group of stakeholders ranging from Disaster Preparedness and Response Division (DPRD) of Ministry of Health (MoH) and training institutes participated in the launch meeting. Representatives from USAID and WFP in Sri Lanka also joined the discussions remotely. The meeting aimed to start the process of consultations to understand the different issues and challenges in developing emergency response capacities in Sri Lanka. As a follow-up, separate working group meetings would be organized to detail out PEER courses and identify specific interventions for each component to support the institutionalization of PEER in Sri Lanka.

During the opening session, Mr. Sisira Madurapperuma, Director, ADPC, appreciated the efforts of DMC in organizing the consultation amidst the challenging times of the pandemic crisis. He further elaborated on the roadmap ahead for the institutionalization of PEER in countries and increased focus on the collaboration and ownership by the partners involved. Mr. Dustin Shiau, Regional Advisor, USAID BHA, highlighted the importance of establishing training standards through the PEER program. He further acknowledged the initiative taken by the national partners in taking the lead and exemplifying more substantial ownership and regional cooperation by Sri Lanka. Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe (Retd.), Director General, DMC, also stressed on reaching the last mile, specifically the at-risk communities through the PEER program. 

An initial baseline survey conducted as part of the program highlights possible entry points of integration with emergency response capacities in national plans, strategies, and guidelines. This baseline will be further used to deep dive into the organizational systems, programs and budgets for complementarities with the PEER program. Dr. H.D.B.Herath, National Coordinator-Disaster Preparedness, DPRD, MoH shared the experience of HOPE courses and continued engagement of MoH for PEER in the country. He further envisioned the linking of HOPE with postgraduate courses of MoH. The PEER launch has opened up ways of collaboration and assimilation of existing capacity-building initiatives in the country, through active involvement from government, NGOs, and the private sector.