The Foundation delivers a Seminar on economic, social and cultural rights for lawyers in Sri Lanka’s Western Province

The Foundation delivers Human Rights Workshop in the Western Province in cooperation with the Bar Association of Sri Lanka

The Max Planck Foundation conducted a workshop in Negombo, a Western Province of Sri Lanka, in partnership with the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. The workshop was attended by 30 lawyers, with varying levels of experience, practicing in the provincial courts in the Western Province.

From 22 to 24 July 2022, the Foundation hosted the fifth seminar in a seven-part seminar series for lawyers in Sri Lanka. It addressed international human rights law (IHRL) with a specific focus on select economic, social and cultural rights.

The first day of the seminar introduced participants to the foundations of international human rights law by a local expert. The session outlined IHRL, its main principles and characteristics, a brief history, its implementation at the domestic level and UN monitoring mechanisms. It was followed by a seminar given by the Foundation staff on the unique characteristics of economic, social and cultural rights from a cross-cutting perspective and through case-studies with a practical approach. On the second day, strategies to litigate economic, social and cultural rights in comparative jurisdictions were explored. Discussions analysed how lawyers can evaluate and litigate the legal issues that come before them in a strategic manner so as to have the greatest amount of positive impact on society. These discussions were followed by a presentation from the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Mr Saliya Pieris PC where he examined the potential for economic, social and cultural rights litigation in Sri Lanka. Afterwards, the seminar introduced participants to two substantive economic, social and cultural rights, namely the right to work and the right to adequate housing. These rights were examined in both the international and domestic contexts and were selected by virtue of their relevance to the daily work of lawyers in Sri Lanka and the ongoing situation in the country.

The final day of the seminar asked participants to examine two factual scenarios and to devise strategic and human rights-based approaches to addressing the possible injustices described therein. This exercise led to robust and thought-provoking discussions about the relationship between international human rights law and the Sri Lankan domestic legal system, as well as the role that lawyers may play in advancing economic, social and cultural rights in Sri Lanka.

Throughout the seminar, Research Fellows from the Foundation were joined by Sri Lankan co-trainers: Senior Attorney-at-Law Dr. Malraj B.Kiriella, who was a previous participant in the Foundation’s Training-of-Trainers activity for senior lawyers in Sri Lanka and Ms Binendri Perera, a Lecturer at the Department of Public and International Law of the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo. The two experts provided invaluable local expertise to the programme.

The seminar was opened by one of the Managing Directors of the Max Planck Foundation and was closed by the Secretary of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Mr Isuru Balapatabendi, AAL Secretary.