About the Author: Claire Sneed serves in the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.
My name is Claire Sneed. I’m a conflict prevention officer for the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. In January 2008, the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction was asked to assist the Embassy in Sri Lanka to carry out an interagency conflict assessment for the eastern province. I led a team of five people from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Defense and our office to assist the country team in Colombo to carry out this assessment and develop a strategy for stabilization that used all of the U.S. Government resources that we could bring to the table.
During the three-week assessment, we went out to the eastern province. We traveled around and talked to conflict-affected populations, to local leaders, to government officials, to NGOs and other representatives of the international community who are working on this issue. We gained sort of a common understanding of what some of the challenges were and developed sort of a shared understanding of what needed to be done in order to bring stability to the region and help the region move toward, you know, peace and development.
For me, it was a really interesting experience working on an interagency process and learning a little bit more about how the U.S. Government and the different agencies of the U.S. Government think and approach and see stabilization challenges. And it was very rewarding to see the different agencies sort of come to a consensus about what we understood and what we saw and what we felt needed to be done.
The conditions on the ground in Sri Lanka at that time were fairly volatile. We were stopped at checkpoints fairly often. Although we were able to stay in hotels, we weren’t able to stay out in the east quite as long as we might have liked, just because the situation was so precarious. That said, it was very important for us actually to get out into the region, rather than just staying in Colombo and gathering information there. And so we were fortunately able to get around and actually meet some of these populations and see the conditions in which they were living and the kind of security environment that they were facing.
In the future, I think that this type of deployment is extremely useful and this function is very useful in that it enables again this sort of shared perspective to emerge among the different parts of the U.S. Government that are involved and that can bring resources to bear in a reconstruction and stabilization environment. And so I would welcome an opportunity to participate in future assessments and planning missions like this one.