The present context
Sri Lanka ranks 96th on the UNDP Human Development Index scale. The Country is a success story resulting from long-term emphasis on equity and social justice. Despite a modest GNP of $856 per capita in 2000, the 19.3 million inhabitants enjoy comparably high social and health standards. Life expectancy at birth is 73 years, considerably above the world average, and literacy rate is equally high: 90%.
The 19-year civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government has resulted in the death of over 60,000 people. Over 2.5 million persons are affected by the conflict, of whom about 800,000 have been displaced. The beginning of peace negotiations has given rise to new challenges and opportunities on the humanitarian front and access has become easier except in high security zones. Since 2003, over 180,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have returned to their places of origin. Sri Lanka was severely affected by the earthquake, ranking 8.9 in the Richter Scale, and consequent tsunami that struck the region on 26 December 2004.