Sri Lanka held their General Election on August 5, 2020 to elect candidates for the Parliament. In order to effectively implement alcohol, tobacco and other drug control policies heart-driven Movendi International members at ADIC launched a campaign called “programme to reduce tobacco, alcohol and other drugs and direct the country to rapid development”.
The four key elements of the campaign
- The campaign mobilized youth and civil society to meet and discuss with general election candidates about key issues their concerns regarding harm in their communities and the policy solutions they wish to be adopted.
- Through a social media and general public awareness campaigning (posters, banners, leaflets), the program increased the awareness of the public about the real effects of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs across Sri Lanka and the potential of evidence-based policy solutions.
- The campaign improved the knowledge of election candidates on these key policies, and
- it inspired their commitment to implement evidence-based policy solutions. Many candidates committed to take action to better protect people and communities across Sri Lanka from harmful substances, by signing a pledge to support these key policies once they are elected to Parliament.
The policy solutions contained in the pledge include:
- Banning the sale of cigarettes as single sticks;
- Implementing plain packaging for tobacco products;
- Banning tobacco sale within 100 meters of an educational institution;
- Developing an evidence-based tax formula to collect the amount of tax from tobacco companies to cover all the costs for tobacco harm in Sri Lanka;
- Approving the proposed amendments to the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol Act;
- Implementing the National Policy on Alcohol which was approved by the Parliament in 2016;
- Protecting the people and development of Sri Lanka against cannabis legalization and increasing drug availability; and
- Ensuring better enforcement of existing laws on heroin and all other drugs.
Lived democracy and citizen engagement in the democratic process
The election program covered the entire country via ADIC’s extensive network of volunteers, academics, professionals and civil society activists.
In total, 129 election candidates signed the pledge. The list included Chairmen, Secretaries, Treasurers of key political parties and key members representing different ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka. A full list of those who signed the pledge can be accessed via this google document.
The campaign and grass-roots mobilization by ADIC to engage and empower people to participate in election matters put the issues of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs on the political agenda. In Sri Lanka, harmful substances are massive obstacles to sustainable development, including poverty eradication, gender equality, economic prosperity and human potential development.
The campaigns provided local people and communities an opportunity to discuss with politicians about the current levels of harm from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs that they are experiencing first hand. And it offered space to educate political leaders on the evidence-base and potential impact of WHO-recommended policy solutions. It was also a positive challenge for young social activists and a growth opportunity to practice leadership.
The campaign strengthened the civic rights and democratic participations of Sri Lankans, as people were engaging election candidates discussing their issues of concern building connections between the community and parliamentary leaders even prior to being elected to Parliament. This created an environment for candidates who signed the pledge to publicize and share their stance on important development issues for society.
Widespread news coverage
In addition to engaging with election candidates all across Sri Lanka, the campaign also sought to raise public awareness about harmful substances and policy solutions. The campaign received wide attention in the national media. Journalists wrote over 20 articles about the campaign and it was featured on a national TV programme.
Impact of the campaign
ADIC was able to build up the political dialogue about what needs to be done to improve alcohol, tobacco and other drug control policies in the country and use these policies as catalysts for development.
Some candidates who signed the pledge effectively used it in their political campaigning activities such as by posting on their own social media, speaking about it in their public meetings and displaying it in the election offices.
Out of the 129 candidates who signed the ADIC pledge 61 were elected to Parliament (13 Cabinet Ministers, 13 State Ministers, 1 Cabinet and State Minister, 33 MPs). All political parties who were elected to parliament are represented in this list.
The Parliament consists of 225 members elected by proportional representation for five-year terms.
After the election the most popular investigative radio program in Sri Lanka called “Balumgala” covered the tobacco taxation problem which was highlighted in the campaign. They then called upon all politicians to look into this issue and find a solution.
ADIC Sri Lanka Website: “General Election Campaign 2020“