Internship field report, Eli Johns @ The Asia Foundation in Colombo, Sri Lanka

September 19, 2017

Eli Johns (MPP/JD '17) submitted this field report from his summer 2017 internship at The Asia Foundation in Sri Lanka.

The Asia Foundation is an international development organization that operates across eighteen Asian countries. The Foundation’s five overarching objectives are to strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation. While interning with the Sri Lanka office with the Justice and Gender team, I have had the opportunity to work on a range of innovative, impactful projects.

While the Foundation’s Sri Lanka office is active in development programming areas ranging from psychosocial support to local governance, I have largely worked on projects relating to land mediation, access to justice issues, and environmental conservation. My largest project, which concerns the implementation of land mediation boards, is part of a longstanding collaboration between the Foundation and the Sri Lankan government to develop community-level dispute resolution mechanisms. My primary contribution to the project will be a written document detailing the history of the designing and implementation of the project. Additionally, I have supported the implementation of land mediation boards through management of the first trial boards in the region of Jaffna. In the final weeks of my internship, I also expect to collaborate with government officials and Foundation coworkers to create a monitoring and documentation system for the boards.

A system that successfully resolves disputes concerning land is an essential part of Sri Lanka’s recovery from their long civil conflict. During the three decades of strife, many Sri Lankans in the Northern and Eastern provinces were forced to leave their homes, while others lost documents related to their property or had their land occupied by government entities or other citizens. While legal remedies are sometimes available, formal justice is marred by its costly and lengthy proceedings. To resolve the large number of land-related complaints, mediation boards were proposed to quickly and amicably reach resolutions acceptable to all parties. The Foundation has been deeply involved with each step of this project, from designing the mediation framework to training mediators. It was exciting to work on a flagship project for the Foundation, and I am pleased to know that I contributed to such an important organizational accomplishment.

I have also had the pleasure of working on various other projects this summer. These projects have allowed me to hone policy skills and explore the field of international development. For example, I have produced three monitoring and evaluation plans for funding proposals, which concerned poacher-detecting drones, anti-human trafficking capacity building, and support for local women’s organizations. My internship even afforded me the opportunity to take Sinhalese language classes, which greatly enriched my summer in Colombo.

Eli Johns (MPP/JD '17) is interested in human rights issues such as human trafficking, indigent defense, and transitional legal reform. Eli graduated from Washburn University with a degree in Political Science. 

Eli Johns' internship was made possible through generous support from the Trehan Family Fund.