Drug policy-making in Sri Lanka 1984-2008: people, politics and power

PhD thesis

Samarasinghe, N. 2017. Drug policy-making in Sri Lanka 1984-2008: people, politics and power. PhD thesis Middlesex University Mental Health, Social Work and Integrative Medicine
TypePhD thesis
TitleDrug policy-making in Sri Lanka 1984-2008: people, politics and power
AuthorsSamarasinghe, N.

Policy analysis has not been a part of mainstream Sri Lankan research or academic tradition, and hence there exists a lack of research on policy studies in Sri Lanka. Given also a paucity of research on illicit drug use and contemporary drug policy, this research study generated and analysed a body of evidence about the response to drug misuse and its related policies in Sri Lanka between 1984 and 2008. As the subject of drug policy can be viewed through a variety of perspectives, this thesis adopted a multi-disciplinary approach. It drew on ideas, theories, concepts and research from a variety of social science disciplines such as sociology, political science, international relations, public administration and social policy and included an historical approach to understanding policy development. The study provides an informed narrative describing the rationale for the development of Sri Lanka’s drug policies, their course and outcome and the roles of the various actors, institutions, organisations and interest groups already established, or which came into existence to respond to drug misuse. This shows how, and why, particular policies are shaped and influenced by the actors, institutions and organisations, and by particular discourses. The conceptual foundations for this study were epistemic community theory, stakeholder analysis and policy transfer theory; and the thesis will seek to explain policy in changing contexts. Semi-structured key informant interviews and documentary analysis were the main research methods employed. The analysis revealed that external influences, stakeholder dynamics, consensus in policy approaches, and moral frameworks have combined to sustain a criminal justice model to the management of drug problems and to ward off attempts to introduce a system with a stronger focus on treatment and public health. This study demonstrates that the interests of stakeholders and their relative power significantly influenced the legitimisation of consensual knowledge diffused by epistemic communities which underpinned policy outcomes.

Department nameMental Health, Social Work and Integrative Medicine
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print10 Mar 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited10 Mar 2017
Accepted02 Mar 2017
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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