Engineering has a vital role in addressing the challenges arising time to time all over the world. It intersects almost every aspect of the lives of people in every nook and corner of the world.

As far as engineers and professionals (other professionals within the engineering sectors) working in the humanitarian sector are concerned, despite the fact that they require a global perspective in their work it is also necessary to  give emphasize in the local context. This is becoming an increased importance in this country especially for engineers working with international and national humanitarian organizations and development agencies.

So this article attempts to address some of the good practices that we as a community of engineers of this nation should practice in development activities in Sri Lanka. Some of the keys to ensure better social, ethical and environmental performance within the humanitarian sector as engineers can be put in the following points.

  • Encouraging open discussions and analysis of development activities and the role technology and engineering play in it.
  • Building transparency and accountability mechanisms into planning.
  • Building local capacity and focus on requirements during design and planning which will lead to sustainability of works.
  • Placing engineering within local context and knowledge to ensure appropriate and sustainable design.
  • Promoting empowerment and participation in decision making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes especially of the vulnerable and end user in the communities.
  • Building cross sector relationships and dialogue to exchange ideas in order to work effectively.
  • Seeking alignment between the development partners and wider development programs with a focus on sustainable livelihoods and access to essential services.

Hence in order to face the overall challenges linked up with engineering it has been realized that the development of the required skills, knowledge and attitudes amongst engineering professionals in order to address them are of utmost important.

Solving the problems primarily linked up with the society requires engineers to work in partnership with other interconnected disciplines to ensure that key decision makers take a view of sustainability issues and enable sustainable solutions.

It is important to consider what all these challenges mean for those engaged in developing the skills and competencies of engineers.

There is above all a need to make connections to people’s everyday lives, to demonstrate that learning and understanding about the societies and the challenging issues of our time are essential components of learning for life in this part of the world.

The goals are benchmarks for progress towards a vision of development, peace and human rights, guided by the values of freedom, equity, justice, tolerance, respect for nature and solidarity. These can also be achieved through promoting a culture of learning and understanding the context clearly where they are applied. This could be the correct time to address these issues, since lots of development initiatives are being launched by several organizations in all parts of the island after the 26th December tsunami.

All in all the essential skills for all (emphasizing here for engineers) in this new era are much open to flexibility, ability to learn, transfer learning into new contexts and practicing and reinforcing them in community development.

Apart from these  intercultural understanding , ability to understand others, respecting others views and engage with the every changing economic and social challenges in this country are of more concerns to young generation of engineers.


  1. Development Education Journal, October 2005.
  2. Skills and Learning for a Global Society – the challenges for the Engineer, Douglas Bourn, May 2005.

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