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Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
London, UK

Crisis Group Role

Alan Keenan is Crisis Group's Senior Consultant on Sri Lanka. Based in London, he coordinates and contributes to the organisation's research, publications and advocacy on Sri Lanka. Alan has lived and worked in Sri Lanka for extended periods since first visiting in February 2000. He has a PhD in political theory and has taught at various US colleges and universities before joining Crisis Group in 2006.

Areas of Expertise

  • Sri Lankan politics
  • Human rights and peacebuilding
  • Transitional justice
  • Democratisation

Professional Background

  • Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania's Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict (2005-2006)
  • Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Peace and Conflict Studies, Bryn Mawr College (2003-2005) 
  • Consultant, Programme on Human Rights and Conflict, Law and Society Trust, Colombo, Sri Lanka (2002-2004)
  • Visiting Fellow at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka (2000-2003)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, University of Pennsylvania (1999-2002)
  • Taught political, legal, and social theory in the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies at Harvard University (1996-1999) and at the Universities of California at Berkeley and Santa Cruz (1992-1996)
  • PhD, Political Theory, John Hopkins University (1995)

Select Publications

  • “‘Building the Conflict Back Better’: The Politics of Tsunami Relief and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka”, in Dennis B. McGilvray and Michele R. Gamburd eds.,  Tsunami Recovery in  Sri Lanka: Ethnic and Regional Dimensions (New York: Routledge, 2010)
  • “The Temptations of Evenhandedness: On the Politics of Human Rights and Peace Advocacy in Sri Lanka,” in Michel Feher, ed., Non Governmental Politics (New York: Zone Books, 2007)
  • "Building a Democratic Middle-Ground: Professional Civil Society and the Politics of Human Rights in Sri Lanka's Peace Process", in Jeff Helsing and Julie Mertus (eds.), Human Rights and Conflict: New Actors, Strategies and Ethical Dilemmas (Washington, DC, 2006)
  • "No Peace, No War: Have International Donors Failed Sri Lanka's Most Vulnerable?",Boston Review, Vol 30, No 3, Summer 2005
  • "Making Sense of Bindunuwewa: From Massacre to Acquittals", Law and Society Trust Review, Vol 15, No 212, June 2005
  • "Human Rights and Sacred Cows: Framing Violence, Disappearing Struggles", with Vasuki Nesiah, in Neve Gordon (ed.), From the Margins of Globalization: Critical Perspectives on Human Rights (New York, 2004)
  • "Critical Engagement or Constructive Engagement? Sri Lankan Civil Society at the Crossroads of Politics and Principle", Lines Magazine, Vol 3, No 1, May 2004
  • Democracy in Question: Democratic Openness in a Time of Political Closure (Stanford, 2003)
  • Working on a manuscript entitled "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: The Politics of Human Rights and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka"

Languages

  • English (native)
  • French (fluent/conversant)
  • Sinhala (conversant)

In The News

6 Jun 2022
China has gotten a lot more involved in the politics of Sri Lanka and in backing the government in a much more public way. The Sunday Morning Herald

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
17 Apr 2022
Sri Lanka would be in crisis even if you didn’t have a war in Ukraine, but it’s compounding everything. Washington Post

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
25 Apr 2019
The president has tried to weaken [Sri Lanka's Prime Minister] in many ways, including taking the police under his control. So it's entirely possible that the police wouldn't share information with ministers not aligned with the president. AFP

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
23 Apr 2019
What these [Sri Lankan] bombings potentially do is take it from inertia and political infighting and rudderlessness to a real fear of instability. Fortune

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
24 Jun 2018
It is particularly damaging that the reasons the U.S. Government gave for leaving the Human Rights Council – for being hypocritical and biased, echo so closely criticisms that the previous Sri Lankan Government and many Lankan politicians in opposition and in the current Government have made about the Council’s engagement with and resolutions on Sri Lanka. The U.S. withdrawal will have lasting damage and will strengthen governments and politicians across the globe who prefer to be left to their own devices, even when this involves violating the fundamental rights of their own citizens. Sunday Observer

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
8 Mar 2018
There is good reason to believe [the Sinhala Buddhists attacks in Sri Lanka] are partly designed to provoke a Muslim response, which would then justify more violence against Muslims. Al Jazeera

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka

Latest Updates

Q&A / Asia

Sri Lanka’s Economic Meltdown Triggers Popular Uprising and Political Turmoil

Sri Lanka is embroiled in nationwide protests amid deepening economic woes and increasing political volatility. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Alan Keenan analyses the implications of the crisis, which could have lasting political and economic effects.

Commentary / Asia

“One Country, One Law”: The Sri Lankan State’s Hostility toward Muslims Grows Deeper

Sri Lanka’s president has named a veteran anti-Muslim agitator to head a legal reform task force. Critics have called the move “incomprehensible”, but it is readily understood as a way to divert discontent among the government’s Sinhala Buddhist base toward an embattled minority.

Commentary / Asia

Sri Lanka: Prevention Should Be at Heart of New Human Rights Council Resolution

The UN Human Rights Council will soon discuss Sri Lanka, where the new government has scotched truth and justice efforts related to the 1983-2009 civil war. The Council should demand accountability for past crimes but stress that Colombo’s present policies may spark further deadly conflict.  

Op-Ed / Asia

Sri Lanka: Under Rajapaksas' Watch, Rule of Law Suffers the Onslaught of Politics

The politically-motivated Presidential Commission of Enquiry has been distorting politically-connected criminal suspects into victims, and investigators and legal reformers into criminals.

Originally published in The Wire

Op-Ed / Asia

Sri Lanka: Landslide win for the Rajapaksa puts democracy and pluralism at risk

Twice postponed because of COVID-19, Sri Lanka's parliamentary election finally took place on 5 August. The SLPP's electoral victory should be understood not simply as a result of dissatisfaction with rival party UNP, but of the failure of its internationally-backed liberal reform agenda to gain lasting traction with Sri Lankan voters.

Originally published in LSE South Asia Centre