HDCC, the first regional Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka, was established in 1993 in response to a strong sentiment felt by the owners of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Hambantota. These businesses believed that the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and other national bodies did not give adequate recognition or support to rural businesses and felt they deserved more.
In an effort to jump-start economic development in the Hambantota District and with the technical and financial assistance of USAID, HDCC were officially incorporated in 1993. While the organisation has been directly responsible for leading a number of effective business support programs, one of the key roles HDCC has played throughout its history has been channelling the support international support and funding to the broader community.
Launching in the midst of the civil war between the Government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, HDCC quickly recognised the ability for business to play a key role in promoting peace and conflict resolution. As such, the Chamber were and are active participants in the Business for Peace Alliance (BPA) and assisted the BPA to operate effectively at a regional business level. This organisation works in a variety of different areas including; conflict transformation, reconciliation, regional empowerment and corporate social responsibility (CSR). As such, HDCC staff have gained years of experience in conducting workshops and training seminars with a focus on the promotion of social cohesion amongst its 350 multi ethnic and multi-religious members – an endeavour which is extremely important to HDCC and their staff.
As youth unemployment was also recognised as a flashpoint for conflict, especially in the late 1980’s, HDCC determined that it must implement programs designed to address this crucial issue. The HDCC decided to address this concern through promoting the concept of entrepreneurship as a real alternative to employment and to give young people the skills and financial backing to enable them to develop their own businesses. This was done concurrently with the Career Service Centre (CSC) which provided support, vocational and technical training to local youth.