Statement by Ambassador Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
“How should the post-2015 Agenda incorporate youth priorities?”

18th June, 2013

NLB, UN Headquarters, New York


Deputy Executive Director, The Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Affairs, Fellow panelists, and Friends.
 
Good morning!
 
It is a great pleasure to be able to participate at this meeting. I thank UNFPA, Under-Secretary-General BabatundeOsotimehin and other partners for organizing this event.


 
As we approach 2015, and focus on the next stage, we need to pay specific attention to the role of adolescents and youth. The development challenges in the post-2015 global development agenda, and the 15 year period beyond must be focused on youth.
 
Distinguished Delegates,
 
Bridging Rio+20 outcomes with the post-2015 agenda, and fostering creative synergies between these processes is vital for the sustainability of the agenda itself.
 
The increasingly large youth demographic in the developing world makes it impossible to discuss any follow-up to Rio+20 and the Post 2015 development agenda without taking into account its needs, its aspirations and its challenges. 40% of the human population consists of youth. 90% of them are in developing countries. As Kate so emphatically said, we must bring this age group into the center of the dialogue.
 
The youth of today are confronted by a double challenge. They need to find a living for themselves, look for employment, as well as, make provision for a rapidly ageing population, dominated by women. For reasons, which have been explained in many ways, employment is not a ready option for the youth of today.
 
The burgeoning demographic reality entails a significant challenge for policy makers, national leaders and the global community. Therefore, it is essential that the voices of the youth are heard in national, regional and international platforms on policy making, as well as plan implementation.  Their input into policy making becomes essential.
 
What the youth do in the areas of education, food production, energy and water consumption - some of the priority areas of the SDGs becomes relevant. Not to mention environmental aspects, such as sustainable consumption and production that ultimately will contribute to the arrest of carbon emission levels and global warming and the consequences of global warming.
 
Youth are the messengers of better practices to the children of the next generation. Their creativity is vital in exploring new knowledge and the world of the future. Entrepreneurial youth in both developing and developed countries have actively contributed in the fields of green energy, ICT and media. Innovative ICT is largely the domain of the youth. Google, Facebook and twitter did not emerge from grey hairs, but from the fresh dreams of youth. We cannot talk of agriculture and industry as booming service sectors without the immense contribution of youth, including young women. The garments industry of Sri Lanka is essentially the domain of young women. This is the major export industry of the country. There are strong laws to protect young women and girls and there is a continuous effort to discourage any apathy in their implementation. Youth compose the bulk of our migrant workforce. Our national higher education system produces over 25,000 graduates per year. In addition, nearly 100,000 youth are beneficiaries of our National Vocational Training system.
 
Indeed the younger generation of Sri Lanka has its own share of our remarkable achievements, including the MDGs: Just to mention a few:
 
• Consistent with the “education for all” goal of the UN, Sri Lanka has achieved a 98% literacy rate, with a higher rate for girls and women. The literacy rate among girls is higher. It is compulsory to be at school till year 10.
• ICT literacy in the country is following a path of exponential growth with a target of 75% ICT literacy by 2016. Sri Lanka’s Network Readiness Index ranking has improved significantly. Cellular phone penetration stands at over 110%.
• Food insecurity is no longer an issue for Sri Lanka and absolute poverty has been reduced to 8.9%. While pockets of child malnutrition remain, we hope to eliminate these by 2016. The aim of our Government is to make Sri Lanka a poverty free economy by 2016.
• 85% of the population has access to potable water. Child and maternal mortality rates have been reduced to the levels of more affluent countries and compare well with the US.
• 91% of the population is connected to the electricity grid. “Energy for all” will be a reality in Sri Lanka before 2015. Sri Lanka will also rely on renewables for 20% of its energy needs by 2020.
• Sri Lanka’s carbon footprint remains negligible at 0.6 tons per capita per year.
• Child labor is totally illegal in Sri Lanka. Child marriage is also not permitted by law.
 
We strongly support the Secretary General’s initiative to appoint an Envoy for Youth other UN-led processes to advance youth gets our full endorsement. We welcome his identification of eight recommendations in the post-2015 development agenda. We will also work hard at conveying the voice of youth to the United Nations.
 
Sri Lanka strongly supports processes that mainstream youth perspectives and strengthen their participation. As part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, we have organized the Commonwealth Youth Forum next November.
 
Sri Lanka is also the host in the World Youth Conference in 2014. The goal of the conference is integrating youth participation and mainstreaming youth perspectives in the Post -2015 Development Agenda.
 
Sri Lanka has mainstreamed youth in the policy consultation process through a multilayer framework involving youth organizations in villages, districts, provinces and the national level. 
 
We note that youth has not yet been highlighted as a stand-alone priority sector in the Sustainable Development process. However, the reality is that, in order to achieve the goals in every thrust area, the support, participation and contribution of youth is critical. It is not only them that we should be thinking of, it is the subsequent generation also.
 
Sri Lanka, for its part, will continue to support the interests of youth in the Open Working Group on SDGs and other multilateral platforms.
 
Sri Lanka has been successful in integrating youth into our National Policy making and implementation mechanisms, through our network of more than 10,000 village level youth led organizations and the Sri Lanka Youth Parliament. Youth Parliamentarians consult with policy makers and contribute policy inputs through the various Parliamentary Select Committees. They are consulted by policy makers at all levels. The preparation of citizens for leadership and democratic, consultative policy-making processes is vital for the consolidation of democracy, open government and the effective implementation of all development plans and their sustainability. This is an area identified by the government for special attention. The Ministry of Youth has been amalgamated with skills development institutions of the country to make youth more employable in both national and international job markets. Youth empowerment is a critical policy goal for the country. Indeed, they are the bulk of our human resource base. Youth will play a critical role in Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts as we seek to heal the wounds of 27 years of conflict. We have to ensure that the pain of yesterday will not persist into tomorrow.
 
Thousands of island-wide green youth movements under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy are now playing a key role in environment conservation and public awareness campaigns. Sri Lanka is a front runner in promoting ecotourism. Sustainable tourism is the future and we are happy to see heavy youth engagement these processes.
 
As a country on the way to achieve most of the MDG’s, Sri Lanka strongly supports the need to establish national, regional and global mechanisms, that would integrate youth and youth-led organizations and networks as key partners in the formulation and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. The UN regional offices would be an effective tool in this effort. We also believe that a period dedicated for achieving the MDG period, i.e. 15 years, is more appropriate for SDGs as well, taking into account the heavy youth engagement in the post-2015 development agenda.
 
It would enable the youth of today to experience benefits of these efforts in their own lifetime, and also to contribute to revisit strategies in the middle and at the end of the process. While most of the common challenges associated with youth are social and economic aspects, sufficient attention must be given environment aspects of youth in the SDGs.
 
Statistics are vital in designing goals and follow up. We observe that platforms such as the UN "My World", Commonwealth Youth Development Index have presented a range of options to focus on. For SDGs to create a positive impact on youth, among others, means of implementation with adequate resource mobilization is a must. In this exercise we may adopt both financial and non-financial resources that cut across our national borders. In a world where traditional sources of development assistance are dwindling, we must look to alternatives. South-south cooperation is the emerging beacon in this area.
 
All our efforts may not reach the final list of SDGs, but we must collectively ensure satisfactory representation of the aspirations of the future custodians of this world.
 
Let me conclude by inviting you all to the World Youth Conference in Sri Lanka in 2014.

 

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