Created: Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Statement by Ambassador H.E. Palitha T.B. Kohona
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
The 12th Youth Assembly at the United Nations
“Strengthening the Role of Youth in the Post 2015 Development Agenda”
9th August, 2013
Thank you, Ms. Amatya, for your warm welcome.
Distinguished Delegates, my fellow Panelists: Madam Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women and H. E. Ambassador Carlos Garcia Gonzalez, the Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the UN.
I must express my deep appreciation to the organizers of this event - the UN Secretary- General’s Envoy on Youth Mr. Alhendawi, the Permanent Mission of Romania, UN-Women, UNFPA and Mr. Patrick Sciarratta of the Friendship Ambassadors.
It is indeed a great pleasure to be able to participate at yet another exciting event to celebrate International Youth Day. I have been requested to outline some thoughts on Sri Lanka’s perspectives on youth in development, their participation in the post - 2015 development agenda and the ongoing preparations for the World Conference on Youth in 2014, which will be held in Sri Lanka.
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 their needs, their aspirations and their challenges. Youth consist of a substantial portion of the world’s population and almost 85% of the world’s youth live in the developing world. This is clearly evident in the teeming cities of the South. The youth of today, this massive population block, is confronted by a complex world. A world more confusing than the world that we, the grown - ups enjoyed. Critically, they need to find work for themselves and also make provision for a rapidly ageing population. In this economically unstable world, work is not readily available, and the rapidly ageing population is becoming a massive challenge to the next generation and to all our economies. Furthermore, women will be the dominant segment in the ageing population.
As the number of youth grows, and their problems get highlighted, policy makers, national leaders and the global community are confronted with a significant challenge. We must therefore listen to the voices of the youth, at national, regional and international levels as we make policy, and as we implement our plans. Their input becomes essential in this area. Today’s policies will impact on our youth as they mature. Sri Lanka, for its part, has a definite policy of integrating youth participation and mainstreaming youth perspectives in the Post -2015 Development Agenda. Since we are focusing beyond 2015, Sri Lanka is committed to mainstreaming youth in the Rio+20 development agenda.
We strongly support processes that mainstream youth perspectives and strengthen their participation. That is why we strongly supported the Secretary General’s initiative to appoint an Envoy on Youth, Mr. Alhendawi. Sri Lanka is also currently exploring the possibility of establishing a permanent forum for youth, with the support of several like-minded Member States.
As it is, youth has not yet been highlighted as a stand-alone priority sector in the diverse multilateral processes on Sustainable Development. However, the reality is that, in order to achieve the goals in each and every thrust area, the support, participation and contribution of youth is critical. Their active participation and contribution in the areas of food, energy and water – the three inevitable priorities for the Sustainable Development Goals, can be critical. Not to mention sustainable consumption and production that ultimately will help to arrest carbon emissions and global warming and the consequences of global warming. Their impact will fashion the world of tomorrow. In addition, they can be the messengers of better practices to the next generation. You, all of you, carry the sacred responsibility of ensuring that the world we live in is sustained for generations to come. The innovation and creativity of youth is vital for exploring new knowledge as we prepare the world for the future. Entrepreneurial youth in both developing and developed countries have actively contributed in the fields of green energy, ICT and the media. Innovative ICT is largely the domain of the youth. Much of today’s ICT innovation comes from youth – not from men and women with grey hair. Think of Google, Facebook and Twitter. Sri Lanka’s policy goal of making the country an ICT hub, is premised on the active incorporation of youth. Sri Lanka, for its part, will continue to support upholding the interests of youth in the Open Working Group on SDGs and other multilateral fora. This is a policy goal for us.
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. Many of our elected representatives in the national Parliament are youth. Youth Parliamentarians consult with senior policy makers and contribute policy inputs through the various Parliamentary Select Committees. They are consulted by policy makers at all levels. The preparation of future roles for leadership and democratic, consultative policy-making processes is vital for the effective implementation of all development plans and their sustainability. In another policy initiative, the Ministry of Youth has been amalgamated with the skills development institutions of the country to make youth more employable in both the national and international job markets. Indeed, they are the bulk of our human resource base. They are dominant in the new industry and service sectors. Youth will play a critical lead 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 are now playing a key role in environment conservation and public awareness campaigns. Sri Lanka is a front runner in promoting ecotourism. For decades, young travelers came to Sri Lanka looking for tropical bliss, grand historical sites and religious inspiration. Many were going backpackers – tomorrow’s decision makers. Today’s youth will play a lead role as we expand our tourist intake.
As a country which is on the way to realizing 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. Taking into account the heavy youth engagement in the post-2015 development agenda a 15-year timeframe to realize Sustainable Development Goals would be appropriate.
Sri Lanka is looking forward to two significant youth events in the coming months.
The Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) 2013 will take place from 10-14 November in the southern port city of Magampura, Hambantota in Sri Lanka. It is one of three parallel fora that will take place during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The other two are the Commonwealth Business Forum and the Commonwealth People’s Forum. The youth Forum is organized jointly by the Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development and the National Youth Services Council of Sri Lanka. Organizational matters of the Forum are entrusted with the Youth-Led Task Force (YLTF), which will be made up of five youth leaders from Commonwealth member countries and five youth leaders from Sri Lanka.
Additionally, Sri Lanka warmly acknowledges the UN Member States, who have welcomed the World Conference on Youth in 2014, to be held in Sri Lanka (“Policies and programmes involving youth” and Resolution 51/1 “Policies and programmes involving youth” of the Commission for Social Development). The World Conference in Sri Lanka will be a significant platform to further enhance and integrate youth participation in the development of the post 2015 development agenda. We have put in place a youth centered preparatory process leading to the Conference, and most importantly, a commitment to a follow-up phase in partnership with young people in the implementation of the post-MDG development agenda. Our hope is that through constructive engagement with a wide group of stakeholders, the conference will have a concrete and results oriented outcome that would contribute to youth development and empowerment, ensuring a continuing youth role in global policy formulation and implementation.
The conference will generate two outcome documents: the Youth Ministers’ Declaration and a Youth Declaration. The concerns of youth will be heard and taken into account in developing these two documents. Deliberations are likely to significantly focus on thematic areas such as, promoting youth participation in decision making processes, securing gainful employment, issues related to indigenous youth, young migrants, and gender and environmental aspects of youth and development.
(Details of the Conference are available at its official website: www.worldyouthconference2014.org).
I invite all of you to the World Conference on Youth in Sri Lanka next year. It will also be a wonderful opportunity to see first - hand Sri Lanka’s beauty, its ancient heritage, including 8 UNESCO listed World Heritage sites, our rapid post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction, and impressive economic progress. Most of all, you will appreciate meeting the young people of my country who are the beneficiaries of a State funded free education and healthcare system.
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