“I wish to appeal to the young people who represent the world, to regard your country, as sacred. It cannot be second to any of your interests; nor can it be sacrificed for any gain whatsoever,” said President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Inaugurating the World Conference on Youth (WCY) 2014 at the Magama Ruhunupura International Conference Centre in Hambantota today (6), he said there may be outside pressures to compromise your love for your country, but all such pressures must be resisted at any cost. Only then, can we build a better world for all of us without destroying the cultures, traditions, customs, that we are heirs to.
He urged the youth leaders to be creative and always try to find innovative approaches, to break barriers.
“We need to re-adjust our traditional and conventional policy making structures, and institutions to accommodate youth participation,” President Rajapaksa said. “Our thinking has to change. We need to make that leap in policy and thinking when it comes to youth”.
He said that youth need to be given a sense of purpose to harness their drive and vigour towards meaningful activity.
Full text of the speech:
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Sri Lanka and to the World Conference on Youth 2014, the first such conference to be held in Asia. It is indeed an honour for Sri Lanka and the participants of the Conference that the President of the United Nations General Assembly as well as, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth, are both here. Their presence underlines the importance of listening to, and addressing youth issues with the direct involvement of young people.
Excellencies and Dear Friends,
Sri Lanka proposed to host this World Conference at the UN High-Level Meeting on Youth, at the UN General Assembly in July 2011, for reasons, such as the increasing challenges faced by youth. Our own youth comprise about 26 per cent of a population of 20 million people. At the end of the menace of terrorism, hopes among our youth for a secure, better and more progressive Sri Lanka, had been renewed. And, at the global level, the world has seen the largest generation of youth ever. You would agree that the increasingly large youth population, who live in the global South, makes it impossible to discuss any follow-up to Rio+20 and the Post-2015 development Agenda, without considering their needs and challenges. The Youth of today face an enhanced burden. They need to find a living for themselves, as well as, increasingly care for an ageing population. To ignore this growing trend would entail unmanageable problems for policy makers, national leaders, and the global community alike.
There will be around three billion young people in the world by 2015. It is imperative that a global strategy is developed to mainstream youth focus, and ensure their participation in existing and future development programmes, at the national, regional and global levels. I am confident that this World Conference on Youth will provide an inspirational platform for such deliberations.
Excellencies and Distinguished Youth,
The primary responsibility to ensure youth participation in development, lies with the State.We as leaders and policy makers need to consider a number of challenges to make this effort meaningful and successful.
From a traditional policy maker’s perspective, all too often, the question asked, when you raise the issue of youth involvement in any societal process is, do they have the expertise, capacity, knowledge, experience, leadership and the resources. Youth are seen as dependents, or beneficiaries and not as active partners, who can also contribute to good outcomes. Leaving aside these dominant perceptions, we have to recognize that today’s youth have evolved and need opportunities to participate and contribute to social progress. We need to re-adjust our traditional and conventional policy making structures, and institutions to accommodate youth participation. Our thinking has to change. We need to make that leap in policy and thinking when it comes to youth.
What are the added values of effective youth participation. Engaging youth and consulting with them results in better policy formulation and implementation, including evaluation that helps fill policy gaps. It is only by engaging them that we will understand their problems, expectations and aspirations. They need to be nurtured and their needs taken seriously, to ensure the complete empowerment of youth, who are the future of every nation.
As we know, the minds of youth are extremely sensitive to influence and can be easily misguided.This is the attraction for terrorist groups, to recruit youth combatants to their cadres often ending as canon fodder, a traumatized and scarred generation, if they survived. Sri Lanka faced this phenomenon when challenged by a terrorist group,described by the FBI, as the most ruthless in the world. In Sri Lanka, former youth combatants were treated as victims of terrorism and not perpetrators, and were all rehabilitated and reintegrated to society, for a better future. We strongly believe that it is the society at large that can rehabilitate and reintegrate these misguided youth, rather than any State apparatus.
Sri Lanka accords special attention to the needs and aspirations of our significant youth population. Having experienced two violent youth insurgencies in 1971 and 1989 we are mindful of the causes that create violent discontent. More importantly, Sri Lanka has recognized that economic and social development was most successful when young people became active stakeholders, in policy formulation and implementation. We continue to integrate 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, also consult and engage with policy makers and national Parliamentarians, including civil society, to contribute policy inputs. This has also provided an important opportunity in post-conflict Sri Lanka, to foster ideals of peace, tolerance, and harmony among the country’s younger generation.
Through constructive engagement with a wide group of stakeholders, undoubtedly, this conference will have a concrete and result oriented outcome that would contribute to youth development and empowerment. I am confident that the President of the General Assembly will continue to address the needs of youth, during his leadership. The Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, whoserole as a “messenger”, facilitating UN programmes for youth, and channeling youth views into the UN and its agencies, will also feed the Colombo Declaration to the UN and its agencies.
Youth need to be given a sense of purpose to harness their drive and vigour towards meaningful activity. Their innovation and creativity is vital to exploring new knowledge and preparing the world for the future. Entrepreneurial youth have actively contributed in the fields of green energy, ICT and media. Youth are well endowed to reap the fruits and also bear the burdens of the successes, and mistakes of the present. This has led to recognize, both at the national and international levels, that young people are not simply the recipients of services but are active stakeholders in shaping the future of their communities. We, as leaders must, therefore, be committed to providing avenues for the young people to play their rightful roles in crafting the future.
I remember, how myself as a youth activist fought for the causes I believed in. How myself, together with my colleagues, advocated and lobbied for youth priorities back then. Today, sitting on the other side of maturity, I see that energy in you. I saw the way you danced on the stage. I saw that enthusiasm in your eyes, and can still share your mood and feelings.
I wish to encourage all youth to create an inclusive platform, to act as a catalyst to strengthen partnerships between governments, youth, civil society and academia that address and advance the cause of young people.
Be creative and always try to find innovative approaches, to break barriers. Use your energy and potential to keep seeking out a better world. Innovation and creativity are your own tools, for a better world.
Having said that, I wish to appeal to all of you, the young people who represent the world, to regard your country, as sacred. It cannot be second to any of your interests; nor can it be sacrificed for any gain whatsoever. There may be outside pressures to compromise your love for your country, but all such pressures must be resisted at any cost. Only then, can we build a better world for all of us without destroying the cultures, traditions, customs, that we are heirs to.
I know you all are in Twitter. Before I conclude, I now like to invite all of you to join me on Twitter for discussions on Thursday.
I wish the deliberations at the World Conference on Youth all success, and the distinguished participants, a pleasant and a memorable stay in Sri Lanka.
May you be blessed by the Noble Triple Gem.