President calls for youth participation in policy making
Wednesday, 7 May 2014 00:03
World Conference on Youth kicks off at Magam Ruhunupura International Convention Centre
President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday called on the world’s leaders and policy makers to change their traditional strategies and get the youth engaged in policy formulation and implementation to make them active partners in governance.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of World Conference on Youth 2014 at the Magam Ruhunupura International Convention Center, the President said 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.”
The President of the United Nations General Assembly Dr. John William Ashe, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhindawi, and several other heads of the UN agencies along with youth representatives from 106 countries participated in the opening ceremony.
He said the world’s leaders and policy makers all too often see the youth as dependents or beneficiaries and not as active partners, who can also contribute to good outcomes. But this traditional thinking needs to be changed, as today’s youth have evolved and need opportunities to participate and contribute to social progress.
“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 policymaking 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,” he said.
The following is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech at the opening ceremony of World Conference on Youth held at the Magam Ruhunupura International Convention Center yesterday:
Your Excellency, the President of the General Assembly, honourable Ministers of Youth and other ministerial representatives, Excellencies, the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, distinguished youth representatives, ladies and gentlemen.
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 Distinguished Youth.
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 26% 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 programs, 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 recognise 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 policymaking 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.
Excellencies, distinguished 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 cannon fodder, a traumatised 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 that can rehabilitate and reintegrate these misguided youth, rather than any State apparatus.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates. 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 recognised 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 policymaking and implementation mechanisms, through our network of more than 10,000 village level youth-led organisations 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.
Excellencies and distinguished youth. 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, whose role as a “messenger”, facilitating UN programs for youth, and channelling youth views into the UN and its agencies, will also feed the Colombo Declaration to the UN and its agencies.
Excellencies and distinguished youth. 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 recognise, 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.
"President Rajapaksa will be hosting a Twitter discussion on Thursday 8 May at Twitter.com/PresRajapaksa "
I remember how myself as a youth activist fought for the causes I believed in. How I, 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 that in the way you danced on the stage. I can see 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 are all on Twitter. Before I conclude, I would like to invite you, 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.
Pix by Sudath Silva