The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka, through its Youth Policy Program, works with all provincial councils in the country to bring together multi-stakeholders to formulate comprehensive youth policies at provincial-level. Since the start of the Youth Policy Program in December 2014, UNFPA has facilitated multi-stakeholder engagements with the provincial councils of the Southern Province, Sabaragamuwa Province, and the Northern Province.
On 10 November, UNFPA facilitated the fourth multi-stakeholder consultation as part of the Youth Provincial Program, this time in the Eastern Province. Stakeholders from diverse sectors participated in bilingual sessions to discuss and identify challenges and issues faced by youth in the Eastern Province, with a focus on the thematic areas of education, employment, and health.
Delivering the keynote address at the event, Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, S.A. Naseer Ahamed said: “I thank UNFPA for convening the stakeholder consultation to develop a Youth Policy for the Eastern Province. We stand to support UNFPA and other relevant stakeholders in implementing this policy. With the inputs from the consultation today, I hope that we can develop a strong policy framework for Youth. It is important that we work together to ensure that the policy is also implemented.”
The event was also graced by the Provincial Minister of Education, Cultural Affairs, Sports, and Youth Affairs S. Thandauthapani. In his address, the minister emphasised on the importance of a comprehensive youth policy at Provincial-level: “There are specific challenges facing Youth in the Batticaloa district, and these may differ from other districts. I am positive that with the support of the diverse stakeholders today we can identify and address these challenges. Since Sri Lanka is experiencing the demographic dividend, it is important to fulfil the potential of our youth, who are the pillars of development.”
In a message about UNFPA Sri Lanka’s Youth Policy Program, UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka and the Maldives Alain Sibenaler stated: “At UNFPA, we strive to deliver a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled. We do this because when a country invests in the health and education of their youth populations, the country is positioned to realise a demographic dividend, which can propel economic growth. This is the reason behind UNFPA Sri Lanka’s Youth Policy Programme, and why we are working with all Provincial Councils in the country to develop comprehensive youth policies.”
The issues identified during the consultation will be further discussed the following day, on 11 November, by an appointed Steering Committee comprising of technical experts and policy-makers. The objective of the steering committee is to formulate the findings of the stakeholder consultation into a comprehensive draft youth policy for the Eastern Province.
While UNFPA Sri Lanka is working with all provincial councils to conduct multi-stakeholder consultations, UNFPA Sri Lanka also provides technical expertise on access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for youth, associated rights, comprehensive reproductive health education and taking action to address gender-based violence in the community, as part of the Steering Committee that works towards formulating the provincial-level draft youth policy.
Participants of the two-day stakeholder consultation and meeting regarding a Youth Policy for the Eastern Province, included officials from the Provincial Council, and UN Agencies, academia, resource persons, and youth from universities and schools in the Eastern Province.