74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)
Item 25: Social Development
Statement by Gangulali de Silva and Amrit Edirisooriya
Youth Delegates of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
2nd October 2019
Good morning Madam Chair, Distinguished Delegates,
We are representing the youth of Sri Lanka today, not only to draw attention to the obstacles faced by youth, but recognize active mechanisms and identify further solutions.
Social development requires continuous efforts to reduce and eliminate major sources of social distress and instability in society, including among youth. In this context, Sri Lanka’s long-standing welfare policies, which include access to free education and health facilities, cater to all citizens.
Sri Lanka acknowledges that there is a challenge in bridging the youth skills gap and tackling youth unemployment, with technological advancements and development of new industries.
Therefore, the National Comprehensive Youth Development Program and the National Policy on Technical and Vocational Education have been established for empowering youth. The Ministry of Youth Affairs has further taken a novel step in vocationally empowering vulnerable young prisoners. The recent adaptation of the National Policy on Volunteerism is in line with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and is committed towards eliminating barriers in volunteerism.
In securing quality education, it is vital that Sri Lanka bridges social disparity, especially in post-conflict areas and in the plantation sector. It is indeed gratifying to observe the manner in which the projects such as Education for Knowledge Society Project and General Education Modernization in Sri Lanka are serving to consolidate the free education policy. It is hoped that qualitative education enhanced by technical and vocational aspects would assist in reducing unemployment.
The world as a whole, very rightly, is greatly concerned about climate change and its impact. As per the Global Climate Risk Index 2019, Sri Lanka has been named as the second country to face the most impact of climate change. As youth representatives, we believe that, while the challenges in this area are being addressed in Sri Lanka, substantial work is yet to be done. The youth of Sri Lanka have the capacity to assist in overcoming this pressing issue.
I now wish to give the floor to my fellow Sri Lankan Youth Delegate.
Sri Lanka has recognized the importance of focusing on social cohesion and developing a one Sri Lankan community. We believe that youth must embrace a system of shared values, based on the concepts of respect and dignity for one’s self and others. It is important that youth learn from the past, acknowledge the failures and seek ways to move forward. Young people should also be guided in the process of healing and reconciliation, while respecting others. We believe this is vital following the terrible events of bomb attacks that occurred on Easter Sunday this April, which left over 250 dead and hundreds injured.
However, despite the magnitude of these terrible events, we witnessed the resilience of the Sri Lankan people, especially that of the youth. It was the truest depiction of hope that one could have. Young people rallied to help those in need regardless of race, ethnicity or religion they belonged to. It was the young people who turned up at 8 AM on the 22nd of April. There were 200 young people outside the blood banks because each and every one of them knew that they had a role to play in our island nation in returning to normalcy. There is no doubt that Sri Lanka has the ability to rise through adversity.
It is source of strength that the hard work of our youth is being recognized through advocacy platforms such as the Youth Parliament. Although there is a long way ahead of us, we believe that this was a step in the right direction.
The young people of Sri Lanka understand that they collectively have the ability to affect great change. We are determined to focus our energies and perceptions to solve our common problems.
My fellow delegates, I wish to leave you with this thought, today. Looking back, us young people have been seeking to change the world for the better but our work has just begun. We have not even scratched the surface of our mandate. I truly believe that young people are not the leaders of tomorrow but they are the leaders of today, and therefore, we must collectively act now in bettering our world.