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​Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka co-hosts 20th Session of the ‘Summer Youth Assembly’ at the United Nations

Wednesday, 09 August 2017

The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka co-hosted the 20th Session of the ‘Summer Youth Assembly’ along with the Permanent Missions of Kenya and Portugal, in collaboration with the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation. The opening ceremony was held on the 9th of August in the General Assembly Hall at the UN Headquarters, and the event will continue with a number of panel discussions, workshops and interactive events until the 12th of August, under the theme “Society for all: Equity and Inclusion for a Sustainable Future.”  The opening ceremony was attended by over 800 youth delegates from over 110 countries.

The Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, H.E. Dr. Rohan Perera in addressing the opening segment of the Assembly, and with reference to the theme of this session, said that inclusion becomes more meaningful if inclusion is based on equity and that equity is central to development. All these factors go in tandem and become key aspects for building a strong and healthy society. He also underlined the urgent need to focus on education, especially in the form of skills development and innovation in order to address the practical realities of the present day evolving world. Dr. Perera also noted that the Government of Sri Lanka recognized the challenges youth have to face in society, and had launched targeted programmes to address many of the concerns of youth with a view to achieving inclusive and sustainable society.

President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Peter Thomsen noted that 65 of the 169 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals is focused on empowering and enabling youth. He further emphasized that the vast potential of the 1.8 billion young people across the world is actual the central driving force that will take the world to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth, also addressed the gathering and said that her belief is that the present young generation can be the first generation to end poverty and the last generation to fight for climate change. She noted that the role of youth should be recognized as a leading one in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and reiterated that “there is no better investment than in the capacities and potentials of young people and there is no better fight than the fight for the world we want.”

Permanent Representatives of the Permanent Mission of Kenya and the Deputy-Permanent Representative of the Mission of Portugal also spoke at this opening event. 

The ‘Summer Youth Assembly’ will conclude on the 12 August 2017, which is also the ‘World Youth Day’.

The Youth Assembly is webcasted on UN Web TV.


Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

New York


10th August 2017



Dr. Rohan Perera

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

09 August 2017

Society for all: Equity and Inclusion for a sustainable future


Excellencies, distinguished participants and youth delegates,

Let me first thank the co-organizers for coming together to host this important event. I also wish to extend my sincere gratitude for the Friendship Ambassador’s Foundation for inviting Sri Lanka to be a part of this event.

The Summer Youth Assembly has now become one of the key events concerning youth in the UN.  Moreover, having this event in the week leading to the ‘International Youth Day’ which will fall on 12 August, further strengthens the celebration of International Youth Day. 

Excellencies, distinguished participants and youth delegates,

Today’s world is inter-connected and inter-dependent. Global challenges, from conflict and violent extremism to poverty and the consequences of climate change, affects all societies and touches every human being.  The 2017 UNDP Human Development Report argues that the urgent global challenges of sustainability and equity must be addressed together. Today we are gearing ourselves in achieving Sustainable Development Goals, which has an overarching aim of achieving ‘sustainable human development’. This overarching aim would not be reachable, if we do not have equity and inclusion of all, in our march to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

This is all the more reason for year’s Youth Assembly to focus on ‘equity and inclusion for a sustainable future’, underlining the role of youth in achieving sustainable human development.

Excellencies, distinguished participants and youth delegates,

Equity has been interpreted to mean the ‘quality of being fair and impartial’.  This term comes from the idea of moral equality, that people should be treated as equals. In relations between States, it may be noted that the Statute of ICJ (Which is an integral part of UN Charter) authorizes the court to decide disputes ‘Ex aequo et bono’ or on the basis of equity and conscience.

The term Inclusion simply means bringing together all the different individuals as equal partners into a process. Inclusion becomes more meaningful if the inclusion is based on equity. Therefore these two factors go in tandem and become key factors for building a strong and healthy society.

Equity is central to development, so is the inclusion. There is a broad and deep understanding of inequity and non-inclusion and its causes, and on what works and what does not. Economists have pointed out that the issue of inequity among the people and non-inclusion of all the people in society leads to creating more inequalities, which will also lead to social unrest and many other social issues.

Excellencies, distinguished participants and youth delegates,

92% of Youth in Sri Lanka are educated and they comprise one fourth of its entire population. Sri Lanka treats youth as an important integral component in Sri Lankan society. However, in the 70s and 80s it was confronted with mainly youth led insurrections which propelled youth to the centre of attention – not always for positive reasons. Youth in Sri Lanka were often described as ‘violent'’ or ‘frustrated’. A National Youth Commission established in 1990 soon after the youth uprising of 1988, provided an extensive analysis of the situation of young people and the problems they face.  The key findings of this report, was an eye opener, and it included strong recommendations for youth being treated equally and taking them into the decision making process of the Government.  These recommendations of the Commission led Sri Lanka to adopt a comprehensive youth agenda, which has three main pillars. These are;

1. Ensuring youth: which is to make sure that there is a conducive, supportive and equitable environment and opportunities for youth to flourish

2. Enabling youth: which is to create conditions where youth can be independent, creative, innovative and confident

3. Empowering youth: which is to strengthen youth to participate and take responsibility on behalf of themselves, their community and humanity.

These pillars are indications to the fact that Sri Lanka is well aware that there are multiple challenges that youth have to face in society, and the Government is very clear that these challenges have to be addressed to achieve an inclusive and sustainable society.

In the case of Youth, there is an urgent need to focus on education, especially in the form of skills development with a focus on innovation in order to address the practical realities of the present day evolving world. We believe that future economies and societies are knowledge-based economies. With this objective Sri Lanka promoted a General Assembly resolution designating 15 July as the ‘World Youth Skills Day’. We are happy to see that this day has received global recognition and there is a renewed focus on youth skills development around the globe.

Another example of youth inclusion in Sri Lanka is their involvement in the ongoing post conflict peace building process. We believe that Youth are crucial group when it comes to peace building and policy development, because they who have suffered the agonies of a long drawn out conflict, should have a say in a future they are building for themselves. Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to nationally launch projects such as those envisaged under UNSC resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, to raise awareness and support its implementation.

Sri Lanka is one of the first South Asian countries to establish a Ministry for Sustainable Development. This Ministry continuously engaged with stakeholders from different socio-political-economic backgrounds and age groups, so as to ensure that both state and non-state actors have their voice included in the development of their Strategic Plan for 2016-2017. These groups included particularly the marginalized youth groups and their presentations have led the Government to introduce some targeted action for disadvantaged youth groups including schemes for their social protection.

What we believe is that it is imperative to understand the fact that no two humans are alike. All humans desire equal treatment and inclusion in decision making.  Therefore, Sri Lanka is cognizant of the fact that without equity and inclusion of youth, sustainable development cannot be meaningfully achieved.

This is one of the reasons for Sri Lanka to extend its support and become a lead promoter of this Youth Assembly.

Excellencies, distinguished participants and youth delegates,

During this Assembly the youth participants, who are with us today, will be discussing social, economic and environmental issues which are relevant for them as well as for all of us. Without achieving multiple goals that are inter-connected, it is not possible to achieve the ultimate goal of ‘sustainable human development’.

I am confident that workshops and presentations during the summit will provide a platform to discuss and share new knowledge and experiences for all the youth summit participants.

I once again thank the co-organizers and the Friendship Ambassadors Organization for organizing this event.  I wish the Summer Youth Assembly of 2017, all success.

Thank You.