New York, 16 September 2020, 11:00 – 13:30 hrs
Welcome Remarks H.E. Mrs. Kshenuka Senewiratne,
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Her Excellency UN Deputy-Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed
His Excellency Michal Mlynar, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the UN
Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake
Ladies & Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Permanent Missions of Sri Lanka and Slovakia, I am extremely pleased to extend a warm welcome to all of you, to this important stocktake, on the occasion of the second anniversary of the launch of the UN “Youth 2030” strategy.
As you are all aware, this Youth Strategy was officially launched in September 2018 at a high-level event here in New York, with the association of the UN Secretary-General His Excellency António Guterres. Given that 2 years have since passed, my friend Ambassador Michal of Slovakia and I thought it would be timely and opportune to examine the progress of its implementation, and seek out if there is anything that we, as Member States could assist to provide further impetus to this important initiative.
In our discussions with Jayathma UNSG’s Envoy on Youth on this subject, culminated to today’s initiative. My sincere appreciation is extended to the co-hosts of this event, the teams at the Permanent Missions of Slovakia and Sri Lanka, and at the Youth Envoys’ Office for their tremendous, ready support.
Youth in this contemporary world are linked to each other, like never before and they wish to, and already contribute to, the resilience of our communities. Youth are the backbone of nations, and their empowerment, development and engagement, play an important role in the development of society and the country. While noting that the strategy spans 12 years and now has a decade until 2030 for implementation, it is incumbent on us, to recognize the challenges faced by youth and work with them in order to create conducive conditions to progress and play an active role in the achievement of peace, climate resilience and sustainable development.
Sri Lanka recognizing the importance of youth, has included aspects of the 2030 Strategy’s five priority areas into initiatives and programmes, enabling this segment to be directly involved in the implementation of the SDGs and positively contribute to the country’s social and developmental fabric. A “Youth Peace Panel” has been launched as well as key findings of a study on “the potential role of young leaders and volunteers in preventing violent extremism in Sri Lanka”. Also a programme to reach out to secondary school students from across the country to design and implement SDG oriented projects in their communities, conducting dialogues to discuss requirements for a future they wish to live in, the implementation of a flagship programme on Youth, Innovation and Entrepreneurship – which is a platform for youth to develop their social innovations, equip themselves with entrepreneurial skills and build sustainable social enterprises, are some related measures. In order to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people, a global multi-sector partnership, named “Generation Unlimited”, is expected to be launched in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with UNICEF, UNDP and ILO.
Further, in 2014, the 15th ‘World Conference on Youth’ was held in Sri Lanka that led to the Colombo Declaration on Youth, which presented recommendations on 14 subject areas. As a result of this Declaration, Sri Lanka together with Portugal and G77 and China, spearheaded the General Assembly resolution establishing July 15th as the “World Youth Skills Day”, thereby acknowledging the imperative need for bridging the youth skills gap, in order to tackle the issue of youth unemployment and underemployment. Since the adoption of this resolution six years ago, the World Youth Skills Day has become a pivotal event for youth, celebrated both at the UN headquarters and around the globe, with extensive participation.
As we are aware, the effects of COVID-19 are of an unprecedented nature, creating not only a global health crisis but also affecting society and changing livelihoods, giving rise to many socio-economic challenges, with the young being among the most affected. They have been unable to attend school, training institutions and universities, and are particularly at risk of increased anxiety and mental health concerns. However, there have been many instances where youth drawing on their inbuilt resilience have sought to help their communities and national crisis response measures to deal with the challenges of the pandemic. In setting the post pandemic new norms, it is imperative for the negative fallout on our young to be addressed concertedly.
The Youth Strategy acts as an umbrella framework to guide the entire UN as it works with and for young people, and seeks to ensure that its work on youth issues is pursued in a coordinated, coherent and holistic manner. Considering the importance of youth in achieving the SDGs, the pace of which has been slowed with the onset of the pandemic, it is imperative for the UN Resident Coordinators in capitals, to evaluate with the assistance of the respective countries the extent of the current implementation of the 2030 Youth Strategy, in a bid to progress on its path to derive maximum benefit. As observed by late President Roosevelt and I quote “we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”. So let us come together in making the most of the Youth Strategy in shaping our youth for today, and the times ahead.
In this context, I am pleased that we will hear today from the Deputy-Secretary-General of the UN, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the regional director for Europe and Central Asia of the UN Development Coordination Office, representative of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, the UN Resident Coordinators of Uzbekistan and Uganda as well as from youth themselves. We will also hear from a number of UN entities that are members of the high-level steering committee and joint working group guiding the implementation of the strategy and of course Member States are invited to make interventions.